Paradise revisited in a child’s east coast village

Siward the Dane was the first to make his mark at Sewerby. Chris Berry reports on a new book about those who came after.

The year is 1971. I’m trying my luck with a bow and arrow, but I’ve run out of ammunition. My dad is talking with my younger brother. I seize my chance and quite adroitly slip his last arrow on to my bow and shoot.

Like many other children before and since Sewerby Hall has been a regular summer destination for many Yorkshire families. We were also devotees of Sewerby Hall’s pitch and putt course.

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My dad still recalls the time when a “Wessie” (West Yorkshireman) commented on us going to the head of the queue because we’d brought our own clubs. We took it seriously. This was our British Open and I was Tony Jacklin.

But Sewerby is more than an active child’s paradise. It is Yorkshire’s only south-facing seaside resort situated here west of Flamborough Head.

That fact alone is enough to baffle some visitors and the village holds a fascination that continues to draw the crowds every year.

It is also a village of which its residents are fiercely proud and last week saw the launch of a new book recording its history and progress.

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It has been written by long-time resident Marilyn Berrigan, with her fellow villager and co-writer Wendy Harrison project managing.

Marilyn lived in the sleepy coastal village as a child and moved back in 1972. Wendy came to Sewerby seven years ago.

Yet some villagers who were born and bred here see both of them as incomers. Marilyn can’t believe it in her case.

“I was reading a passage in church before the carol singing last Christmas and someone said ‘here we have a newcomer’. I’ve been here most of the past 60 years! What do I have to do?

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“It’s a magical place. We get thousands of visitors throughout the year, but it can at the same time exude great tranquillity.

“It’s very special and also spiritual. It is nothing like the neighbouring Flamborough or Bridlington.” It is nothing like the size of them either, comprising about 160 properties, including what were once Sewerby Hall workers’ cottages on Main Street.

“All were built of chalk and cobblestones from the beach,” says Marilyn. “Regrettably only one of them remains, at Number 32.

“It is now Grade II listed building and the linear village established centuries ago is now a designated conservation area.

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“Those early cottages also used wood straight from the parkland. Ceiling beams were originally old ships’ timbers with staircases supported by tree trunks still retaining their bark.

“One home in the village has ships’ oars supporting the roof of an outhouse.”

Archeological finds date from Roman times and an Anglo-Saxon cemetery was found in the last century. Today’s village was largely moulded by the Graeme family. John Graeme had Sewerby Hall built between 1714-1720 and the 50 acres hall and grounds remained in the family until 1934 when it was purchased by Bridlington Corporation.

Hull’s famous aviator, Amy Johnson, opened the hall to the public in 1936 and there is a room dedicated to her life.

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The hall and its grounds dominate the village and are responsible for most of the visitors to Sewerby, with over 150,000 going through the hall and gardens’ gates each year.

But Sewerby holds much more of an attraction than its parkland and house.

Clifftop walks are wide and green and take you right over to Dane’s Dyke.

The Sewerby cricket ground has one of the county’s most picturesque locations looking straight out to sea and a little land train connects locals and visitors to Bridlington with a mile and a half journey.

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Some of the village’s larger buildings were designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, who later went on to design two of the most famous landmarks in the country, the Albert Memorial and St Pancras Hotel in London.

His work is still evident in Sewerby in the shape of St John the Evangelist church and Sewerby Grange, now a hotel and restaurant but once the vicarage.

He also designed the old school house, now a private residence.

Carl Robinson, who is referred to as Mr Sewerby in the new book, sadly passed away last year. He had written some notes on his life in the village and his love affair with cricket, which Marilyn and Wendy have included.

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They tell of Sewerby Agricultural Show, last held in 1956. Sewerby Hall was used as a hospital and convalescent home during the war and when milk was sold in five-gallon churns straight into residents’ jugs. His only lament was that Sewerby Cricket team no longer contained born and bred players, or even players who live in the village.

Marilyn explains. “I’d say that the number of born and bred Sewerby population is now around 20 per cent, but we are not short of personalities and it is a very warm and friendly community. ”

There’s a caravan site is at Charity Farm on Main Street where the Lount family has farmed since 1926.

They are one of a number of farming families who still retain a strong link with Sewerby. Another is the Foster family of Field House Farm who moved to Sewerby in 1887. Today it is John Foster who runs the 600 acre farm.

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The village has two churches, restaurants, hairdressers and a pub – The Ship Inn – with an impressive beer garden at the rear looking out to the sea.

There is also a model village called Bondville which attracts thousands each year.

Francis Johnson, another famous local architect, wrote that Sewerby was “where the great arm of Flamborough Head shelters the wide bay of Bridlington from the cold north winds.”

It is this sheltered location that also provides a generally milder climate here than the one to be found just one and a half miles down the coast in Bridlington.

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The beach at the foot of Sewerby Steps, stretching out 700 metres from the cliffs is also a “No Take Zone”.

This means you cannot take shellfish, fish or any stone or pebble from here.

It is the only mainland zone of this kind in the UK.

Sewerby’s long history

In the Domesday Book, Sewerby was called Siwardbi – the farmstead of Siward.

The land came under the ownership of William the Conqueror’s half brother, Robert.

The Village of Sewerby: Then & Now by Marilyn Berrigan and Wendy Harrison.

Contact 01262 409718.

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