Heritage Lottery Fund for the search of history under the sea

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a grant of £48,000.00 to investigate hitherto unknown underwater cultural heritage in Filey Bay, North Yorkshire. The project is part of the 32 year investigation into a wooden wreck in Filey Bay by the Filey Underwater Research Unit and the Filey Bay Initiative (FBI).  The wooden wreck is believed to be a strong candidate for the flagship of the American War for Independence the Bonhomme Richard which was lost in the battle of Filey Bay with Captain Pearson Royal Navy of the British Frigate HMS Serapis.  The Bonhomme Richard under the command of Commodore John Paul Jones of the American Continental Navy was lost in the classic sea battle in an unknown location in 1779.  The Bonhomme Richard is the most sort after artefact of the American War for Independence and the battle in Filey Bay is irrevocably woven into the fabric the history of the peoples of Filey Bay and wider Yorkshire.

The Shipwrecks Project is designed to look for evidence of this famous battle and the remains of other shipwrecks in an area of Filey Bay that has not been fully explored.  The subsequent discoveries will be used as part of the Filey Bay Initiative’s educational outreach to local schools and to the wider community.  One of the wider aspects of the Project is to bridge the cultures of France and Britain at a local level (as the Bonhomme Richard was owned by the King of France at the time of its loss) and to enhance the existing culture bridge between the Filey Town Council and FBI with Calvert County USA.

Initially the project will enable greater volunteering opportunities to be identified for the local community to become involved in.  This will lead to more informal and informal training allowing growth in confidence and potential for gaining employment in this deprived and rurally isolated part of North Yorkshire.  Heritage Tourism has been identified within the Local Strategic Plan, (Community Strategy for the Borough of Scarborough 2006-2007) as an important development for the southern area of Scarborough Borough Council.  This project will contribute significantly to this niche market and if successful in identifying Bonhomme Richard, will create and influx of international visitors, requiring more facilities and increasing employment.

This will not only affect the area surrounding Filey but will spread into the deprived areas of Bridlington, East Yorkshire as these visitors travel to Flamborough Head near the site of the battle in Filey Bay.

The grant will be spent on equipment, professional advice, conservation expertise and administration.  A digital record of the project will be created and made available for educational and academic research.  A team of local volunteer divers in partnership with the FBI will undertake the work and each dive will be fully recorded.  This work will be presented together with a digital film record as part of the analysis of the wreckage and other underwater cultural heritage objects or structures.  This information will be assessed by the archaeologists and conservator who are working with the team.  In addition about twenty members of the Friends of Filey Bay Initiative will be involved in support of the land based side of the research.

The findings will be published through the media, the website www.fileybay.com  and talks and lectures.




The Heritage Lottery Fund enables communities to celebrate, look after and learn more about our diverse heritage.  From our great museums and historic buildings to local parks and beauty spots or recording and celebrating traditions, customs and history, HLF Grants open up our nation’s heritage for everyone to enjoy.  2007 marks the 10th birthday of the Lottery.  Since its conception, HLF has supported 16.600 projects allocating over £3.2 billion across the UK

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DANE Consulting Engineers - Technical consultants and electronic support to the Shipwrecks Project 

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