The Settlement of North Filey

Discussion of the Church Cliff Farm Excavations 1924 – 1926 & 1956

(See Appendix 2 for a full copy of the report & Appendix 4 for a copy of the surviving plan).

            It would be unnecessary to rewrite the 1927 report in its entirety, so this section’s aim is merely to draw out the main points of interest and summarise unclear parts, such as features shown on the surviving field plan.

            The report details much about the Buck Family’s Manor house but proceeds to discuss features located in the foundations of the original 15th century structure.  The report also discusses materials and finds from within the site that they felt were of an earlier period and as such these two ideas will form the basis of two sub sections within this research.  The term ‘monastic’ will be used in inverted commas at all times throughout these sections as at the present time this is speculation based on 80 year old evidence.

Structures earlier in date than the Buck Manor House

            The principle room within the manor house which was approximately 40’ by 17’6” was apparently was in very close alignment to the ‘monastic’ structure beneath it.  The Eastern wall apparently had part of its footing on fallen ‘monastic’ stonework.  An overhang of 6 inches was present on the northern wall in comparison to the earlier stone courses and on the opposite southern wall a ‘slight overlap’ was present (Clay, 1927: 3).  This was below a large fireplace approximately 10’6” wide by 3’6” deep.  The back to the fireplace was ‘rough’ but in their opinion was an additional covering of the earlier high quality, dressed stonework.  The fireplace moulding was also apparently of a much higher quality than the rest of the surviving stonework leading them to believe that it was also from an earlier structure.  Clay, Robson and Smith imply here that there was some form of structure chronologically in between the monastic structure and the Buck’s mansion that the Buck family reused and adapted in the construction of their house.  They suggest at one point that it may have been a tithe barn but are very evasive about being pinned down to any one answer (Clay, 1927: 7).  Finally, it is worth noting that the eastern end of the structure is in very close alignment to that of the eastern end of St. Oswald’s (see Appendix 4 for details) perhaps indicating that the Bucks manor was built directly on top of the original church in Filey.

            The next major feature within the site is a wall that runs northward from the western end of the principle room.  By looking at the plan produced by the excavators this seems to be one of the earliest structures on the site.  A circular structure (which will be discussed later) is seen to be butted up against this northward wall on the north side of the principle room.  This in itself is critical because this circular structure is within the foundations of the Buck House.  The only reference made to the wall by the report is that it contains more than one type of stonework i.e. that it has been rebuilt at some point, possibly within the Buck period.

            The circular structure was about 13’ in diameter and the original shape of which was still intact.  The excavators put forward several opinions suggested by themselves and others as to the purpose of this structure.  These were: a lime kiln, a ‘staddle’ for a haystack, a dove cote, the base of a tower, a lily pond for the original house (???) and finally the base of a windmill.  They propose that the last is the most likely is in the original charter to Bridlington Priory there is granted ‘the Church of Filey, and a mill’.  This document was written during the reign of Henry I (probably between 1100 and 1135).

            An intriguing pile of ‘rough stones under the thorns’ is mentioned in the extreme north east corner of the excavation area (Clay, 1927: 5) and suggestion is made that these are the remains of certain parts of the site.  Over the centuries it had been thoroughly picked over and much of the original stonework had been removed and reused elsewhere; the authors suggest that this was left over after one haul.

            In the north-west corner of the site, near to the circular structure the remains of two ovens or kilns were found surrounded by an extremely localised patch of reddish clay, unlike anywhere else on the site.  The authors cannot conclude whether it was for domestic purposes or alternatively for tile and pottery production.  They are not clear whether it is at a similar level to that of the Buck house or to the structures below.

            The surveyor, Robson mentions that a wall is supposed to have connected to the wall of the northern Transept of St. Oswald’s but there is no mention of this within the report, or on the site plan (see Appendix 2).

            A final and most interesting structure was also uncovered within inches of the present day church wall boundary.  This consisted of the remains of two fireplaces built back to back, one side stretching out northwards away from the church, but the other stretching straight towards the north transept of the church.  These fireplaces formed the footing of part of the boundary wall but had several sections already robbed out.  The excavators were told that these fireplaces were part of a later structure and that they were not part of even the Buck period house but they appropriately raise the question: who would possibly be allowed to build a structure / dwelling within just a few feet of a church?  The conclusion they reach is that these are part of an earlier structure possibly connected to a very small unrecorded priory that St. Oswald’s was built next to.  It would also fit that if a settlement was present around the area, for example quarrying, then they would logically have some form of place of worship there too.  A point to note in conjunction with this is the 8th century gravestone that currently resides in St. Oswald’s today – is this connected in some way to these earlier structures as well?

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