Humberston Fitties is one of the few surviving ‘plotland’ developments in the country.
The site is bordered by the River Humber to the east with a natural barrier of sand dunes. The adjacent foreshore is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The natural environment is key to the character of the site.
This Heritage asset currently consists of 320 ‘chalets’ over a 2.66-hectare site. Residents number around 450, with additional holiday makers hiring chalets. An Article 4 conservation order was placed on the site in 1996. This was in an effort to stop the modernisation of the chalets which was taking place as residents sought to create sturdier buildings. Now, we can still see the prefab buildings of the 1940s, along with a few more modern brick bungalows that appeared before the conservation order was placed.
People have been drawn to the coastal sand dunes of the saltmarsh area, known as ‘the Fitties’, since the time around the First World War. Locals flocked to the area, bringing tents, to spend weeks out in the dunes, enjoying the beach. During this period the Fitties was also used for billeting soldiers stationed in the nearby Haile Sands Fort.
Post war, local families came and set up camp for the whole summer, their menfolk cycling back into Town for work, whilst the women and children enjoyed a simplistic life outdoors, playing on the beach, gossiping and cooking communal meals for when their hungry men returned in the evening. Tents evolved into shacks and basic chalets and a various assortment of accommodation arrived in the shape of converted buses, railway carriages and beach huts.
During the Second World War the site was used by the military to protect our sea defences. Once peace was regained, the holiday makers returned and thus started a new era as holiday homes become more permanent structures, reflecting a unique look. Water standpipes were installed and families became a community with collective responsibility for cooking, chores and enjoying the beach.
Families would come together to spend holidays and weekends together here at the Fitties. Friends and extended families would join until chalets were bursting at the seams; gardens full of tents provided extra beds. Women folk would spend hours cooking away on primus stoves and open fires to feed crowds of people. The men and the boys would collect firewood from the beach and surrounding woods.
Today members of these same families still come to visit and some still own the same chalets from their childhood. Many chalets owners and holiday makers are locals but many more come from further afield: South, East and West Yorkshire, Derbyshire, East Riding ………
The random assortment of wooden shacks and building have seen many changes and the uniqueness and quirkiness of the chalets has always drawn a range of visitors.
“My friends dad still goes cockling there he’s 78! He used to have a chalet there…
Today the chalets are a mismatch of non-conformity in their shapes and sizes. Primarily made of wood, and clad in a range of bright, neutral and natural finishes, the chalets’ architecture stands out as unique, quirky and diverse. Porches, canopies and lean-tos protect the outside from within. Picket fences surround the plots, along with a diverse range of habitats that provide refuge for the many birds, animals and wildlife that share our site.
Individual signs offer up names for these humble abodes: Sea House, Cape Cod, The White House, Prospect Place, Mandalay, The Beach House – to name but a few.
Brick chimneys and modern stainless steel flues add to the character of the variety of roofs (tin, corrugated steel, felt, shingles, clay tiles). On a winter’s day the smell of smoke mingles with the fresh sea air.
The chalets are uniquely beautiful; ranging from vintage to shabby chic to ultra modern as the age of time has changed the heritage of the site.
Today Humberston Fitties serves a wide range of stakeholders who come to enjoy the natural landscape and the historic chalets.
These include (but not exclusively): chalet residents, holiday makers, dog walkers walkers, twitchers, photographers, star gazers, horse riders, cyclists, fishermen, kite surfers, water-users, sailors, stand-up paddle boarders, paddle sports, fishermen, bait diggers, sand-castle diggers, artists, poets……….
“It is a wonderful place. Love to look at the properties. It is unique and a pleasure to visit”
Many the chalets still have some of the existing features – dome-shaped chalets produced post war with their corrugated iron roofs, wind mills for power, original gas lights, patterned Victorian glass, stable doors….
However, due to lack of governance over the years, the condition of chalets has changed in both nature and the state of repair. In some cases chalets are in very poor condition, thus resulting in semi-derelict properties in need of renovation. At the other end of the spectrum, chalets have lost their quirkiness as modern renovations (such as double-glazing and plastic cladding) have replaced original features and traditional building methods.
The heritage of the Site is important to our community as well the local and wider areas. Historically many of the chalets have remained in the same family for generations. However it is in need of good governance in order to maintain, preserve and protect its future heritage. At the same time, there is also a need to create a community asset that fits in with modern living.
‘Project Fitties’ recently collated memories from the local community. Here is a selection:
Quotes and poems…
Today chalet owners and visitors enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the site whether coming for the day, on holiday or for the open season.
“The Fitties is a long established holiday complex, allowing individual holiday homes, unique to many areas of the country this area should be treated as part of our heritage. The purchase of this area by the owners should be supported and encouraged so it can be nurtured and cared for so as to preserve its distinct image.”
For many visitors the natural heritage is part of their daily routine as they walk their dogs, watch the birds or walk through the site enjoying the quiet ambience.
“The history of it is fascinating. It’s obviously a very special place, and somewhere that I think should be preserved unchanged as much as possible for future generations to enjoy the simple pleasures”
Holidaymaker from Sutton Aged 73
For many local residents The Fitties is a place that brings back memories both past and present. Preserving the uniqueness of this special place is vital to those who value its heritage. The potential to create a legacy for future generations who visit and to make new connections to this special place is immeasurable.
“My mum was bombed out of London as a toddler during the blitz and came here to my Granddad’s family, a huge part of her childhood was spending time at her Aunt’s chalet on the Fitties, shrimping, cockling and collecting samphire. As children we also spend a lot of time there doing the exact same things, I have subsequently done the same with my children and grandchildren. The Fitties is a wonderful, quirky, unique community and is of huge historical importance to the area. We love it.”