Horbury’s vampire link - Bram Stoker’s Dracula inspired by town’s Sabine Baring-Gould

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Aspects of Bram Stoker’s Whitby tale of Dracula were inspired by Horbury reverend and author Sabine Baring-Gould.

The revelation was made on a recent BBC Radio 5 Live programme when a listener rang in to say that Stoker had once admitted using Mr Baring-Gould’s books for research for his 1897 novel.

Sabine Baring-Gould was best known for penning the classic hymn Onward Christian Soldiers for Horbury Bridge Sunday School children to sing as they trooped up the hill to the church. And he famously claimed to have written it in as little as 10 minutes.

But he was also the 10th most popular novelist of his day and wrote a number of books, including The Book of Werewolves in 1865, about blood lust in ancient, medieval and Victorian times and The Curious Myths of the Middle Ages in 1877, among others.

Dublin-born Stoker once acknowledged the Horbury link, saying: “I also got something from Baring-Gould.”

Sabine Baring-Gould’s works are even cited on the list of reference books included in Stoker’s Dracula notes, held at the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia, and the opening of the short story ‘Dracula’s Guest,’ is said to echo Sabine Baring-Gould’s introduction to The Book of Werewolves,

He is thought to have used the reverend’s descriptions of Werewolves for his vampire, including the canine teeth, pointed nails, hairy palms and the ability to change form.

Dracula isn’t the only tale that Baring-Gould helped inspire. He and a woman half his age called Grace Taylor, with whom he had a controversial affair, are believed to be the real-life Eliza Doolittle and Professor Higgins from the Hollywood musical My Fair Lady, which was based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

Sabine Baring-Gould fell in love with the young mill girl, who was half his age while working as Horbury’s St Peter’s parish curate.

The young sweethearts, who later married, had to secretly meet each other at 8am because both sets of parents disapproved of their love.

In a report published in the Express back in 2001, biographer Keith Lister said: “Many sources confirm that George Bernard Shaw used the couple as the basis for Pygmalion. I have no reason to disbelieve it.

“But in the dramatisation, he decided to turn grace from a Yorkshire Rose into a Cockney girl.”

Sabine and Grace were married for 48 years until Grace’s death in 1916 and they had 15 children.

He died in 1924 aged 90.