Wreck information

Donald G Shomette of the Cultural Resource Management, Dunkirk, Maryland, USA included the following information in his recent report on Filey Bay and it is reproduced here with his kind permission.

The known inventory of recorded vessel casualties on the coast of Yorkshire, England, is substantial. Arthur Godfrey and Peter J. Lassey, in their seminal study Shipwrecks of the Yorkshire Coast, note that the turbulent North Sea weather was responsible for an enormous number of shipping losses since the English coast from the Firth of Forth to the Humber offered no natural harbours of safety for sailing ships. "It was chiefly the treachery of the North Sea, combined with the hostility of the shore, that made the Yorkshire Coast such a maritime graveyard". But were also other contributing factors including collisions, strandings, founderings, unseaworthiness of vessels accidental fires, and military actions. [Wreck Section, UK Hydrographic Office, Home Waters Database; Godfrey]

According to Godfrey and Lassey, as many as 50,000 vessels may have been lost along this coast From the earliest times to 1974, of which many individual wrecks, dating from the onset of the fourteenth century to the 1970's and several thousand more of which little is known except date and general loss area, have been documented. A remarkable percentage of these vessels are believed to have been colliers. By 1615 two thirds of all English seamen were employed in the coal trade or in the fisheries. In 1692 alone nearly 200 colliers were lost along the Yorkshire coast. By 1776, the economist Adam Smith reported, the coal trade from the River Tyne to London employed more shipping than all of the other carrying trade of England and shipping losses were commensurate. In 1865 no fewer than 675 colliers came to grief during the year. Interestingly, during the eighteenth century, the principle ownership was based at Whitby and Scarborough, to the immediate north of Filey Bay, and not upon Newcastle as might have been expected. However, dozens of small fishing villages, such as Filey, were spread along the coast, from which hundred of small fishing cobles, and later trawlers, operated annually well into the twentieth century. [Godfrey,] World Wars I and II added substantially to the shipwreck population.

Though the shipwreck population of the Yorkshire coast is astonishingly high, a total of only 96 listings in the Godfrey-Lassey study, accounting for 104 vessel losses, are recorded as having come to grief within Filey Bay between Flamborough Head and Filey Brigg, or along its immediate northern, southern and eastern fringes, the majority of which were a result of strandings upon the shoreline itself. Two hundred more vessels, all colliers, are noted only as lost along the Yorkshire coast during an epic storm in 1692, some of which presumably came to grief in or near Filey Bay, but are otherwise without historic provenience.

We are grateful to Donald Shomette for allowing us to include the above in this site, and from what he says, you can see that the East Coast of England has been a source of grief and shipping destruction for many centuries. As this site develops, we will be covering some of the well known and not so well known shipping losses in our Maritime History section.

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