The Settlement of North Filey

Finds from the Land adjacent to St Oswald's Church

            Although the finds report is not detailed, snippets can give us a glimpse as to what was found between 1924 and 1926.  Much of the later material dates from the 17th century onwards but there was allegedly a substantial amount that was dated by Mr Collings, of the Yorkshire Museum to be between the 11th and 14th Centuries.  Much of these were said to be ‘monastic’ in origin, particularly window glass and lead (perhaps from the construction of the St. Oswald’s?).  Most of the ironwork was apparently undateable and other than this the only finds of interest were two worked stones that were suggested to have been used as ‘pounders’ and also a circular stone with a highly polished centre that was probably used with a firestick.  There was an abundance of oyster shells and flithers as well as innumerable ox, pig, horse and sheep bones.

Surrounding archaeology

            The report ends by explaining that the adjoining fields and remainder of the paddock were investigated using a ‘testing rod’ or ‘ground pricker’ and that they could find evidence of substantial stonework in both fields and also around the paddock.  Their aim was to continue to investigate the site over the proceeding year so long as the E.R.A.S. could back them.

Sister Xavier’s work of 1956 

          In the second set of excavations on the land close to St Oswald's Church much more alluring and definite clues were given about the pre-Buck period of the region but unfortunately these were of an extremely amateur nature and were not recorded fully.  Sister Xavier reports that she asked the farmer who owned the land to begin the work and call her when he found something; after several months the dig was called to a halt as the farmer decided he had too much else to do and backfilled the holes. Other than a brief typed summary nothing more was discussed of the site.  It can only be assumed that this excavation began at where the 1924-1926 excavations left off (having removed the previous backfill) but again this is not mentioned in the document.  This may have implications for the two ‘pillars’ of soil left after the 1920’s dig but at this time not enough information is known.

Relevant archaeological features pre-dating the Buck structures

            Sister Xavier’s document states that at the peak of the dig their trench was about four feet wide by 3 or 4 feet deep.  Its location was found at the boundary wall to St. Oswald’s and it extended away from the church at a right angle until approximately the middle of the field.  Near to the present boundary wall, presumably along (or below) with the two ‘fireplaces’ from the 1924 works, were the remains of several houses “2 or 3 deep”.  They were supposed to be built on top of one another which represented a sustained community over a period of centuries.  This would presumably represent the initial villagers of Filey and would make sense given their next statement. 

In the middle of the field Sister Xavier states that they found a square yard of blue tiles.  This fits in a very close proximity to the large room described in the foundations of the Buck house.  She states that to her knowledge the original cloister flooring of Bridlington Priory was also made of blue tiles and that this therefore makes it of a priory of the same age (at least 80 years before construction on St. Oswald’s began).  Given the links already stated between Ralf de Nevill, Filey and Bridlington there could be said to be some amount of truth in this idea.  As the dig is unrecorded we do not know how deep they had excavated to this point other than Sister Xavier described it ‘about 3 feet’.  This was their cut off before the farmer backfilled the trench, and no mention is made of the floor ever being lifted – this floor could therefore still be in place and would provide an excellent starting point for excavations today.  On top of the floor Xavier records logs of wood were found.  Could this be significant in the final fate or use of the ‘Priory’ structure?

            A further point to tie in is the two kilns located in 1926 at the top corner of the site: could these be the production area for the tiles used in this ‘Priory’ floor?  It would certainly give them a plausible use and also explain perhaps part of the reason why they existed.

            She also discusses in great depth the ‘ancient’ altar found at St. Oswald’s.  This may be an area worth exploring as it also may tie in to the idea of an unrecorded Priory in Filey that was then linked in to the new church building at its completion in the early 1200’s.

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