24th July, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 15.

The above primary source is taken from p.234 of Housing for the Rural Working Classes of East Yorkshire in the late 19th century and the Development of Early Rural Council Housing to 1939 (see Articles and Publications) and shows the layout plan for the earliest rural council houses in Driffield Rural District at Nafferton, 1921 (surviving). The quarter-acre gardens were typical of the immediate post-Great War council houses. Although the Sunk Island Colony cottages were earlier than these both reflected the rising public-health standards for working class housing – large gardens to occupy the man of the house and to supplement the household food supply, three bedrooms enabling growing children of the two sexes to have separate sleeping accommodation and light and airy inside, factors not lost on the Hull Times reporter who visited Sunk Island in September, 1918 when, having studied the houses, he recorded ‘Now you see how the Government intend to house the men broken in the War’ (this in fact a myth s.p.b.).

The reporter also discovered that rather than the 50 acre plots allocated to demobilised soldiers as originally planned in fact the colony was then run as an ‘industrial farm’ with the ex-soldiers being taught farming as workers with a view to one day having their own smallholding to rent from the Crown. The wheat harvest had been in full-swing with the crop cut by a horse-drawn binder the sheaves drying in stooks, so dense were the stooks that the reporter noted he had never before seen such a good crop ‘except on the warp in the Isle of Axholme’.

On a nearby field of oats one reaper was being ‘hauled by a tractor’ (1918). Cattle, sheep and chickens were also being farmed. Workers from the recently built cottages were encouraged to rear a pig for autumn slaughter, this being a universal source of working class meat at that time.

The reporter also encountered a few ‘land-girls’, one dressed in ‘breeches and leggings’ and ‘doing her bit’.

22nd July, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 14.

The above photo (taken from Wikipedia) shows Canadian troops advancing behind the cover of Mark 2 ‘tanks’ (see Article in this website on my father’s Great War service in the Tank Corps, 1917-1921) at the battle of Vimy, 1917.

An interesting episode in the history of the Sunk Island community was the ‘Crown Colony’. It has already been established that Sunk Island is/was Crown land, the ‘Colony’ was a specific project on part of the ‘Island’. There were ‘colonies’ all around the country (see mention in the above article), some large, some small in area, each being a product of the British Government’s resolve, made public long before the end of the War, to reward/acknowledge those who had suffered the horrors of the Western Front and then returned to their homeland. Another strand of this policy was what became known as the ‘Homes for Heroes’ campaign (for further detailed discussion on this point as it impacted on two rural areas of the East Riding see my M.Phil. thesis – see Publications and Articles).

The ‘colonies’ were areas of farmland earmarked for smallholdings for demobilised soldiers who wished to pursue  a farming future. From the outset a basic misunderstanding prevailed. Although perceived by the public as a form of compensation for those who had suffered physical and psychological injuries the stark truth was that such men would not be able to cope with the workload and worry associated with making a smallholding pay, a point made clear by the Director of the Sunk Island colony and reported in an article in the Hull Times from July, 1917.

It seems from this newspaper article, and one on the same theme a year later, both reproduced in A Sunk Island Miscellany (s.p.b.s), that the land allocated to the ‘colony’ was somewhat neglected and overgrown. In 1917 there were no ‘settlers’ yet but 24 of the projected 46 cottage homes had already been built, each house having three bedrooms and ample windows so that the interiors benefitted from maximum sunlight (again see analysis of post-war housing in M.Phil. thesis).

(To be continued).

17th July, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 13.

The above early photo shows the interior of the second church on Sunk Island consecrated in 1877, the apsidal east end shown as viewed from the nave. Like much of the information conveyed recently this image comes from Meadley, J. A Sunk Island Miscellany (Malet Lambert Local History Original, Vol. 40, p. 22). The lancet windows set into the walls of the wide apsidal east end and the herring-bone arrangement of timbers forming the chancel ceiling contrast with most other apsidal chancels. It seems that gas lighting was installed from day one, a feature to be envied in many other later mock-gothic churches. The object shown in the middle of the nave aisle seems to be a cauldron, such an airy building would be very cold to those opting to attend mid-winter services/sermons but an open cauldron must have been taking a chance. If pew-rents had still then existed those nearest the cauldron would have commanded a premium.

In 1890 the vicar of Sunk Island died. The ‘Island’ had been long served by Revd. T. Sutton as he had already been incumbent at the first church for 19 years when the second was opened in 1877. Having lived in Withernsea and travelled to services on Sunk Island he was rewarded with a new-build parsonage house, contemporary with the church and beside the graveyard. A list of his household furniture sold by auction in Withernsea survives, the list includes an invalid’s chair (unsurprisingly), paraffin stoves, all the multi-layers of bedding that existed before the coming of the duvet plus a dog-cart (poor thing) and a pony cart.

The Rev. Sutton was succeeded by  the Revd. W.M. Holmes Milner who in 1904-05 was embroiled in a legal dispute heard at Hedon Crown Court in 1905 with the judge openly stating in court his surprise that ‘two educated men of the Church of England (should be) bickering and fighting over such matters’. But my readers won’t be interested in that.

14th July, 2019 Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island 12.

The picture above is an early photo of the second church on Sunk Island with the elementary school building just showing on the left, this now a private house. The church is a very distinctive building built to a plan drawn by the appropriately named Ewan Christian ‘architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners’ (Hull Times, August, 1877). The red brick church incorporates stone bands and dressings (this walling being very much a Hull style of the late 19th and early 20th century for ecclesiastical/public buildings, s.p.b.s on Hull Cemeteries). The single lancet windows show the mock-gothic church was built to the Early English style, the apsidal east end and the continuous width along nave and chancel being distinctive features. The two-storey tower, topped by a pyramidal spire and with a curiously designed external spiral staircase to the ringing chamber, was given geometric tracery to the belfry openings and was sited not at the west end but over the south porch.

Sunk Island’s second church, built in 1876/’77, was built very close to the site of its predecessor included an extension of the existing churchyard.

It is a nice example of Victorian priorities whereby as the lived-on and worked-on area extended and the local population expanded (albeit modestly) the priority provision was considered to be a place for public Christian worship and, to be fair, a place for elementary education – no provision of shops, doctors, transport services or the like. Evan the 1901 Kelly’s trade directory for Sunk Island lists no carriers, the community being, presumably, served by carriers from Ottringham, Keyingham, Patrington and, maybe, Easington. The ‘commercial’ names listed in this Directory extract are almost exclusively farmers and cow-keepers, most, surely with their own private transport in the form of carts or pony-and-trap etc.

Also shown in the photo above is a roofed lych-gate and a gentleman with top-hat and cane in the churchyard.


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).