A RARE first edition of a classic horror story which sparked countless films and built a legend around a seaside town has been unearthed.

The 1897 copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula was found during a house clearance in Great Smeaton, near Northallerton.

It will go under the hammer later this month and is expected to fetch upwards of £4,000. Northallerton Auctions, which is handling the sale, has already recorded interest from around the country.

Staff from the company found the novel within a large collection of books in the house, which belonged to a retired midwife who was originally from the Hutton Rudby area.

The book was published by Westminster-based Archibald Constable and Company in 1897. It is hard bound in the publisher's original yellow cloth covers.

Brian Weighell, company secretary for Northallerton Auctions, said: "There was a tremendous amount of stuff in the house and boxes upon boxes of books.

"We put them to one side and I asked a book dealer who is a former policeman to look at them. When he found this one he couldn't believe it, and neither could I.

Stoker wrote part of the book in Whitby and based a number of chapters in the town.

Thousands of people visit Whitby every year to see the narrow alleyways and dramatic clifftop ruins described in the book.

In the novel, Stoker tells how the famous vampire comes to England aboard the Russian schooner, Demeter. During a fierce storm, the ship is wrecked on the beach beneath the East Cliff of Whitby Harbour and Dracula leaps ashore in the form of a savage black dog, which runs off towards Whitby Abbey before disappearing into the night.

The first edition will be sold by auction at The Applegarth Salerooms, Northallerton, at approximately 3pm on Friday, July 20.

No reserve price has been placed on the book, but first editions have sold for around 4,500 in recent auctions.