Dodgy Deals

His desk is piled high with business for the new session of Parliament. Before many years are out he would like Gregory to have a seat beside him in the Commons. He must see all aspects of how the realm is governed. A term in Parliament is an exercise in frustration, it is a lesson in patience: whichever way you look at it. They commune of war, peace, strife, contention, debate, murmur, grudges, riches, poverty, truth, falsehood, justice, equity, oppression, treason, murder and the edification and continuance of the commonwealth; then do as their predecessors have done – that is, as well they might – and leave off where they began.

Hilary Mantel, Bring Up The Bodies, p. 178.

It is much the same at the local level, minus war perhaps. In January 1878, Robert DOBSON, a grocer, took Joseph WILSON  to task for his part in the creation of a footpath on the east side of Reynolds Street in Filey. Battle was engaged in the correspondence page of the Scarborough Mercury.


Reynolds Street this morning: it is easy to imagine that carters (and their horses) would have felt freer without the new pavement. (The stable wall of the Packhorse Hotel followed the line of the low walls of the pastel-painted houses. Horseless carriages now take up part of the opposite pavement when at rest.)

Joseph responded robustly to the charge of “defying the ratepayers” but was soon embroiled in the matter of his scavenging contract with the Local Board.

To the Editor of the Scarborough Mercury.

Sir, Mr. Dobson in your last issue mentions the scavengering as an instance of my contracting with the Filey Local Board. I will now state the whole of the circumstances in connection with the question. The late contractor gave it up, and the board then issued a handbill inviting tenders for the scavengering. When they met for the purpose of opening the tenders there were none to open. The board was then placed in a fix what to do, and asked me to lend them a horse and cart and they would engage a man to take the refuse to any part of my farm where I directed it to be put until they could procure a suitable piece of ground to lay it upon and get a horse and cart of their own, and when I consented to find them the horse and cart the board thanked me for helping them out of their difficulty. The wages of the men have always been properly entered in the books and audited by the district auditor, who has always given our clerk credit for accuracy of accounts. About the other small matter of earning £4 9s 6d., that was done at the same price per load as the other ratepayers, and while my carts have earned £4 9s. 6d. others have earned much larger sums. For instance, Mrs. Barker £6 12s., Mrs. J W Bulmer £5 2s., Mrs. Plaskett £6 1s. 6d., Mr. J Bulmer £? lls., Mr. Clinort £12 11s., Mr. Smith £1. 1s. 6d., Mr. Richardson £8 10s., J. Wilson £4 9s. 6d., Mr. Ethell £5 11s. 6d.—I am, yours respectfully,


P.S.–The late contractor for the scavengering received the sum of £30 per annum, and all the night soil, &c.

2 February 1878

Within a week some councillors moved to expel Joseph from his place on the Board, thereby saving the town “a great deal of trouble and expense”. Joseph, a farmer, was known in the town as “a good moral man” and must have felt aggrieved. He responded in a manner considered insulting by one of his antagonists.

Three years later Joseph was re-elected to the Board but in May 1881, during a long discussion about the sale of the town’s horse and cart, the following exchange took place:-

Mr. JOSEPH WILSON said that he used to charge one shilling per load for gravel from the sands.

Mr. AUTON: I think you always got more than one shilling per load. I think, if I am not mistaken, you have had as much, as six shillings per load.

Mr. JOSEPH WILSON: Well, perhaps I had a few times, but it was small and I had a long way to fetch it.

It was eventually decided to retain the horse and cart, the SURVEYOR stating that at one shilling per load there would be about £40 to the credit for the mare and cart after everything connected with her was paid for.

Two of Joseph’s sons were also elected to the Local Board in the 1880s. I began piecing the family together this afternoon. Joseph and Mary née DICKINSON had twelve children (found so far) but Filey Genealogy &Connections hasn’t established spouses for any of them. (Three, perhaps more, died in infancy or childhood.)

Joseph was an agricultural labourer when he married in 1841. At the 1851 census, he is recorded as farming 15 acres of land. Ten years later the Find My Past transcription indicates his holding had grown to 650 acres. The page image shows a more reasonable 150 acres. In 1871, aged 53, he was working 86 acres. The size of the farm isn’t given in 1881 and in 1891 his widow is farming the Wilson land (of unknown extent) with the help of unmarried sons Thomas and Richard.


In all the above-mentioned censuses Joseph and his family are recorded as living in the heart of Old Filey, in King Street (aka Queen Street). I’m not sure where his farm was situated but as Joseph’s list of nightsoil beneficiaries indicates, there was room for several farms in the town and on its edge.

Joseph and Mary’s children are scattered about FamilySearch Tree. The parents have a dozen IDs each, at least. I will have to sort them out so that I can add their headstone as a memory.


In loving memory of JOSEPH WILSON, the beloved husband of MARY WILSON of Filey, who died Dec 16th 1887, aged 70 years.

‘His end was peace’

Also in everlasting memory of my dear mother, the above MARY WILSON, who died Nov 16th 1915, aged 84 years.

Also MARY WILSON youngest daughter of the above died Nov 7th 1928 aged 62.


St Kitts and “Crusoe”

On this day in 1828, almost four months after she had attended her parents’ wedding (incognito), Mary Elizabeth SKERRY returned to the church of St Mary the Virgin in Whitby to be baptized. Mary would be followed by two brothers who have had brief mentions previously in LaFredux – Thomas who was lost from the SS Mexican and Robert who married Naomi STOCKDALE.

In 1858 Mary married  Robert DOBSON who had a couple of grocer’s shops in Filey. He also sold Wines and Spirits and towards the end of his working life running a lodging house, St Kitts on the Foreshore Road. The cream brick property is Holiday Apartments now – I photographed it this afternoon. (The traffic cones are there because the road is still closed at Crescent Hill, where the new granite (?) setts are being slowly laid.)


The Dobsons were still there in 1901, though perhaps no longer taking guests; Robert is described as a Retired Grocer. Ten years on their road has been renamed The Beach (its current name) and they have almost certainly downsized to a house they chose to call Crusoe.

In 1911 Robert gives his age as 76 and Mary, 83. Sometime in the next couple of years, they crossed the Pennines to end their days with their surviving son, Robert Edwin, and his wife, Edith Florence née RUSHTON. The younger Dobsons were childless and their address in 1911 was 42, Vaughan Road, Liscard in the Birkenhead District where Mary’s death was registered in 1914. Robert senior appears to have lived on for a further nine years, his death registered in Liverpool in the summer of 1923, aged 87.

In one of those odd coincidences, the elder Robert Dobson created something of a stir in Filey by publicly criticizing the way the Local Board “did business” – four years before ‘Hoodwink’ wrote his critical letter to The Scarborough Mercury, (Friday’s post). Within a year or two Robert was elected to the Board and clearly made an attempt to improve matters – obviously without much success.  He does, however, come across in newspaper reports as a man of principle who spoke the truth and expected others to do the same. He was, in other words, not really cut out to be a politician.

SKERRYs are sketchy on Filey Genealogy & Connections; a bit more fleshed out on FamilySearch Tree.

A Dreary Spectacle

On this day in 1882, a letter was published in The Scarborough Mercury from a citizen who preferred to hide his identity. (It seems unlikely that a lady would portray Filey in, ahem, such a dim light.)

Filey in Darkness

Sir,—Your valuable articles about the price of gas, collected with great care from such a number of towns, have, I hope, been extensively read. We must feel grateful to you for your trouble in publishing such important information. Gas in Filey is 7s. per 1,000. The dreary spectacle which Filey presents every night after eleven o’clock is somewhat saddening, all for want of a few lighted gas lamps. Perhaps the exorbitant price of gas may be the cause. I wish I could induce you to stay one single night in Filey to witness the depth of gloom to which we are reduced. If you did, you would be thankful to return to your own well-lighted “Queen of watering places.” May I ask you to open your columns upon this topic, and pour some light upon the lethargic condition of the inhabitants, particularly upon the business portion in Filey. There must be thousands of pounds worth of valuable stock stored in Filey by drapers, grocers, clothiers, silversmiths, harness makers, hotel keepers, &c., yet with all this wealth our tradesmen lack the courage to vigorously protest against our streets being in darkness, and their property at the mercy of thieves, for which surely, if any shop was broken into and robbed, our Local Board could not be held blameless. The thieves could easily escape in the darkness. The lamplighter begins to put out the street lamps about half-past ten, which no doubt impresses the good people of Filey with the idea that it is time to slumber, which may increase that feeling of supineness to progress which appears to be so usual in the town. Indeed, I am afraid some night the local authorities will be found asleep in the board room; they sit so long at the meetings with closed doors, and we have no authentic reports as to what they are doing either for good or evil. The public and reporters are not allowed to hear the flow of eloquent speeches delivered in such an august assembly.  Intelligent persons must feel that the board loses caste by holding meetings which are closed to the public, taking into consideration the fact that they are public servants The Local Board must know of the darkened state of Filey during the night, and of the miserable gas and water that has been supplied, but the board apparently takes very little interest in matters pertaining to health. It is rumoured that a deputation of property owners is about to wait upon the Local Government Board respecting the local wants of Filey. This will be of importance to the interests of the place, as improvements might easily be made without great expense to the ratepayers. Filey, with due attention to the purification of the gas and water, together with other local improvements, would rank as one of the most cheerful health resorts in England.-I am, Sir &c.,


Local councilors are favourite whipping boys everywhere but in this instance, Filey’s chosen may have been “hoodwinked” unfairly, in part at least. At their meeting four months earlier, Mr. CAMMISH, in the chair, had owned up to receiving a letter from the Local Government Board, London, “complaining of the loose way the Filey Board managed their business and urging them to be more attentive in the future”. This slap on the collective wrist was reported in The Scarborough Mercury on the 4th August.

Today’s Image was chosen and deliberately jazzed up, to counteract the gloom above. It was taken just a few meters away from where the seal stranded five weeks ago. On my afternoon walk today I learned that the creature had been taken to Sea Life in Scarborough by the RSPCA officer and had recovered there from its ordeal. The neck wound had, thankfully, not been deep.