The thing about the Coast.............

A short history of Filey

Filey's name suggests that it is Anglian in origin.  If this is correct  then it confirms that there has been a community here for more than twelve centuries.

The Romans knew this part of the coast and in the late fourth century they built on Carr Naze, a signal station where soldiers watched for Saxon raiders.  The station was excavated in 1857 when base stones were found and are now displayed in the crescent Gardens in Filey.  The York Archaeological Trust  in conjunction with English Heritage carried out more extensive excavations in October 1993 under Dr Patrick Ottoway.

For most to its history Filey was a farming and fishing village with a few hundred inhabitants who lived in, or close to the street we now know as Queen Street.  Ecclesiastical records indicate that as early as the twelfth century, Filey men were fishing as far away as Whitby and Grimsby; we know this from a dispute about tithes which eventually had to be referred to the Pope!

Filey remained as small and remote village until the late eighteenth century when visitors to Scarborough who want a degree of quiet and solitude not to be found there (and this is till the case) would come to Filey to walk on the beach. Some would stay in local homes and in the early nineteenth century Foords Hotel in Queen Street was opened as the first establishment to be built with visitors in mind.

A most significant stage in Filey's development took place in 1835 when John Wilkes Unett, a Birmingham solicitor, having purchased several acres of land, engaged an architect to prepare plans for what was to become The Crescent.  It is fortunate the he was a man of vision who was determined that the result would be worthy of the site,  for today we have one of the finest terraces of domestic buildings in England.

The Crescent (later The Royal Crescent) Hotel opened in the 1850's and was for a hundred years one of the most fashionable addresses in the North of England.

New Filey and Old Filey continued into the twentieth century to maintain their separate identities; and indication of this is that the old Filonians can remember when Queen Street had more than thirty shops which met almost all of the needs of the residents of Old Filey.

An interesting but brief episode in Filey's story took place between 1910 and 1912 when the Filey Flying School was established on the cliffs between Primrose Valley  and Hunmanby Gap.  Filonians watched with interest some of the early aeroplanes taking off from the beach and flying around the Bay.

For more than forty years Butlin's Holiday Camp was a major factor in Filey's economy.  building work began in 1939 and continued throughout the war during which it became a military establishment known as R A F Hunmanby Moor.  In 1945 it became a very popular holiday centre, complete with its own Railway Station, and by the late 1950's could accommodate 10,000 holiday makers.  Its closure in 1984 was very much regretted.

Between the wars, Filey would be thronged with visitors in the Seasons, most of whom would be staying in its many hotels. boarding-houses and private homes.  In recent times, the pattern and requirements of the holiday makers has changed and the town looks to accommodating these changes and looking to the high quality niche tourism market.  Filey has a rich heritage and its maritime heritage is recognised internationally,  because of this the Filey Bay Bonhomme Richard Group has implemented the Filey John Paul Jones Heritage Coast and other ventures.

Though Filey had much changed in recent years, it retains many of its features which made it so popular in Victorian and Edwardian days, what is equally important for its residents , there still remains a strong and valued sense of community Discovery

We thank the Filey Town Guide Committee for the use of their material in this page.

To get a copy of the Filey Town Guide, contact:
Filey Town Council, Council Offices, 52A Queen Street, Filey, North Yorkshire. YO14 9HE. Tel: 01723 514498.

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