The Romans established forts at nearby Caister and at Burgh Castle, south of Great Yarmouth, on either side of a great estuary. When they left, Saxon invaders were followed by Vikings, around 800 ad, who entered East Norfolk via the river systems. Danes settled this largely unpopulated area, which, hitherto, had only been used for grazing. Many of the local village names are Danish in origin. Some thirteen end in ‘by’ which means ‘new settlement’. Filby, which was situated alongside the watercourse, today known as Muck Fleet, is thought to be the place of File the Dane.
Filby features in the Doomsday Book as a community of 198 people and 287 acres who’s Tenant in Chief was Rabel the Engineer, the artificer of the Norman army.
As a result of climate change, the wet marshlands drained and peat was dug for burning. During the middle ages, there was a substantial demand for this fuel, particularly from the large religious communities at St. Bennet’s Abbey and in Norwich, to which it was transported by boat. Extensive peat ‘quarries’ were formed, some up to five metres deep and, as the water table rose again, so the diggings were filled to form what are now known as the Norfolk Broads.
Essentially agricultural in character, Filby was known for its market gardens. It was noted for its raspberries and half of the village acreage was given over to this single crop. Kelly’s Directory of 1897 mentions that the parish is ‘famous for its excellent raspberries, many hundreds of pounds worth of which are sent to London and other towns during the season’. It is estimated that, at peak, the village produced some 4 tons annually which, at today’s prices, would retail at over £1 Million.
A Short History of Filby