Exploring Filey's Past :: Crimlisk Fisher Archive

Harbour Schemes for Filey

Filey, as the landfall closest to the lucrative fishing grounds of the Dogger Bank, has long been proposed as a “harbour of refuge”. As early as 1836 evidence in support of a harbour scheme for Filey was given to a select committee of Parliament and a Captain Whewitt (RN) testified that “ as many as 750 vessels could be counted in Filey Bay”.

In 1858 a civil engineer, Mr Coode drew up detailed proposals for a 9,600 feet long breakwater to create the proposed harbour of refuge at an estimated cost of 860,000. The following year Dr W S Cortiss was presented with a silver breakfast service and 160 guineas in gratitude for the work he had done in promoting and encouraging the consideration a project to create a national harbour of refuge in Filey Bay. Despite his diligent research and the strength of his evidence advocating the project, nothing came of this scheme. A company was then formed to construct a pier and harbour.

The first meeting of the new company was held in March 1878 with the election of Lord Hamilton as the chair. Also on the board was Lord Londesborough, Anthony Bannister JP (Hull) and Christopher Sykes, MP for the East Riding of Yorkshire. Sykes was not however the most industrious of parliamentary representatives, speaking in the house only six times between 1868 and 1892, most notably in support of the Preservation of Seabirds Act 1869.

Capital for the new company was raised by public subscription to a limited liability company and 10,000 had been raised almost immediately. As the board reported at the time “money is plentiful and no lack of capital to complete the work is anticipated. We expect a pier and harbour in two of three years time” Detailed plans were drawn up and a stonemason Mr Berry produced a model of the scheme. The total value of the share offer was to be 150,000.

Harbour share offer 1878

The 1878 Share prospectus. Copyright Crimlisk - Fisher Archive

Harbour sheme 1878
The 1878 Harbour proposal. Copyright
Crimlisk - Fisher Archive
By 1880 the plan was already floundering with the early optimism fading as difficulties emerged in raising the capital needed. The shareholder's AGM in April was adjourned with 38 shareholders not meeting the call for funds. Lack of Governmental support may have been a factor and another issue arose with a suggestion that a government scheme could be put in place to build the harbour with government involvement and the use of convict labour. By May of 1880 the company was dissolved.

In 1882 the the Government Committee on the use of convict labour considered Dover and Filey for harbour projects. The proposal became very ambitious very quickly, transforming into a scheme to construct a huge fortified naval base at Filey with convicts providing the labour for twelve years. This proposal would have almost completely subsumed the town of Filey and would also have required the construction of a huge prison.
1883 Harbour plan
The Harbour plan of 1883. Copyright
Crimlisk - Fisher Archive

Thanks to the energy and dedication of the late E J Pinder, the Crimlisk Fisher Archive holds what is thought to be the last public copy of the Employment of Convicts in the UK report to Parliament of 1882.
Read “ Filey's Narrow escape from the chain gangs" (Yorkshire Post, January 2007).
The report itself is catalogued at the HMSO.

The Harbour proposal of 1883
An impression of the  Harbour of 1883. Copyright Crimlisk - Fisher Archive

  Crimlisk - Fisher Archive
Written by  B Mulrine, based on research by the late EJ Pinder.