Hunmanby -Local historians go online to tell the world about their village heritage

PUBLISHED: 11:25 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 17:55 20 February 2013

Simon Baines updates his website,, in his country garden with Millie the Red Setter

Simon Baines updates his website,, in his country garden with Millie the Red Setter

How has the internet made a difference to your village? Local historians in Hunmanby are using it to celebrate the village's heritage as Bill Hearld reports

Online and on course

How has the internet made a difference to your village? Local historians in Hunmanby are using it to celebrate the villages heritage as Bill Hearld reports

Few villages can boast a heritage and history as rich as Hunmanby in North Yorkshire. The village that was once a town has claims to fame stretching back to the Domesday Book and villagers reckon it was the first place in Yorkshire to be wired up for electricity.

And as proud as it is of its past, the village does not rest on its historic laurels. Instead it happily embraces todays new technology, especially the internet, to celebrate its heritage with the help of a group of local historians working to ensure the world knows how special the place is.

The thriving local history group is carrying on the work started by the late local historian Ces Mowthorpe. It is said if Ces didnt know about it, it never happened in Hunmanby. Laura Collier-Woods is now chairman of the group and, at 42, is the youngest member.

The village once had so many halls, schools, churches and chapels, she said. At one time, there were eight churches and eight pubs, though we still have five pubs. The village also still has a primary school where Laura works as a teaching assistant. Hunmanby has managed to hold onto its well-used 19th century railway station on the line between Scarborough and Hull; it has also preserved its 19th century jail and its adjoining pinfold.

Ex-Royal Navy man Simon Baines was the one who decided to bring the village into the internet era and share the villages rich history with the world. He set up the website,, and began working with historians especially Ces Mowthorpe to get it all online.

He started by writing down all the names on the village memorial to Hunmanby men who lost their lives in the two world wars. Then he put online contributions from the local historians about the villages past.

Now it is a bustling website with details and links to village organisations and information on village events. To date it has had more than 160,000 visitors including many Americans trying to trace their family roots or who comment: Wow, your village looks a great place to live.

It all started when my wife was pregnant and we werent getting out much, Simon said. I needed a hobby so I went to night school and learned about coding and website design and set up And The British Library has recently approached him asking for permission to archive his website for posterity. The site has taken on a life of its own now and it wont allow me to let go, he added.

It is claimed Hunmanby, with a population today of over 3,000, was once the largest village in Britain, but it lost its town status in the 1960s. It even boasted a timber motte and bailey castle but when the village took the wrong side in the civil war between King Stephen and Matilda in the 1100s, the castle was burned down during the Battle of Hunmanby. There is a Roman sarcophagus in the village church; there is the site of a chariot burial and the village still has its market cross now headless signifying its status as a thriving market town from the 1600s.

It once had three roperies to supply the vast agricultural and fishing industries nearby; it had brickworks, a brewery and between 1928 and 1991 there was Hunmanby Hall Girls School, one of the countrys top establishments for educating upper class young ladies from all over the country.

Today, the village is a well-balanced community, still with an agricultural background, but it is also home to a large engineering company and a multi-national electronics firm.

Burn, near Selby

Bill Hearlds own tiny village near Selby is also set to jump into the age of the internet. He and a group of villagers have persuaded the parish council in Burn to finance a village website which Bill and his wife, Sonia, are to populate with village history, events and news, parish council minutes (typed on paper until now) and photographs from past and present.

We are a village of only 300 people with only one pub, a chapel, a cricket club and a gliding club. But there is a growing community spirit and we want the world to know we are proud of Burn, said Bill. The airfield was a bomber base in World War Two, with airmen from all over the world whose families still visit.

We have actress Jean Alexander (Coronation Streets Hilda Ogden, who is a regular visitor to the village) as our honorary mayoress and BBCs Harry Gration as our mayor. We usually have a major personality to switch on our 12 Christmas lights and every year we hold the Burn Big Lunch, a street party in the pub car park which this summer attracted over 100 people.

Not many small villages can match that, so why shouldnt we shout about it on the worldwide web?

Is your village embracing the internet? Tell us how new technology has made a difference to village life. We would love to hear from you. Email or leave comments on our website

Getting there: Hunmanby is just off the Scarborough-Bridlington road, three miles south-west of Filey. It has a railway station on the Scarborough-Hull line.

Where to park:
There is a free car park in the village centre and there is free on-street parking.

What to do: There is plenty of holiday accommodation and five pubs and there are golden beaches only two miles away at Hunmanby Gap.

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