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North East RCZAS NMP: The NMP element of tha Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey

This survey, carried out to National Mapping Programme (NMP) standards, formed the initial element of Phase 1 of the North East Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey (RCZAS).

The survey encompassed an area extending from Whitby in North Yorkshire to the Scottish border. This was defined as an area including the intertidal zone and a minimum of one kilometre inland of the High Water Mark.

The mapping, which covered an area of 560 square kilometres, was completed in summer 2008, and with desk-based assessment was used to inform Phase 2 of the RCZAS.

Colour aerial photo showing a headland with lots of streets and houses in regular rows with a harbour and town in background
The Headland at Heugh, Hartlepool, photographed on 26-JUL-1999, offered a commanding position for the Victorian Heugh Battery, a coastal gun position that remained in use until the Second World War (NMR 17338/13). © Historic England

Inter-tidal, coastal and estuarine archaeology

The primary aim of this project was to enhance the record of the coastal archaeology of north eastern England, and identify sites at short and medium-term risk in the coastal hinterland. Although the north east coast is generally more stable than further south in East Yorkshire, erosion still poses a threat in some areas.

The English Heritage funded assessment was undertaken by Archaeological Research Services Ltd.  Over 1,200 records were created or amended in the National Record for the Historic Environment (NRHE), an increase of 61% to the pre-existing record.

Archaeological features from the Neolithic to the 20th century were mapped. The majority of features were Second World War in origin, almost exclusively military coastal defences.  

Earlier monuments included Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows, a number of Iron Age multivallate forts, medieval settlement and post medieval industrial workings. The foreshore also revealed a diverse archaeological record including wrecks and fishtraps.

Colour aerial photograph showing the outline of a wrecked boat poking out of the water at the edge of the beach
Remains of a small wooden vessel on Bran Sands, Teesside photographed on 24-SEPT-2008 (NMR 20828/42) © Historic England

The industrial heritage

Industrial archaeology varied throughout the project area, depending on the local resource. Collieries were common in Northumberland, and alum working in North Yorkshire, Redcar and Cleveland. The remains of a number of alum workings are gradually slipping into the sea north of Whitby.

Colour aerial photograph showing the outline of a building as yellow stones/bricks against a grey stony background
A detail of the Kettleness Alum Works photographed on 24-SEP-2008. The structures are seen close to the edge of the cliff that is encroached upon year by year due to weathering and coastal erosion (NMR 20825_032) © Historic England

Military defences

As is usual on coastal margins throughout the country, Second World War features were the most common. These included airfield bombing decoys, anti-aircraft batteries, and dense concentrations of shoreline defences.

These beach defences would often consist of anti-tank blocks, barbed wire, pillboxes and coastal batteries. The historic vertical photograph sources were invaluable for mapping much of this military activity, as most were removed immediately after the war.

Black and white aerial photograph showing a number of buildings and structures within a field; there are long shadows
Blyth ‘B’ Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery, photographed on 26-JUL-1999. This is one of several such Second World War defences located around the industrial cities of the north east (NMR 17338/13) © Historic England

The images used on this page are copyright Historic England 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 Historic England Archive.

For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the Remote Sensing Team please contact us via email using the link below.

North East Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey, Air Survey mapping report

North East Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey, Air Survey mapping report

Published 1 August 2008

This report details the aims and objectives, scope, methodology and sources of the National Mapping Programme air photo mapping element of the North East RCZAS project. The report includes a period based summary of the archaeology mapped from air photos.

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