2nd September, 2019

One interesting feature of our mid 17th century county map (s.p.b.s) is that it records and gives the boundaries of the ‘wapontakes’ of the Eat Riding. The six so defined are; Dickering W. (north-east section of the Wolds), Holderness W., Buckrose W. (north-central section of the Wolds), Harthill W. (southern Wolds and the River Hull Valley, by far the largest W. and thus divided into ‘divisions’ – Bainton D., Huntley D., Holme D. and Wilton D.), Howden W. and Ouse and Derwent W. Wapontakes were subdivisions of certain English shires including Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, they were equivalent to the ‘hundreds’ of other English counties, that was a subdivision having its own court. In the middle ages and early modern eras justices of the peace would have administered the law in their wapontakes/hundreds.

As with all sources of historical evidence the reliability of the evidence needs to be considered. For example the map extract above shows that although the cartographer chooses to identify communities by church symbols these are stylised and do not correspond with what is known of these buildings in the 17th century. Also Hull is shown detached from the lower part and mouth of the River Hull (in fact this curiously corresponds with an idea promoted by certain local historians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that early Hull developed west of the current ‘Old Town’ beside Limekiln stream this being then the mouth of the River Hull – but the current course of the lower River and the development of Hull on the west bank happened long before the 17th century.

The map’s terms for the North Sea are interesting – ‘The Germain Ocean’ and below the latin ‘Mare Germanicum’. Off the coastline of south Holderness the terms ‘Belgis’ and ‘De Noordzee’ are written. The term German Ocean was certainly out of favour and the term North Sea in favour by the Great War.

31st August, 2019. County maps of the East Riding of Yorkshire, 2.

One aspect of the comparisons between the five county maps listed in the last blog is how the coastline is represented. The coastline of Holderness constitutes one third of the North Sea coastline of Yorkshire (North and East Yorkshire) and there are variations in the way it is represented.

The earliest of the five county maps, that of 1645, shows the Holderness coastline as being far more irregular than is the case today. This whole issue invites questions as to what level of surveying was done ahead of the compilation of these old county maps, especially the earlier ones as they had no predecessors to copy from. Maybe very little technical surveying took place but, like Roman surveyors before them, they sought high vantage points in fine weather in order to survey the landscape/coastline and then travelled the landscape on horse-back in order to locate communities, rivers etc. in relation to each other.

Part of the explanation for the above may be that with the plain of Holderness being a product of post-glacial deposition the land became higher to the east (coastline) as the rate of deposition by retreating ice bodies increased in that direction. This in turn explains why the traditional drainage pattern of Holderness (little in evidence today) was east to west, away from the sea and towards the River Hull valley. The 1645 map shows this clearly, for example a stream flowing south-west from a mere between Tunstall and Rimwell and flowing into the Humber Estuary where Stone Creek survives as the mouth of the river (see the image for the previous blog). The image above being the north-east corner of the 1645 map shows the opposite drainage pattern where, having carved its great valley through the Yorkshire Wolds, the Gypsey Race river flows into the North Sea at Bridlington ‘Keye’ (Quay).

The map’s representation of Flamborough Head and Filey Brig lack the precision of a modern map.

(to be continued).

28th August, 2019 County maps of the East Riding of Yorkshire,

The first Ordnance Survey (O.S.) maps were published in 1801 for the county of Kent and to the scale of 1 inch to 1 mile. This continued to be the bedrock scale for O.S. maps sold to the public until the onset of decimalisation almost two centuries later. The First Series of these O.S, maps was not completed until 1891 despite 6 inch to one mile maps being pioneered in the 1840s and 25 inch to one mile maps existing from 1860s onwards. By the late 1820s one-third of England and Wales had been mapped to the one inch scale, this including north Lindsey (Lincolnshire).

In the 1840s the O.S. began producing county maps to the scale of six inches to one mile. County maps had ancestors (not O.S. maps) going back over two-and-a-half centuries. The East Riding’s archive repository (the Treasure House, Beverley) has a full collection of these pre-O.S. county maps. I have copies of five such county maps;

  • One dated 1645,
  • a county map produced 1695 by R. Morden for Camden’s Britannia,
  • the map of the Bishopric of Durham (includes the East Riding) produced by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607 – 1677),
  • Bowen’s map of the East Riding produced in the mid 18th century,
  • Greenwood’s county map of 1834.

By comparing the same area/feature across a series of county maps some interesting historical evidence can be unearthed.

Incidentally county maps, particularly later ones, often had very instructive illustrations around the edges of the county boundary. For example, Greenwood’s county map incorporates, bottom left, a very detailed illustration of Beverley Minster church, obviously contemporary with the map. This being so the illustration shows clearly the cupola that then rested on the roof of the crossing tower, this particular classical feature now long-gone. However, the illustration does not show the original grammar school building which once existed in the south-west corner of the churchyard. I am not sure of the school’s dates and my reference books are now all boxed-up as I was expecting to move on 30th Aug. but it has now had to be postponed for a very depressing reason.

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).