Carnaby is an old settlement and it is thought it may have been a Scandinavian settlement. Since 1935 Carnaby Civil Parish has included Haisthorpe and Wilsthorpe and part of Bessingby civil parish. The landscape is mainly treeless wold slopes, with large arable fields. Chalk was formerly dug from several pits near Woldgate and there is still a large overgrown pit in the north of the village. In the south, an airfield was built during World War Two as an emergency landing strip for bombers. There is now a thriving industrial estate on the old airfield.
Most of the old houses and cottages in Carnaby are of the late 18th and 19th century, mainly built of brick and extensive use of chalk. Several farm houses are situated in the village itself, including Carnaby House, which is a late 18th or 19th century stuccoed brick building. Hill Farm is a chalk built farmhouse with a pedimented porch and dated 1822. Other old farmhouses in the village lie to the south of the village and date between 1888 and 1926.
The railway station, at the south end of the village, was build when the Hull-Bridlington line was opened in 1846. The railway line is still used but the station closed in 1970.
In 1563, the vicar of Carnaby was licensed to teach the village children. The original school was built by Sir William Strickland in 1856. In 1871 a new school was built to accommodate 70 children and included children from Boynton and Fraisthorpe parishes. By the 1960’s there was a steady decline in the number of children attending the school and it was eventually closed in 1967. The remaining children were transferred to Burton Agnes school. The old school was sited on School Hill. At the bottom of School Hill stands a modern cross inscribed “Carnaby medieval market stone. Reconstructed 1968”.
Carnaby Temple is an isolated building which stands at the summit of the wold slopes north of TempleFarm. It is an octagonal red-brick tower of two storeys and a basement. It was build by Sir George Strickland in the late 18th century, probably as a look-out tower. In the late 19th century it was used as a storehouse. During the war the Second World War it was used for military purposes and is now disused. It is now locally as the “Pepperpot” because of its unusual shape.
In 1086 there were two estates in Carnaby, comprising of 13 carucates, belonging to the king and looked after by two rent-payers. Before 1066, the whole estate belonged to Chilbert and became part of the Percy family estate. The earliest known tenants belonged to a minor branch of the Percy family. Their main estates were at Sutton Upon Derwent, Bolton Percy (Yorks. W.R.) and Carnaby. Robert, son of Picot de Percy, is the first of the family to have known connections to Carnaby as his gifted the church to Bridlington priory between 1147 and 1153.
By 1428 the manor was in the possession of Sir William Hilton and was held in the family until 1573 and was passed to Thomas Layton. This appears to have been of short duration and was soon passed on to the Strickland family. The Strickland family held on to the manor until 1951. In 1921 400 acres were sold to the East Riding county council. In 1947 200 acres were sold to the Air Ministry and the remainder of the estate was split up and sold in separate lots.
In 1858 there was a limeburner in the village, a brickmaker between the years of 1897 and 1909. A windmill is also known to have existed in 1368 and 1544, and both a windmill and watermill in 1573.
The Church of St John the Baptist is built mainly of stone with some flint and cobble, some parts have been rebuilt with brick. It consists of a chancel, nave, south aisle and west tower. Only the circular font has survived from the Norman Church. The earliest existing fabric, the south aisle, the aisle arcade and the tower arch are of 13th century date. It is believed there may have been a north aisle but this no longer exists. The present tower was built in the 15th century is of three stages, topped by an embattled parapet. The church was restored around 1680 and again in 1719.
During World War Two, the Air Ministry bought land in Carnaby to build an emergency landing strip for crippled bombers. The airfield was built by a company called Monks and was operational by March/April of 1944. The runway was 3,000 yards long and 250 yards wide – five times the normal width. Over 1,500 bombers made an emergency landing at Carnaby.
Carnaby operated the FIDO system (Fog Investigation Dispersal Organisation). The FIDO system consisted of two rows of burning petrol, one on each side of the runway. The heat from the fire raised the air temperature above the runways, cutting a hole in the fog and providing crews with brightly lit strips. This showed the position of the runway and enabled them to make an emergency landing. FIDO used 250,000 gallons of fuel per hour.
The aerodrome’s busiest day came at the end of January 1945 when 65 USAAF bombers, mainly B24 Liberators, were diverted there after an aborted raid on Brunswick. 20 Halifax bombers landed on Boxing Day and it is reported than one airman counted over 100 Halifaxes, Lancasters and Stirlings parked nose to tail on the airfield. Carnaby was also used by 617 Squadron during initial trials with Grand Slam bombs, honing their take-off techniques.
The airfield closed in 1946 and reopened seven years later as a relief landing ground for Meteors from 203 Flying School at Driffiled. It then became a base for Thor intercontinental ballistic missiles before being closed again in 1963. The airfield is now used as an industrial estate. The runway has been re-named Lancaster Road in honour of the bombers that landed there.
1894 saw the establishment of civil parishes in the Rural Districts. Parishes with electorates greater than 300 were to have an elected parish council. Smaller parishes were to hold a parish meeting at least once a year. Parish councils took over the civil functions of vestries and were responsible for allotments, street lighting, village greens, shelters and village halls. They could also provide burial grounds.
Early records of Carnaby Parish Council can be viewed at the library in Beverley. The earliest record dates back to 1933. Minute books, accounts, financial statements and general correspondence can be viewed. The earliest minute book reveals that Army manoeuvres took place in the district for 2 months after 15th of August 1939, a scrap iron dump was formed by the order of the Minister of Supply and the Clerk of the Bridlington RDC and a request for more housing in the post war years was discussed.