An NMP air survey project was one element of the Yorkshire Coast and Humber Estuary Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey (RCZAS). The survey covered the inter-tidal zone and a 1km-wide strip of coastline between Whitby, North Yorkshire and Donna Nook, North Lincolnshire. The enhanced archaeological record will be used as baseline for further field work and to identify sites at risk along the coast.
The project was in partnership with Humber Field Archaeology and Archaeological Services (WYAS).
The project identified and recorded over 1000 features dating from the Neolithic to the 20th century. Highlights include Iron Age square barrows, prehistoric or Roman boundary systems and medieval settlements. However, this coastline is richest in the remains of military features from World Wars I and II and over 700 features were of this period.
Amongst the military features recorded were the anti-invasion defences at Sand le Mere near Tunstall Hall and the Easington defence sites that consisted of anti-tank cubes, pillboxes, infantry trenches and gun emplacements. The Aldbrough `starfish' bombing decoy was also situated nearby.
This project also investigated the use of aerial photographs for charting the rate of coastal erosion. Historic photographs provide an invaluable record of the coastline from the early 1940s and maps were produced of sample stretches utilising the earliest and latest available vertical air photographs.
The greatest measured loss has been 115 metres over the period between 1945 and 1994 at Mappleton in the East Riding. Of course with the loss of land there has been destruction of archaeological sites and monuments as seen in the example below.
Godwin Coast Artillery Battery
The Godwin Coast Artillery Battery was part of the outer defences of the Humber on a stretch of low cliffs near Kilnsea. The site consisted of two 9.2" breech loading guns mounted in circular concrete pits, underground magazines, crew shelters and workshops.
Adjacent to the battery were two observation posts and a coastal artillery searchlight. The barrack accommodation was unusual, being substantially constructed of brick and concrete: it consisted of a guard house, officers’ quarters and a hospital. The battery was protected by a wall, a network of fire trenches and a 20ft ditch filled with barbed wire.
Over the years the battery has suffered from the relentless pounding of the North Sea which has led to extreme cliff erosion. By 1993 the defensive wall was almost totally submerged and the right gun emplacement was collapsing, half lying on the beach, half on the cliff top. By 2003 both gun emplacements had collapsed onto the beach and the coastline had receded further; threatening modern buildings.
A reconnaissance flight in 2009 revealed further cliff regression evidenced by the gun emplacements lying in substantial fragments on the beach. Active erosion of both our archaeological heritage and the modern landscape is a continuous threat on this section of coast.
The images used on this page are copyright English Heritage unless specified otherwise. For further details of any photographs or other images and for copies of these, or the plans and reports related to the project please contact the English Heritage Archive.
For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the Aerial Survey team please contact us by email via the link above.