Dr. Cortis Speaks

On this day in 1857, at possibly his first meeting in the Town Hall after being elected Mayor of Scarborough, Henry SPURR introduced William Smithson CORTIS to the gathering. The good doctor of Filey read a paper about the recent finds of Roman artifacts on Carr Naze, following a landslip caused by heavy rain. I haven’t yet found a transcript online – and accounts of the more recent excavations of the Signal Station are not freely available either. Some of the brief online references to the discovery say Dr. Cortis led the excavation and gave his talk to Filey antiquaries. Neither “fact” seems to be true.

Dr. Cortis credits “a painter belonging to Filey, named Wilson” as the finder of the revealed objects. Filey Genealogy & Connections identifies Jeffrey WILSON as the man of that moment. He was about 65 years old at the time but still working in 1861 so could have been sprightly enough to descend “at some risk…down the falling cliff” to retrieve what he initially thought were pieces of jet. He died aged 76 in October 1872.

Carr Naze was then the property of the Reverend Richard BROOKE  of Gateforth and it was he who organized the excavation. It is not clear from the talk if Filey’s doctor got his hands dirty or was merely an interested observer at the dig.

You will see from Today’s Image how narrow the spine of Carr Naze is now. The Information Board at the site gives an indication of how much of the promontory has been eroded since the Romans left Britain.

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The five stone blocks found at the base of the tower can be seen now in Crescent Gardens, and the “hunting scene” of the Information Board is described by Dr. Cortis as “a dog chasing a stag”. Over the years I have looked for the animals a number of times. I think they may still be visible if the light is favourable, but perhaps not as clearly as in this old photograph of poor quality and unknown provenance. (There is a more recently taken image here.)

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William Smithson CORTIS is on the FamilySearch tree.

Henry SPURR, born Doncaster in 1795, died 30th May 1865 at Westfield House, Scarborough after a short illness. He has at least two nascent pedigrees on FST, both generated by “the system”. One gives his parents and the other his son, James Frederick, by first wife Eleanor WHITE. Eleanor died age 48 in 1844 and Henry married Louisa Amelia BLIGHT almost four years later, in East Stonehouse, Devonshire.

“Jeffry” WILSON is also unmarried on FST. His granddaughter, Mary WILSON, married the grandson of the William PASHBY who died suddenly in Friday’s post – but you will have to go to Kath’s Filey Genealogy to see that Connection.

About a Boy

SuggitWindow2The SUGGIT window in St Oswald’s Church, Filey, is dedicated to Thomas Suggit, his wife Zillah née AGAR, and their son Thomas Henry. (You can see a photograph of the complete window on Geograph.)

Young Thomas had three older sisters, Zillah Agar,  Jane, and Harriet. One of them had an aquarium and 155 years ago the lad went onto Filey Brigg to get “some objects” to put in it. His 15th birthday was approaching – and he was about to leave Filey to study civil engineering.

He seems to have been remarkably diligent in his search for things animal, vegetable, and mineral that would enhance the aquarium. He left the house at 11 in the morning and, without distractions, he would have reached the end of the Brigg within thirty minutes. Circumstantial evidence suggests his life ended at 3.30 pm and his body was discovered half an hour after that.

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This account says nothing about the tide. He would only have had to ascend the cliffs if the waves had blocked the path at Agony Point.  The description of the cliff as “sloping” suggests he was scrambling up the south side of Carr Naze but if that was the case his perpendicular fall to the rocks would have been about ten feet, not forty.  Fishermen now climb up and down the cliffs at the Back o’ the Brigg all the time with the aid of a ladder or two but, whether or not these aids existed in 1862, it wasn’t sensible for the encumbered boy to make his way home that way.

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After a dull start, this morning turned bright and breezy and this was the view from Wool Dale Cliffs. Brigg Corner is bottom right and Agony Point is about halfway to the end of Carr Naze. Beyond Agony Point the cliffs slope fairly gently and are covered in vegetation. Climbing them would not be considered dangerous or foolhardy, then or now.

Nobody witnessed his fall and the ending of his “great promise”.

Filey Genealogy & Connections.

FamilySearch Tree.