Monthly Archives: June 2019

30th June, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 7.

The photo. above was taken at a point on the coast of Sunk Island near Hawkin’s Point, this at low tide and showing Cleethorpes water tower in the distance across the Estuary. It shows the mudflat foreshore, covered by shallow, brackish water at high tide and a little inlet in the vegetated foreshore. Here the silence can be palpable (s.p.b.s).

As with all the parishes of Holderness, George Poulson’s two volume History and Antiquities of the Seignory of Holderness published 1841 contains much thoroughly researched information on the area of Sunk Island. As to the age of the island we have seen that Burleigh’s map of the reign of Elizabeth I shows it existing with a building on it but extant documentary evidence exists only from early in the reign of Charles II. With such a development being ‘new land’ it automatically became the freehold property of the monarch and was initially leased to Colonel A. Gilby, governor of Hull, and the gradually expanding island was much connected with the Gilby family across the following century.

In 1668 it was described as being ‘grazing land’ but this would have been only a tiny part of what we see as Sunk Island today. Figures for the extent of the Island across successive leases can be misleading as the term ‘drowned land’ was often used, this being the area of mud-flat above all but spring tide waters but as yet not embanked. A survey of 1764 documented that as the leasee had been awarded a 99 year long lease further embanking had been financially viable so now 1500 acres was dry land and divided into farms.

As has been previously discussed here (although some months ago) the nature of such successive flood defences is not often made clear. Presumably they were linear mounds of the clay found on the mud-flat dug from a parallel trench. This in turn begs a number of questions.

(To be continued).

28th June, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 6.

In mentioning recently to Ian Wilkinson, ex-work colleague and active member of Hessle Local History Soc., of my current blog title he commented that he and his wife sometimes drive to Sunk Island, particularly the part around Stone Creek, for although the landscape is monotonous the magic is to ‘hear the quietness’ (this not so at harvest-time as the main crop grown is wheat). The oft used phrase ‘the silence was almost palpable’ applies here. Sitting at points such as Stone Creek or Hawking’s Point the repetitive swish of the minimal wind-waves (s.e.b.s) is very therapeutic.

I have a double sheet photocopy of the text about Sunk Island from a trade directory. Foolishly I haven’t recorded which directory or its date but from the lay-out I suspect it was from a Kelly’s Directory and from the dates given I suspect it to be 1890s. Trade Directories can be a valuable source of evidence for various lines of research, trades, names (later ones e.g. 1930s almost like early telephone directories) and with a preamble about the history of the settlement in question. This preamble can be very informative although errors often got repeated in successive editions.

This particular preamble gives the acreage of Sunk Island as nearly 7,000 ‘according to the Ordnance Survey’. It goes on to state ‘Sunk Island is an interesting instance of the compensating action of the sea, which, whilst robbing the land in one place, is depositing rich tracts in another’, referencing the marine erosion along the Holderness coast and the growth of Sunk Island. By discovering that the bulk of the material forming mud-flats throughout the Estuary comes from the erosion of boulder clay along the Holderness coast and the action of long-shore drift (and not from riverine deposition from rivers flowing into the Estuary) research by the Geography Dept. at Hull University in the 1970s confirmed the Directory’s assumption.

The map above is an extract from Jeffery’s Map of Holderness, 1804.

(To be continued).

24th June 2019, Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 5.

It is not known whether the mudflat that was to become Sunk Island was established by the early-mid 14th century when Ravenser was functioning as a port (s.p.b.s). Certainly two centuries later when Lord Burleigh commissioned the first navigational map of the Humber Estuary (c. 1560) the mudflat on which, at its western end, the colonisation of Sunk Island was to begin was shown (see above), a channel sufficient for a sailing ship to pass along (see above the ship drawn between Patrington and the mudflat) still separating this mudflat from the south Holderness coast proper. Burleigh’s map/chart is hard to study without access to a large scale copy. Just over a century later a Humber navigational chart compiled by Captain Greenville Collins, hydrologer to Charles II, showed Sunk Island, still clearly an island with water channels to both north and south but with the name written on, shown as vegetated and outlined by what must have been a clay-bank (flood defence). The un-colonised part of the mudflat to the east is named as Sunk Island Dry/Bay (not clear).

Today the once shipping channel to the north of Sunk Island is only defined by a substantial drainage channel and the whole area up to the villages of Keyingham, Ottringham and Patrington (once on the coast) is now one of reclaimed land, the estuarine silts forming one of the most fertile areas for arable farming in the country. The north bank of the upper Humber Estuary (south Holderness) is thus the southern edge of Sunk Island.

Two valuable sources of information on this challenging but fascinating area are;

Meadley, J. A Sunk Island Miscellany (Malet Lambert Local History Original, Vol. 40, with a Forward by the late Geoff Bell).

Poulson, G. The History and Antiquities of the Seigntory of Holderness (2 vols., 1840).

Also Boyle Lost Towns of the Humber (early 20th century).

All three will be most readily accessed in Hull History Centre.

23rd June, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 4.

The picture above is taken from a book about Romano-British buildings, this reconstruction compiled from evidence found in an archaeological dig in central London in the 1990s. It shows that the style of wall-building known generally as wattle-and-daub had a very long history stretching from the Romano-British era to the  18th century. The timber skeleton of such a building is generally known as a box frame. By the time that Ravenser Odd was being developed (s.p.b.s) Holderness, north Lincolnshire and the River Hull valley already had scarce timber reserves and Scandinavian softwoods were a commodity imported. Willow branches to cut and split to create the base for the puddled clay would have been more readily available.

The photo in the previous blog was taken inside 51, Fleetgate, Barton on Humber where the rear part of the terrace property comprises a surviving complete late medieval box frame with mostly wattle and daub infil (although some contemporary bricks-on-side in places). The property was, almost certainly, built as a merchants/trader’s property and would originally have been open-plan between floor and roof underside and was roughly contemporary (probably somewhat later) with the rise of Ravenser (Odd). The timber frame at 51, Fleetgate is very extensive and more modest properties could have got away with a less comprehensive box frame.

We might also ask the same questions of the church built on Ravenser (Odd). The Meaux Abbey Chronicle records that by the 1340s this building had been lost to the sea (eroded away) and that what human remains had been recovered were to be re-interred in Easington churchyard. What were its building materials? How extensive was it? Did it reflect the features of the later called ‘geometric’ architectural style fashionable at the time. Given the shortness of time between the town/port beginning to be developed and its loss to coastal erosion, little more than two generations, it must be supposed that the church was a modest structure.

20th June, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 3.

It is intriguing to try to imagine what Raverser Odd (s.p.b.) looked like in its heyday, 1320s. Were there streets or just waterside warehouses with associated staithes and merchants houses and counting rooms, much like medieval High St. (originally Hull St.), Kingston upon Hull? What building materials and styles/size of buildings existed on Ravenser Odd?

With one exception the buildings materials would have had to have been accessed from the coast or mainland of Holderness. The exception would have been mud-walled buildings, the built-up part of the island would not (surely) have covered the whole of the ‘island’ so clay for clay/cob walling would have been locally available. That said the roof would still need materials for a timber-framed roof and thatch for the roofing material, neither of which would have been locally available.

Certainly at that time much brick making was taking place at Hull as those for the first tranch of town-wall making were by then being manufactured from warp-land estuarine clays immediately west and north of the medieval settlement. The very stuff of Ravenser’s island was warp-land estuarine clays but fuel for the kilns would have been needed for on site brick-making as well as chalk for the mortar. In Hull itself crushed chalk for the mortar in the town walls and town buildings came, almost certainly, from the medieval quarry at Hessle. To get the ready-made bricks and mortar from Hull/Hessle to Ravenser would have considerably increased their cost. Here again timber and thatch material for roofing would need to be shipped to Ravenser neither being available on the ‘island’.

Another possible building material would have been cobbles (stones from the Holderness beaches revealed by cliff erosion and rounded have the abrasive action of waves) for cobble walling. Although rare today, cobble walled building was the traditional everyman’s building material of Holderness, with chalk mortar, or maybe ‘puddled’ clay as the bonding.

(To be continued – will reference the photo next time).

17th June, 2019. Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 2.

The above photo shows a tanker ship moored to a buoy in the mouth of the Humber Estuary. The picture was taken looking south from above the scrubland at the southern end of Spurn Point. In the distance, and just visible, is the south bank of the Estuary at Humberstone and Cleethorpes.

The odd thing about Ravenser Odd is that in many was it was, well, odd. At first sight it seems like a very unlikely story but we know it did exist from references in the Meaux Abbey Chronicle (s.p.b.s) and from State papers from the early 14th century. In my paragraphs on Ravenser Odd from my article ‘Hull in the Beginning – the History of the lower Hull valley prior to Hull becoming a royal borough’ (see Articles and Publications section of this website) I state ‘Ravenser Odd was the last of the medieval Humberside towns to be created and the first to be lost’.

Ravenser was a settlement and port that was rapidly developed (built) on warpland just above the normal high tide level in the mouth of the Humber. There was a point in about the 1320s that this port could have out-stripped the trade of Hull (having been granted its royal charter in the late 13th century and with its famous town walls just beginning to be built) and Grimsby, indeed Ravenser (Odd) was also granted a royal charter at this time.

Whether Ravenser was built on a mudflat island that had become vegetated or whether it developed on part of a predecessor spit to the current Spurn Point is up for debate. Although the Meaux Abbey Chronicle uses the term ‘island’ when writing of Ravenser Abbot Burton also states that it was connected to the Holderness mainland by a ‘sandy road strewn with rounded yellow pebbles … (and) scarcely a bowshot in width … marvellously withstanding the floodwaters of the sea’ – this sounding much like a spit.

(To be continued).