THE BBC’s new take on Dracula was a hit with critics over the festive period.

The BBC One mini-series was written and created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the duo behind the award-winning Sherlock, who lovingly recreated Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror novel.

Nine years before the release of his best known work, Stoker visited Bolton in the company of famous actor Sir Henry Irving who the writer worked for as a personal assistant.

The pair’s relationship began in December 1876, when Stoker gave a favourable review of Henry Irving’s Hamlet at the Theatre Royal in Dublin. Irving invited Stoker for dinner at the Shelbourne Hotel where he was staying, and they became friends.

By 1878, Stoker had moved from Ireland to London and become acting manager and then business manager of Irving’s Lyceum Theatre. The collaboration with Henry Irving was important for Stoker and through him he became involved in London’s high society, where he met James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Working for Irving, the most famous actor of his time, and managing one of the most successful theatres in London made Stoker a notable if busy man and in the course of Irving’s tours, Stoker travelled the world.

It was in this capacity that Stoker and Irving visited Bolton in November 1888 where the actor had been invited to lay the cornerstone of the new Theatre Royal on Churchgate.

Back them Bolton really was a theatre town — it is almost impossible to imagine now, but there was a theatre on virtually every corner of the town centre and beyond, and some next door to each other. The Theatre Royal was built on the site of a previously burnt down theatre which opened on November 19, 1888, complete with a memorial stone laid by Irving some weeks previously.

Evidence of Irving and Stoker’s visit can be seen to this day in The Mayor of Bolton’s visitors book which has been signed by hundreds of people since the tradition was begun in 1875.

On the theatre’s opening night, Irving also wired a message reading: ‘’Heartiest good wishes tonight for the opening of your splendid Theatre, sure to have a great inauguration! Love and greetings to all Bolton friends. Hope to see them soon.’’