The Story of the White Lodge Hotel Filey
The White Lodge is an iconic building easily recognised by anyone who has been to Filey and fondly remembered by those whose families have come to Filey for generations.
Throughout its history, the White Lodge Hotel has been owned and looked after by a limited number of people – from the Megginson family of East Yorkshire to Bill Houlden (famous for he’s gregarious personality) and more recently Sue Wagstaffe. James Hodgson, a Filey boy, and his American wife, Kim, purchased the hotel in April 2015 and embarked on a programme of sympathetic refurbishments.
Before the White Lodge was a hotel it was a private home, known as “South Crescent Lodge” and “South Crescent Villa”, and the former home of actress, Dame Margaret “Madge” Kendal in the late 1800’s.
“South Crescent Villa” was Built
The history of the White Lodge dates back to 1801 when the North Sea was known as the German Ocean and the lifeboat house stood at the bottom of Carr Hill. A piece of land known as ‘Little Field’ was purchased by Christopher Foster, the land was re-sold for £400 and in 1856 the ‘South Crescent Villa’ was built.
It was during this time that the house became known as “The Lodge” where house guests enjoyed tennis, golf on the adjacent land near St Martin’s Ravine or cycle. “The Lodge” grounds stretched down to the water edge at this time and boating, sailing and sea fishing were common pastimes for guests. The house was inhabited for several years but later fell into ruin.
It was not until the 1890’s when the actress Dame Madge Kendal purchased the house with her husband and fellow actor, William H Kendal that the house was brought back to life. The Kendals’ received notable success and managed the St James Theatre in London appearing in plays continuously until 1908 when they retired to Filey. They had five children between them, including a daughter, Marigold, who died of rheumatic fever in Filey aged 26. Madge was created “Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”GBE in 1926 and died in 1935, aged 87.
There are also rumours that Tolkien wrote his first novel whilst staying in Filey – but we can’t say for sure where! The hotel (then a home) was also seconded during the Second World War for British officer’s – as the coastline was a strategic location for possible invasion.
There are historical accounts that a famous battle during the American War of Independence took place between Filey Bay and Flamborough Head where John Paul Jones (America’s equivalent to Lord Nelson) famously declared, as every American citizen will tell you: “I have not yet begun to fight!”.
There is a placard overlooking the bay near the hotel as you look out to sea, which explains the well-documented historic battle (The Battle of Flamborough Head). Local divers, John Adams and his sons, believe they have in deed found the wreck of the famous battleship Bonhomme Richard. Although they haven’t found a cannon ball marked “USS Bonhomme Richard” to prove it 100% (they unfortunately didn’t do branding in those days!). But we think so they have and there are quite a few more who do as well!