Humber Field Archaeology's recent and current projects
Caythorpe Gas Storage Project,
Caythorpe, East Riding of Yorkshire
Significant discoveries were made during recent archaeological excavations in advance of the construction of a gas storage facility near Caythorpe, to the west of Bridlington. During two phases of investigation – July 2009 to March 2010 and August 2010 to December 2010 – HFA recorded archaeological remains of prehistoric, Roman and Anglo-Saxon date.
Excavation along the route of a pipeline to a new well site revealed part of substantial Neolithic circular “hengi-form” monument, 16m in diameter and defined by a ditch around 2m wide and 1m deep, within which large pits were recorded which appeared to have held upright timber posts. A further series of pits had been cut into the infilled ditch, some of which contained human burials dating to the Bronze Age, including one containing fragments of Beaker pottery. Pits nearby were found to contain evidence of possible ritual feasting, including numerous butchered animal bones and burnt material.
Work on the pipeline also identified part of a cemetery of late Iron Age (pre-Roman) date. A total of 5 graves were investigated, some surrounded by distinctive square ditches typical of burials of this period in eastern Yorkshire. An iron sword and spearhead was recovered from one of the graves, suggesting that the grave was that of a warrior and is the first such burial containing a sword to be excavated in the region for some 25 years.
Evidence of settlement of both Iron Age and Roman date was recorded within the area of the extension to the existing Caythorpe facility. This included evidence for 5 Iron Age roundhouses, up to 15m in diameter, together with the ditches of the enclosures surrounding the houses and pits used for the disposal of domestic refuse. In the same area were recorded a number of Iron Age pits which had been dug to enable the collection of water from what may have been a natural spring. Finds from the pits included a large saddle quern or grinding stone, used to process grain for flour, and well-preserved wood fragments showing the marks of the tools which had cut and shaped them.
A number of burials were also found in this area. One of the burials was accompanied by an iron blade, probably a knife, and this burial lay in the latest of two graves which intersected each other, an earlier burial accompanied by a chalk spindle whorl (used for spinning thread) having been badly disturbed by the cutting of the later grave. A later building of Anglo-Saxon date was also recorded, suggesting that occupation in this area continued after the Roman period. This contained several stone and clay loom weights, suggesting that it may have been used for weaving.
The excavations at Caythorpe area have enabled many important archaeological remains to be investigated, most of which were either previously unknown or had been seen only on aerial photographs. The date of these remains spans several thousand years, so the results of the excavations and the analysis of the finds will enable a much more detailed history to be established of this part of the Yorkshire Wolds landscape.
Flemingate Multi-Use Development,
Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire
This extensive and ongoing development on the eastern outskirts of Beverley town centre is revealing the remains of a slice of the medieval suburbs to the north of one of its earliest streets. Following earlier trial trenching, the eastern half of the development, earmarked for housing, has now been examined in two main target areas. Along the Flemingate street frontage itself are the superimposed floors and walls of houses and workshops, containing a succession of tile and clay hearths. The earliest buildings included earthfast timber posts, replaced later by chalk padstones and sill walls. The buildings were established at least as early as the 13th and 14th centuries, continuing in use until the 15th or 16th century, when Beverley appears to have undergone economic decline, leading to the abandonment of some plots as well as the contraction of outlying areas of the town.
Behind the frontage, a long stretch of a canalised watercourse, the Tan Dyke, has been examined. This seems to have originated as a wide natural stream, winding through flood meadows to the east of the town centre, but the lower section to the east of the site was canalised by Thurstan, Archbishop of York, in the early 12th century to allow access to waterborne traffic from the River Hull, and surviving today as Beverley Beck. The upper stretch to the north of the site, known as the Walkerbeck, was the centre of a cloth dyeing and fulling industry, with one channel passing beneath the town’s Dominican Friary to flush the latrine block (reredorter). The Tan Dyke itself contained successive rows of piles, some with rough wattle wrapped around, suggesting attempts to channel the stream, which became much narrower over time. Nearby were several truncated barrels and tanks, the remains of the medieval tanning industry which gave the Dyke its name, overlaid by much later tanks, constructed in the 19th and 20th centuries as part of the recent Hodgson’s Tannery complex.
Still to be investigated in the western quarter of the site are the eastern end of the Dominican Friary precinct and the contemporary moated St Nicholas’ Hospital, both abolished by Henry VIII as part of his dissolution of monastic institutions. Trial trenching in 2007 and 2008 has already recorded the east end wall of the Friary church and a cross-section of the Hospital moat.
Historic Landscape Characterisation project,
East Riding of Yorkshire and Kingston upon Hull
The Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC) is being undertaken in conjunction with the East Riding of Yorkshire and Hull City Council unitary authorities. The aim of HLC is to achieve, through a desk-based programme of GIS mapping and analysis, an understanding of the historic development of the present landscape, providing information to allow local, regional and national agencies to make informed conservation, management and development decisions. In certain areas where there is currently rapid dynamic urban regeneration, a more detailed approach will provide a vital tool for local strategic planners.
The study is based on the modern Ordnance Survey mapping and is principally using 1st and 2nd Edition historical mapping and mid 20th-century Ordnance Survey mapping to enable division of the area into GIS polygons, based on modern land parcels, which have common historic characteristics. Project products will include completion of the GIS mapping and databases and the production of one or more reports containing thematic discussions illustrated by map, tables and charts.
Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey,
Whitby, North Yorkshire, to Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire
Between 2006 and 2010, HFA carried out a Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey of the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire coast from as far north as Whitby to the county boundary between Lincolnshire and Norfolk. This formed part of an English Heritage-sponsored risk and asset appraisal of the whole coastline of England and Wales, aimed at determining how the pace of erosion was affecting heritage assets located along the coastline and major estuaries.
Phase 1 of the survey (2006–08) consisted of an assessment of the available sites and monuments records for the study area, including those held at national and local level, as well as examining a range of other sources. An important element of the survey was commissioning new aerial photographic analysis of a coastal strip between Whitby and North-East Lincolnshire. Some limited field investigation was also carried out in sample areas to check the accuracy of the archive records and determine the potential of different areas for revealing new information. A large number of new monuments were added as part of this process, including a considerable number of World War 2 sites identified through the aerial photographic analysis. The World War 2 data included pillboxes, anti-aircraft batteries, temporary trenches and weapons pits, bombing decoys and many miles of beach defences. A smaller number of prehistoric and later earthwork sites were also identified, including settlements, field systems and Bronze Age barrows, together with the extensive remains of medieval and post-medieval ridge-and-furrow cultivation, most of which was ploughed out in the last half of the 20th century.
A key aspect of the survey was to define the level of risk affecting each monument. Clearly, this could only be provisional, awaiting field investigation of the entire stretch of coast in the study area during the winter of 2009–10 (Phase 2).
Phase 2 identified hundreds more monuments, ranging from prehistoric, Romano-British and medieval features exposed in cliff edges to fragments of boats and the remains of World War 2 defensive installations. It also allowed the records of thousands of known sites to be updated or corrected — many had disappeared or had been severely damaged since they were originally recorded. In other cases, exact locations were revised using the latest GPS technology. Several thousand photographs were also taken, including many showing the general condition of the coast, as well as details of individual sites, providing a valuable snapshot of the area over a short period.
The project provided an important set of data in the form of reports illustrated by maps and photographs, but also allowed the revision of national and local databases to provide an updated dataset available to private researchers and specialists alike. It has also allowed the definition of further work, which may include monitoring of vulnerable sites, as well as additional recording of those considered most at risk, whether from natural processes or from the pace of redevelopment.