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Yorkshire Coast RCZAS National Mapping Programme project

The National Mapping Programme (NMP) air survey project formed one element of the Yorkshire Coast and Humber Estuary Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey (RCZAS). The survey covered the inter-tidal zone and a one-kilometre-wide strip of coastline between Whitby, North Yorkshire and Donna Nook, North Lincolnshire. The enhanced archaeological record was used to identify sites at risk and to inform further field assessment.

The project was funded by English Heritage (now Historic England) and conducted in partnership with Humber Field Archaeology and Archaeological Services WYAS.

Colour aerial photograph showing a thin spit of land sticking out into the sea with more land in the background
Spurn Point photographed on 12-OCT-2006. This coastline is famous for its shifting patterns of erosion and deposition, creating unique difficulties for heritage management (NMR 20617/04). © Historic England

The archaeology

The project identified and recorded over 1,000 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 the First and Second World Wars, with over 700 features 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. These consisted of anti-tank cubes, pillboxes, infantry trenches and gun emplacements. The Aldbrough ‘starfish’ bombing decoy was also situated nearby.

Coastal erosion

This project also investigated the use of aerial photographs for charting the rate of coastal erosion. Historic photographs provide a valuable record of the coastline from the early 1940s, and maps were produced of sample areas using the earliest and latest available vertical air photographs.

The greatest measured loss was 115 metres over the period between 1945 and 1994, at Mappleton in the East Riding. With the loss of land there has been destruction of archaeological sites and monuments.

B&W vertical aerial photo showing the coast and sea; in the centre of the image is a diamond shaped feature and two circles
Godwin Coastal Defence Battery photographed by the RAF on 21-SEP-1946. Note how the gun emplacements are set well back from the cliff edge. (RAF/CPE/UK1748 V 5003). Historic England RAF photography.

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 with 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 20-foot 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. The installation was originally situated some way back from the cliff edge, but over time the edge has gradually encroached on the site. By 1993 the defensive wall was almost totally submerged and the right gun emplacement was collapsing. 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. Active erosion of both our archaeological heritage and the modern landscape is a continuous threat on this section of coast.

Colour aerial photograph showing numerous lumps of broken concrete lying about on the sand at the base of the cliff
Godwin Coastal Artillery Battery, photographed as part of ongoing aerial survey on 18-AUG- 2009. Note how the gun emplacement is now lying fragmented on the beach (NMR 20933/08). © Historic England
The Yorkshire Coast and Humber Estuary Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Project, Air Photo Mapping Project: summary of resources and results

The Yorkshire Coast and Humber Estuary Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Project, Air Photo Mapping Project: summary of resources and results

Published 1 June 2007

This report details the aims and objectives, scope, methodology and sources of the Yorkshire RCZAS Project. The report also contains a quantification and overview of the project results.

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.

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