Monthly Archives: July 2019

12th July, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 11.

‘Reclaimed land’ (a peculiar phrase seeing as shallow embanked mudflats were not previously claimed) such as Sunk Island was/is, by common law owned by the ‘Crown’, and the farmers that work the land were/are lessees. Under an agreement made in the early 19th century, between the Crown and the lessees it was agreed that the upkeep of the jetties and embankments was the responsibility of the latter. A further lease of 1802 led to the construction of the Island’s first church (see above early photo), this roughly on the site of the second and current church building (I think this church is now disused but am not sure, it was for some while a decade or two ago a Heritage Centre/museum for the Island). The chaplain was ‘engaged’ by the lessees and the wording of an Act of 1831 states that the tenants paid for the building and for the enclosing of a patch of ground as a ‘burying ground’ (a term that was soon to fall out of fashion, to be preferred by the traditional term ‘grave-yard’ or the new term ‘cemetery’). By the same act Sunk Island achieved parish status, the church (see above) thus became a parish church with the right of patronage invested in the Crown.

In 1836, to improve access to and from the villages to the north (once coastal villages) an Act allowed for the construction of a turnpike road from Sunk Island church to Ottringham. By 1847 an elementary school existed near the church but an inspector found discipline, attendance and achievement  poor. A further inspector’s report of 1868 stated that things had much improved. A Nonconformist chapel built on Sunk Island was by the mid 19th century already in terminal decline through disrepair.

In 1877 a replacement church was built on Sunk Island, this with an extended burial ground being then consecrated by the then Archbishop of York.

(To be continued).

9th July, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 10.

The publication Sunk Island Miscellany (s.p.b.s) references a letter written in 1711 (this included in Leland’s Itinerary and referenced in Allen, T. A New and Complete History of the County of York (1831), written by a local incumbent, presumably of Ottringham or Patrington. After recording that local people state (in 1711) that at the time of Colonel Gilby (s.p.b.s) the channel separating the island from the Holderness mainland was two miles but fast infilling with mud the reverend then goes on to state that now (1711) barley and oats are grown on Sunk Island to a ‘much greater perfection than in any other part of Yorkshire’. Apparently at that time much woad was also grown there, this used for dyeing cloth. At the time (1711) a new venture was being tried on Sunk Island ‘several thousand couples of black rabbits’ were released to a coney warren on the Island ‘whose furs are more valuable than the common grey’.

The letter goes on to state that then (1711) the reclaimed area of Sunk Island was about 2000 acres in extent ‘with high banks to keep out the sea, which otherwise would overflow the island in spring tides’. He also records that there was about 700 further acres of ‘as fine grass as any in England, not inclosed, and therefore frequently overflown at high tides’. Despite this, on these unenclosed grasslands were grazed sheep and horses as even when the tide washed across the grasslands it remained shallow and ‘it soon dry again’. The horse were ‘chiefly of the large size for coaches’.

These observations invite a number of comparisons with the situation in the Humber Estuary today. For example the relatively narrow channel between Reed’s Island and the River Ancholme valley mainland has become, like the channel between Sunk Island and the mainland was in the 18th century, virtually devoid of water at low tide. This, added to the observation about Reed’s Island at the beginning of this 10 blog section, might suggest that Reeds Island in the fullness of time might become part of the coastline.

(To be continued).


7th July, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 9.

Given what was decided in the previous blog the building of new clay banks to expand the area of Sunk Island during the early modern period must have been a precarious business. A fully encircling new bank would have taken more than one day to construct so as the tide rose its waters would lap around behind the unfinished section and weaken it on both sides. In the somewhat longer term the rigidity of a clay bank is very much enhanced by the root systems of colonising plants, even a single year’s vegetation would have provided only a fraction of the necessary root systems. Perhaps the ‘navigators’ and their employers had some means of strengthening the seaward face of a new clay-bank in the short term, in the case of Holderness possibly rounded stones from the shore-line, although these would be more common on the German Ocean coast rather than on the Humber Estuary foreshore. Maybe, like later engineers, they realised that a gentle slope on the face of the clay-bank facing seaward reduced undermining by the incoming tide.

Recently an established clay-bank flood defence forming the bank of the River Deeping near Wainfleet, central Lincolnshire (and normally one of the driest parts of the country) was breeched, this leading to extensive flooding of a residential area. If short sections of a clay-bank flood defence are weakened they will become more prone to being breeched. Unfortunately public footpaths over a bank/sand-dune can have this result as the vegetation is worn away.

The photo above, taken on Christmas Day 2013, shows a section of the Humber clay-bank just west of the Humber Bridge, this following the flood of 5th December when the clay-bank was overtopped by a combination of surge water and spring high tide water passing up the Estuary together. Here it was the inland side of the banks that was broken in places, some local issue causing them to be points of weakness.

(To be continued).

6th July, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 8.

Firstly an apology for short ‘break in transmission’ as have ben preoccupied with issues related to problems in selling my house.

The photo above, taken from current front bedroom window, shows, in the foreground, the on-going work related to the local ‘Flood Alleviation Scheme’ whereby a reserve clay bank is being created just inland of the main clay-bank mostly constructed in the early 1950s. This is the Environment Agency’s scheme to reduce the flood risk in this section of the Humber Estuary. Incidentally, work has also started on constructing the preferred flood defence in the area of St. Andrew’s Quay, west Hull, here not a clay bank. As regards the new clay bank currently under construction a great mound of clay, light grey in colour, has been transported to the site as the geologists decided that just digging a trench and mound across the site would not provide a viable flood defence, the local estuarine clays being too easily undermined by the action of flood waters.

This brings me back to the successive clay-bank flood defences of Sunk Island (s.p.b.), created to be the first stage in the reclamation of the Estuarine silts normally covered at high tides by brackish water. Unlike the current project at South Ferriby the late medieval/early modern land-reclaimers can surely not have brought to the site ‘special clay’ from a distant source. So the assumption must be that trenches were dug and the silt mounded alongside. Such work would have to be done at times of low tide and therefore could not have been confined to ‘9 to 5’ work. Also it must have been very hard work given the limited hand-tools available as well as being extremely muddy, even dangerous.

So who would have done it? There is evidence in the Meaux Abbey Chronicle that, at least at one point before the early 15th century, day labourers were employed, the funding provided by the Abbey. The workforce attracted by the offer of  extra earnings must have come from the once coastal villages of south Holderness – Keyingham, Ottringham and Patrington.

(To be continued).