DCSIMG

Dracula desk a legend in its own write

Former Editor of Yorkshire Post once owned battered table 'Bram Stoker used to pen vampire tale'

Mark Branagan

IT was left to rot in a garden for years, then lay forgotten in a house and very nearly ended up on a bonfire.

But the battered writing desk which once stood in the former Leeds home of an Editor of the Yorkshire Post may now go down in literary history as the place where Bram Stoker wrote Dracula.

Whitby has always been Yorkshire's main stop on the Stoker trail since he not only imagined the novel there but also featured Whitby Abbey and other sights in the opening chapters.

But pen was apparently put to paper on a desk he gave to his friend JSR Phillips, who edited the Yorkshire Post from 1903 to 1919. The antique later ended up in Hartlepool – where it was treated as junk and eventually given away to local author Billy Yull.

The desk and letters explaining the Dracula connection were yesterday unveiled by Mr Yull, 56, in an attempt to find out more about what could become a Vampire cult icon.

His strange legacy was the result of a friendship with a neighbour, Gillian Broderick – then living two doors down at 4 Henry Smith's Terrace, Hartlepool, the former home of Guy Phillips, grandson of JSR Phillips.

In 1975 Guy wrote to Mrs Broderick, concerning a desk that had been left behind when he sold her Number Four and moved to Appleton-le-Moor, near York.

He said: "I am happy to confirm that the desk I left with you when you and your husband bought 4 Henry Smith's Terrace is the actual desk on which Bram Stoker wrote Dracula.

"Stoker was a close friend of my grandfather JSR Phillips, Editor of the Yorkshire Post, and several times stayed at his house in Balmoral, Headingley, Leeds. Stoker gave him the desk with the information he had written Dracula on it.

"My grandfather left it to my father ER Phillips, Chief Assistant Editor of the Yorkshire Post. My mother disliked it and for years it stood outside in their garden at Scotton, near Knaresborough, until with their permission I took it to London and repaired it for my own use."

Mr Phillips mentions the desk was originally covered with green baize but he removed it because it was rotten. Antiques experts have pointed to this as a sign of authenticity as the desk would be baize covered – but most people would assume the original top was leather.

Mr Yull has also found a hand-written note from Mr Phillips to Mrs Broderick when he heard she was moving again, wishing her good luck with the house sale and regretting leaving the desk behind.

"I loathed the Dracula desk. But it is a fact that after leaving it behind, I and my family suffered misfortune after misfortune. I had two coronaries and my wife died suddenly of a stroke," he said, although he was now happily remarried.

Mrs Broderick left the desk at Mr Yull's house. His wife was going to put it on a bonfire, because it was in such a bad state. But he insisted it should go upstairs as a base for his computer - on which he was writing his first novel, ironically on Nazi fascination with the occult.

He said: "The desk is in appalling condition. It has been through two world wars, and stood outside in all weathers. It is my intention to restore it to its original glory."

Guy Phillips died in 1988. His second wife was traced by Mr Yull to a Norfolk nursing home but the trail went cold. There was two daughters, now possibly in their 50s. He has appealed for them to contact him at 2 Henry Smith's Terrace, Headlands, Hartlepool TS24 0PB.

mark.branagan@ypn.co.uk

 
 
 

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