Lay Lady, Lay

In the 1870s most Filey folk were dreaming of a Harbour of Refuge. Some also pointed out the desperate need for a seawall to prevent further erosion of the crumbling cliffs. When the Harbour Company eventually folded before the work could begin, the New Seawall took centre stage and on this day 1893, the foundation block was laid by Mary Elizabeth, known usually as Elizabeth, wife of West Riding industrialist Edwin MARTIN, of Ravine Hall, Filey.

A very large portion of the population turned out and the scene on the Foreshore near the new works was quite a lively one.  The wall is to cost, according to the contract, some £12,000, and is from the designs of Messrs. Fairbank & Co., engineers, Mr. James Dixon being the contractor. It will be built of blocks of concrete properly drained and fitted in. Mr. Cammish, of the local Board, directed the proceedings (in the absence of Mr. Maley, chairman of the Board).  There were also present Messrs. Ross, Skinner, Fountain, Crawford, Ellis, Haworth, and Rowe (members), and Mr. Gofton (Clerk to the Board), the Revs. A. N. Cooper, Fisher Brown, Williams, A. Barber, and W. Price, Dr. Wheelhouse, Messrs. Edwin Martin, James Varley, J. Martin, Swan, Wigley, F. Graham Fairbank, C.E. (engineer to the Board, of the firm of Fairbank & Co.), J. Dixon (contractor), A. N. Barnes (clerk of the works), and others.

Engineer Fairbank was first called upon to “explain the work”.

Mr. Fairbank said that the work had been commenced at a good time of the year. Though to the non-technical eye very little progress appeared to have been made he could assure them that everything was ready for a good start and they intended to get on fast. The Foreshore of Filey was divided into two parts-one protected by a wooden seawall or hulking and the other supported by damaged cliffs. They intended to replace that by a sea wall running from the Pavilion slipway to the Crescent slipway, all at one level. Its beauty would be further enhanced by being on a curve till it might even satisfy the Hogarthian eye. With the exception of the North Wall of Scarborough, there was not another wall all of one level on the East coast. They were getting in a good foundation, and the wall would be one of good appearance of which both town and visitors might be proud. (Hear, hear.)

… Mr. James Dixon, son of the contractor, then handed [Mrs. Martin] a silver trowel and ivory mallet.  The former was inscribed “Presented to Mrs. Edward Martin on the occasion of her laying the first block of the Filey Sea Wall and Promenade, April 24th, 1893. Engineers, Fairbank & Co.; contractor, James Dixon.” The block was then lowered into position, and Mrs. Martin in a distinct voice said, “I declare this block properly laid.”

Three official photographers recorded the building of the New Seawall but their pictures in the Souvenir Booklet (1894) were not credited individually. The photo below was taken by Alexander McCALLUM, Walter FISHER or  J. H. DICKSON.


Elizabeth is partly obscured by a support of the rig that lowered the foundation stone into place. She looks rather fierce and older than her 36 years. Her sixth and last child, Dorothy, had been born in June 1891 and had lived for just one day.

Elizabeth’s father, Henry LIDDELL, died when she was ten years old and her mother, Catherine, took over the running of the family boot and shoe manufacturing business. Edwin MARTIN took charge his father’s woolen factory and, at the age of 25, swept Elizabeth off her feet and into marriage when she was just eighteen.

It seems that Edwin handed over the running of the Huddersfield factory to younger brother John William because at the 1891 census he was “living on his own means” with Elizabeth, a son, and a daughter – but no servants – at Derwent Villa, East Ayton. They must have moved to Filey shortly thereafter for Elizabeth to get the stone laying gig. (In 1911, at Ravine Hall, the Martins had five servants, the youngest being 15-year-old Thomas PICKERING, a Page Boy.)

Ravine Hall was built by West Riding brewer Henry BENTLEY in the 1830s and he gave his name to the ravine at the southern side of the estate. Bentley’s Gill became Martin’s Ravine not long after Edwin and Elizabeth took possession. The Hall was demolished in the late 50s or early 60s (I think) and the estate is now a public park – Glen Gardens – with a café on the site of the Big House.

FamilySearch Tree Mary Elizabeth LIDDELL [LBW8-55X]