Pit Marshes, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid-Reference – TA 420 150

Archaeology & History

This long lost site is one of probably many such sites on the east coast of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire that used to exist, before the great North Sea took them away.  The only account I’ve found of this one is from a short article in an early copy of the Lincolnshire Notes & Queries magazine by John Cordeaux (1891), who wrote:

“The Spurn, or Spurn Point, as it is now usually called, at the mouth of the Humber, is so closely connected with Lincolnshire history that it is unnecessary to apologize for recording in Lincs. N. & Q. an interesting sepulchral relic found there.  This is a rude chest or coffin, roughly hewn and squarely hollowed, probably with stone implements, from the trunk of an oak, recently exposed by the action of the sea on the beach at Kilnsea.  The total length overall of the chest is 51 feet, the interior (it was much decayed and fallen when I saw it) little, if anything, over four feet.  In this space the skeleton, presumably of an adult male was found doubled up.  Most unfortunately the original finders (labourers) scattered the bones, which subsequently were washed away. A thigh bone alone being recovered, and this is suggestive of a man probably a little below the average height.

“From oral evidence collected in the neighbourhood, I came to the conclusion that the body must originally have been buried with the head bent forward on the chest, and the legs tucked up like a trussed fowl, the knees near the chin. No corresponding lid or covering was found on the coffin, it had been placed in an excavation in the red or chalky boulder clay, and tenacious blue clay placed on it. The locality on the coast where it was found represents the Pit Marshes — that is before “the sea gat ’em ” — their position was about one-hundred and fifty yards south of the first sea-groin on Kilnsea beach. It is not improbable that a barrow or tumulus, either of earth or piled stones, at one time covered the interment, until levelled and dispersed by the sea’s encroachments on the land. Not far from this place on the beach, a small, simple, flat-sided celt, about four inches long, was picked up. It may or may not have borne some relation to the occupant of the oak coffin. When the foundations of the enlarged Chancel of St. James’ Church, Grimsby, were dug, a similar coffin or chest was exposed, partly within and partly without the line of the north chancel wall. I remember it was conjectured at the time, from the comparatively small interior, that it had been used for the interment of a child.  It is more probable, however, that it had once contained an adult packed away in the manner indicated at Kilnsea.”

A very short distance north we find the place-name of “How Hill”, which may be a record its existence, as the word how in many places round here can mean a tumulus.  Seems to make sense.

References:

  1. Cordeaux, John, “Ancient British Interment,” in Lincolnshire Notes & Queries, volume 2, 1891.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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