In the closing years of the Roman Empire in the late 4th Century, five Roman Signal stations were built along the Yorkshire Coast to provide early warning of attacks by barbarians. One of these was built on the Cliffs of Carr Naze near the Country Park at Filey. As a result of quarrying the cliffs eroded rapidly and in 1857 part of the signal station foundations were exposed. The following year a local antiquarian, Dr William Cortis excavated the site and found pottery, jewellery and five foundation stones. The stones are presently displayed in a flower bed in the Crescent Gardens at Filey. There is a carving of a deer and calf on one, which is deteriorating as the years pass.
Excavations at the Filey site in 1993 to 1994 added to our knowledge. The signal station measured around 50 meters across with outer walls. In the centre would have been a square tower around 15 meters wide. The five foundation stones would have supported an upper storey and the tower could have been as much as 15 to 20 meters height, a substantial structure. Jewellery and other items indicated that women and families were living there. From midden remains at the site, their diet appeared to be cows, sheep, pigs, cormorants and razorbills, shells of limpets and mussels were common. After the site was abandoned, someone (possibly Vikings) built a 2 metre high earth rampart on the Eastern side of the ruined station, right across Carr Naze, cutting it off from the mainland and producing a very defensible area.
The York Archaeological Trust Publication ‘Romans on the Yorkshire Coast’ by Patrick Ottaway contains more details of the Signal Stations.
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