15th August, 2019 Sunk Island postscript 5.

Following the petition to the king in 1344 Edward III appointed an ‘inquisition’ to investigate the matter the result being that those given the task confirmed the Frismersk residents petition. Consequently king Edward ordered the ‘Barons of his Exchequer’ to reduce the level of taxation imposed on the parishioners of Patrington living in the township of Frismersk. These residents had petitioned on the basis that they had incurred great cost in trying to shore-up the clay-bank flood defences (my term, not their’s).

The residents of Frismersk and Tharlesthorp (s.p.b.s) were also responsible for the part maintenance of ‘Potterbrigg’. The term ‘brigg’ always referred to a bridge, as bridges were so important to the free-movement of goods and persons their maintenance could be a heavy imposition on local communities (the town of Brigg in North Lincs. is so called because it was a bridging point across the River Ancholme from Roman times onwards). Potterbrigg spanned Potterfleet, the channel that in the 14th century still separated the early Sunk Island from the earlier north bank of the Humber Estuary near the villages of Keyingham, Ottringham and Patrington. Almost certainly this channel was being widened and eroded by tidal action in the 14th century so maintaining the bridge would have been all but impossible. The term ‘fleet’ meant a channel and, it seems to me, was usually used to define tidal channels, the Fleet area of Kings Lynn, for example, identified an area around a tidal channel flowing into the River Great Ouse, it also referred to the area of ‘Bishop Lynn’s’ early medieval port. As a child about once a month my mother would take me to Kings Lynn on the bus, the bus station then being on the Fleet, we had a fish-and-chip tea in a café with Sport Report playing on the Light Programme of the cafe’s wireless. It smelled really damp in there, but we were used to that.

11th August, 2019 Sunk Island postscript 4.

Another settlement/area of an earlier Sunk Island the evidence for which was studied by Boyle (Lost Towns of the Humber, s.p.b.s) was Frismersk. His map, reproduced above, locates it towards the eastern side of the early medieval Sunk Island. Etymologically the element ‘mersk’, Boyle argues, meant ‘marsh’, an opinion confirmed by Mawer, A. and Stenton, F.M. The Place-Names of the East Riding of Yorkshire and York (English Place-Name Soc., Vol. XIV, P. 24) and logical given the context of the site. References to Frismersk occur, mostly in the Chronica Monasterii de Melsa (Meaux Abbey Chronicles, s.p.b.s), during the 13th and 14th centuries and include the fact that Richard de Ottringham, in 1293, donated 18 acres of his meadow land in Frysmersk to help fund his chantry founded at Ottringham church. A further extract of 1311 refers to a ‘mill’ at Frismersk – many small ‘mills’ existed in medieval England, maybe some were early post (wind)mills but, I think, more often they were basic water mills, the possibility here being that a water wheel could have been driven by tidal action water diverted to a mill-race off the then channel leading to Patrington Haven. Potentially medieval mills in the Humberside region could have been built for one of three purposes, to grind corn, to reduce chalk blocks to lime or move drained water from the land. The most likely use for the 14th century mill at Frismersk was to power grindstones, this evidence of arable agriculture on the fertile estuarine silt of the medieval predecessor to Sunk Island.

In the genealogy of the famous Constable family of Holderness George Poulson (s.p.b.s) finds evidence of members of this family living at Frismersk across nine generations from the reign of Edward III.

In 1344, however, the inhabitants of Frismersk ‘by petition to the king and his council in parliament, exhibit and complain; that their lands were often overflowed by the tides of Humbre’.

(to be continued).



6th August, 2019 Sunk Island postscript 3.

Boyle (s.p.b.) quotes from the Meaux Abbey Chronicle to the effect that in the 1240s ‘the sea inundated and passed over its coasts almost throughout the whole eastern part of England; and the Humber exceeding its limits’ with the result that in the manor of Tharlsthorp the land was ‘decreased’ and the grange (farm) buildings there ‘consumed’.

As is usual medieval primary sources of evidence are mainly concerned with property and land transactions so it is with the Meaux Abbey Chronicle and Boyle’s account makes it clear that much land remained in the manor of Tharlesthorp into the late 13th century, although the use of the term ‘saltings’ suggests that the remaining land was more valuable for grazing than as arable land.

It was in the 1290s that king Edward I became increasingly interested in acquiring ‘Wyk and Myton as a royal port’. Boyle, on pages 69-71, relates details of the posturing to gain maximum profit from such a series of transactions, the manor of Tharlesthorp figuring.

However, as seen in the blog on Ravenser Odd (s.p.b.s), flooding again occurred in the second quarter of the 14th century. Clearly the maintenance of the clay-banks along the south bank of the Humber was a matter of great concern and it was often the monarch, e.g. Edward III in 1342, who appointed ‘commissioners’ to examine and repair the clay-banks (these men did not literally do the work themselves but rather used funds placed at their disposal to employ local labour at day-rates).

Abbot Burton’s ‘Chronicles’ written in the early 15th century and as studied by Boyle tell that by the late 14th century there were ‘habitual inundations of the Humber’, these ‘wasting’ the Meaux Abbey lands at Tharlesthorp and that, despite their best efforts, the land of Tharlesthorp grange was ‘hopelessly carried away’.

At an ‘inquisition’ at Hedon in 1401 it was recorded that the annual value of land lost to marine erosion at Tharlesthorp had been £123 (14th century value).

(to be continued).

4th August, 2019 Sunk Island postscript 2.

The above map, self-drawn by the author Boyle, J.R. Lost Towns of the Humber (1889), shows Sunk Island having much the same extent as today. However the point of the map is to show that today’s Sunk Island had an early medieval ancestor, mostly lost to marine erosion in the 14th century and then to gradually re-emerge from 16th century onwards. Boyle was to become the city of Hull’s first salaried archivist and the building which stands on the corner of Guildhall Road and Lowgate was to become the repository for the City’s archive collection, mostly catalogued by Boyle. This building remains but seems to be mostly disused, the collection of archives once held there now incorporated into the archive collection at Hull History Centre (along with collections from the University of Hull and the local studies collection at the Central Library).

Although the sites of the early medieval settlements on Boyle’s map are speculative no archaeological evidence would have survived to confirm or refute them, he sites Tharlesthorp as having been roughly where the second church now stands (s.p.b.s), the use of the word ‘towns’ being misleading if defined as it would be today.

Boyle’s evidence about Tharlesthorp comes mostly from a translation (from latin) of the Meaux Abbey Chronicles (s.p.b.s) which he quotes at length. The fact that Tharlesthorp gets a mention in the ‘Domesday Survey’ (Toruelsthorp) shows that the present Sunk Island had an early medieval ancestor. It seems that in the late 12th century Robert Constable endowed Meaux Abbey (Cistercian) with much land in south Holderness including the manor and ‘capital messuage’ of Tharlesthorp, this term being evidence of a significant building at the centre of the early medieval Sunk Island. By the mid 13the century there is evidence of a ‘grange’ (an outlying farm belonging to a monastic community) at Tharlesthorp.

(to be continued).


31st July, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser Odd, Sunk Island, postscript.

I was recently given a postcard showing the above aerial photo of Spurn Point. A detailed study of the photo shows that the picture was taken years ago, the postcard being produced for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. However, the picture does show, more obviously than is apparent walking the spit, how easily the area of land at the end of the spit could become an island were the narrow section of the spit to be breached by marine action along most of its length. A section of the narrow spit was breached in the last decade so it is now only possible to walk it full length at low tide and, of course, researches, mostly by members of the Geography Department at Hull University in the mid to late 20th century, showed that the spit has been successively destroyed and restored in a north westerly direction over the last millennia, this process allied to the rapid marine erosion along the coast of the plain of Holderness (for a diagrammatic representation of this process since the 7th century see Jones, N.V., editor, A Dynamic Estuary: Man, Nature and the Humber (Hull University Press, 1988, p.29). The late George de Boer, writer of the article including p29 in the above book, actually sites the early 14th century port of Ravenser Odd as being at the end of the then spit, this spit being ‘two spits’ south east of the present one. The spit on which Ravenser Odd developed, according to de Boer, had been built-up since the 12th century (see above diagram ref.).

Such a hypothesis serves to make Ravenser Odd seem much more plausible.

25th July, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 16.

David Neave, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding (Yale University Press, 2005, 715), concludes the section on Sunk Island by stating that the Crown Colony was ‘a short-lived venture but some of the brick and tile cottages remain’. I have not researched the inter-war years for Sunk Island but the final source reproduced in Meadley, J. A Sunk Island Miscellany is a copy of the relevant section from Kelly’s Directory of 1937 where, along with the independent farmers, is listed ‘Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries farmers’ and the name of the ‘manager’. Was this the descendent of the Crown Colony?

A similar development to Crown Colony can be found north of Hull in the parish of Woodmansey/Dunswell. Here, west of what was the main road from Hull to Beverley, stand a series of semi-detached substantial cottages each with a very large garden. David Neave (see above p. 395) tells us that these were built in the 1920s ‘on (as?) Hull Corporation smallholdings’. The picture above is taken from Dunswell’s reference in Wikipedia and is a copy of a painting entitled ‘Wagon and Horses Inn, Dunswell’ painted by F.S. Smith around 1900. The view chosen is looking south and even in 1900 the built-up area of Hull would still have been over a mile beyond with the hamlet of Newland en-route. The road shown had been a turnpike from 1744 to 1871 (see MacMahon, K.A. Roads and Turnpike Trusts in Eastern Yorkshire (East Yorkshire Local History Society, 1964) but Smith shows it as having then a very poor surface (across the centuries it had been a notorious road to travel along it often being very deep mud owing to its location in the Hull valley plain and closeness to the River itself).

So to conclude for this section of blogs – is Reed’s Island (see early blogs in this section) going to go the way of Ravenser Odd or Sunk Island?

(If any regular reader would like to suggest a blog theme that interests them then I will consider the idea(s).