Flamborough, Yorkshire, England. Further historical information.



FLAMBOROUGH, a parish in the wapentake of Dickering; 4½ miles NE. of Bridlington, and 21 SE. of Scarborough. A very ancient station, formerly of some note, but at present merely a fishing village, situated in the centre of the promontory. The population of Flamborough amounts to 917, of which number, the fishermen and their families constitute at least one half. In addition to the church of St. Oswald mentioned above (see Churches for photograph), there are here a Methodist chapel, and a chapel for the Primitive Methodists.

The name of this place is probably derived from the "Flame," or light, anciently placed on the head to direct mariners in the navigation of the German ocean. The Danes in their hostile attacks upon England, in the early periods of her history, were accustomed to make this one of their principal stations; in later times it was possessed by Harold, Earl of the West Saxons, and afterwards king of England; subsequently, Wm. Le Gross, the founder of Scarborough Castle was its lord; It afterwards came into the hands of the Constables, whom some derive from the Lacies Constables of Chester.(Camden) This family flourished here for some centuries, and a curious monumental inscription on a brass plate in the chancel of the church, records that Sir Marmaduke Constable, Knt. who fought In France under the banners of Edward IV. and Henry VII. was interred here. The church an ancient building, dedicated to St. Oswald, of which the Archbishop of York, and Sir William Strickland, Bart. have alternately the patronage, is a curacy, and the Rev. William Kendall is the incumbent. Some vestiges yet remain of Danish possessions: an ancient ruin at the West end of the village, is called the Danes Tower, and the entrenchments formed round it, and still visible, have obtained for the place the designation of "Little Denmark."

Flamborough Head is a lofty promontory overlooking the village, and forming one of the most magnificent objects, and greatest natural curiosities in the kingdom. The Cliffs, which are of lime-stone rock, white as snow, extend in a range from five to six miles, and rise in many places to the elevation of 300 feet perpendicular from the sea. At the base of this mass of mouldering mountains are several extensive caverns, formed by some mighty convulsions of nature, or worn by the everlasting action of the ocean. The most remarkable of these excavations, are the Dove Cote, the Kirk Hole, and Robin Lyth's Hole; the last of which far surpasses the other in its grandeur and dimensions, and is thus described by the historian of Scarborough:- " It has two openings, one communicating with the land, the other with the sea. The former is low and narrow, giving solemn admission into the cavern, which at the first entrance is surrounded with a tenebrious gloom, but the darkness gradually dispersing, the magnificence becomes unfolded, and excites the admiration of the exploring stranger. The floor is a solid rock, formed into broad steps of an easy descent, and the stones at the sides are curiously variegated. The roof is finely arched, and nearly fifty feet high at the centre. The many projecting ledges and fragments of suspended rocks, joined to the great elevation, give it an awful, and at the same time, a majestic appearance; and when looking upwards to survey the lofty arch, and reflect upon the superincumbent mass sustained by it, there is a difficulty in suppressing those ideas of danger which intrude upon such an occasion. On approaching the Eastern extremity, a noble vista is formed by its opening to the sea, which appears in its highest grandeur on emerging from the gloom of the cavern." The large masses of insulated rocks formed into columns and pyramids, add to the sublimity of the scene, and when viewed from the sea, seem to form the porticos to a range of lofty temples, which set at defiance all human erections.

In the summer season the ridges of these immensely elevated Cliffs, form the rendezvous of myriads of aquatic fowls, which resort to the North side of the promontory, from various regions, to build their nests, and rear their young. In the months of May and June, the rocks seem absolutely animated, being covered with innumerable birds of various plumage, exceeding in number the inhabitants of the largest city, and in varied hue the tints of the rainbow. At the report of a gun, they are in instant motion, more alert than the inmates of a dwelling that has recently burst into a flame, and the eye is much dazzled with the waving of their innumerable wings, brightened by the rays of the sun, as the ear is stunned with the clamour of a thousand discordant notes all bursting forth at the same moment of time. Hung in air as their nests seem to be, they are still not inaccessible to the depredations of man! boys are let down the rocks by ropes fastened to stakes, and bring away bushels of eggs for the use of the sugar house in Hull, without seeming to diminish their countless number.

For many years the want of a Light House at Flamborough had been felt by the mariners who navigated those seas, and deplored by the merchants whose property was exposed to danger, for want of so essential a monitor. The active mind, and the benevolent disposition of the late Mr. Milne, the collector of the customs at Brldlington, induced him to propose the erection of a light house on the Head, and the proposal was cordially received by the incorporated company of the Elder Brethren, of the Trinity House, Deptford Strond, London; the site fixed upon was at the distance of nearly a mile and a half Eastward of the town, about 400 yards within the extreme point of the promontory, close to thc landing on the South side of Silex bay, and at an elevation of 250 feet; the erection was speedily effected, under the inspection of an able engineer, and on the 1st bf December, 1806, the revolving light which has ever since flamed by night from the Head, burst forth for the first time. The utility of this erection cannot be more strikingly illustrated than by the following fact, quoted from the Notes to Coates's Descriptive Poem, on Bridlington Quay- " From June, 1770, to the end of the year 1806, not fewer than 174 ships were, wrecked or lost on Flamborough Head and its environs, but since the erection of the lights, to March, 1813, not one vessel had been lost on that station when the lights could be seen." From what has already becn said, it will be concluded, that the marine scenery here is grand and imposing, and the milder attractions of Bridlington and the Quay, with the fine country in the rear, unite the beautiful to the sublime.

The population of Flamborough amounts to 917, of which number, the fishermen and their families constitute at least one half. In addition to the church of St. Oswald mentioned above, there are here a Methodist chapel, and a chapel for the Primitive Methodists.

The following is the entire data from Langdale's Topographical Yorkshire Dictionary:

This ancient village, formerly a place of some note, but now inhabited chiefly by fishermen, is remarkable for the promontory called Flamborough Head, which bends into the sea, and forms the bay of Bridlington. Saxon authors called it Flamburg, who say that Ida, the Saxon, landed here. The cliff is in some places three hundred feet high; and the whole of its perpendicular front, in moderate weather, is covered with myriads of hawkes, gulls, guillimotes, kittywakes, puffins, cormorants, and other sea birds, which afford to the spectator, as Dr. Goldsmith says "an agreeable entertainment; and as they sit upon the ledges of the rocks, one above another, with their white breasts forward, the whole group has not unaptly been compared to the view of an apothecary's shop! In breeding too, they have frequent contests: one bird, who has no nest of her own, attempts to dispossess another, and puts herself in the place. This often happens among all the gull kind; and I have seen the poor bird, thus displaced by her more powerful invader, sit near the nest in pensive discontent, while the other seemed quite comfortable in her new habitation! Yet this place of pre-eminence is not easily obtained; for the instant the invader goes to snatch a momentary sustenance, the other enters upon her own, and always ventures another battle, before she relinquishes the justness of her claim!" When a gun is fired, all within reach of its terrifying sound, rush from their stations, rise on the wing, and darken the air to a great extent. At the west end of the town is a ruin called Danish tower; and from the mounds of earth around it, it would seem as if there had been some buildings contiguous to it. The tower, except one apartment, is nearly demolished. On the extreme point of the promontory is the new light house. The light is a revolving one, with three faces of seven reflectors each, and exhibits a face every two minutes.

[Description(s) edited mainly from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson. ©2010]