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Help and advice for SUNK ISLAND: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1892.

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SUNK ISLAND: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1892.

Wapentake of Holderness (South Division) - County Council Electoral Division of Patrington - Petty Sessional Division of South Holderness - Poor Law Union of Patrington - County Court District of Hedon - Rural Deanery of Hedon - Archdeaconry of the East Riding - Diocese of York

This parish extends along the bank of the Humber, and contains, according to the Ordnance Survey, 6,914 acres; it is valued for rating purposes at £8,392, and had in 1891 a population of 440. The surface is level and monotonous; the soil, warp; and the subsoil sand and silt. A portion of the land is laid down in pasture, and on the rest wheat, oats, beans, and mustard are grown. The whole parish is the property of the Crown, by whom new farmhouses and cottages were erected in 1854.

Sunk Island is an interesting instance of the compensating action of the sea, which, whilst robbing us of land in one place, is depositing rich tracts in another. Along the coast of Holderness from Bridlington to Spurn Head, there is a small but constant yearly diminution of the land occasioned by the wasting action of the water on the cliffs, which are being slowly but gradually engulfed. Much of the sand and soil thus washed away is carried by the tide into the estuary of the Humber, and there deposited. This in time formed a sand bank, visible at first only at low water, but by the constant accretion of the warp, it in time rose above high water, forming a small island. It is first mentioned in the reign of Charles I., when it contained about seven acres, and was one-and-a-half miles from the mainland, the intervening channel being of sufficient depth to allow ships of considerable burthen to pass. In December, 1668, it was first granted on lease for 31 years to Colonel Anthony Gilby, governor of Hull, at a rent of £5 per annum, and was described as containing 3,500 acres of "drowned land," of which only about seven acres were embanked from the water. The conditions of the lease required the lessee to embank 100 acres or more within the first ten years of the term. The difficulties of the undertaking were very great, and the expenses so heavy that, in 1575, the lessee presented a petition to His Majesty, stating his inability to proceed further with the embanking, unless he should have a grant made to him of the Crown's reversionary interest in the property. This was not, however, complied with, but a new lease was granted for 99 years at the same rent. The work was then proceeded with, and before the expiration of the lease 1,500 acres had been embanked and divided into farms. In 1755, a third lease of the estate was granted on payment of a fine of £1,050, at the old rent of £5; and in 1771, a fourth lease was granted to Mrs. Margaret Gilby for a term expiring in 1802, on payment of a further fine of £1,550, at an increased rent of £100 per annum. A survey taken before the expiration of this lease showed that there were only 1,561 acres 0 roods 14 perches of land embanked, no addition having been made since 1744; but there were, according to the surveyor's report, 2,700 acres of new ground fit for embankment. He further stated that after the completion of the work, the property would be worth £3,400 per annum. The estate was re-leased by the representatives of the original lessees for a term of 31 years, at a rent of £704 2s. 6d. for the first year of the term, subject to a stipulation on their part for the embankment, at their own expense, of the new ground containing 2,700 acres, which it was estimated would cost £10,000. This lease expired in 1833, and sometime previously a new survey of the estate was made by an order from the office of Woods and Forests, when it was valued at £9,814 per annum. It was offered to the last lessee on this valuation, but he declined to accept it at a greater rental than £5,205. The estate was then offered to the under tenants, and finally let to them at a rental amounting to £9,140 10s., it being stipulated that the lessees should be bound to keep the jetties, embankments, and other works for the protection of the island, in repair. At that time there were under cultivation 5,929 acres 1 rood 13 perches of excellent land, then divided into 15 farms, besides a few cottage holdings.

A further enbankment took place in 1850, when nearly 700 acres of excellent land was added to the estate. Though still called an island, it is no longer such, the channel having become warped up about the middle of last century. The first embankment between the mainland and the island was constructed in 1772; in 1799, Mr. Watt enclosed the growths of Ottringham, and in 1819, Col. Maister enclosed the west land growths by a bank across the channel to join Sunk Island, and make a communication with it. In 1836, in consequence of representations made to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, by the tenants and others, of the great inconvenience they sustained from the want of a carriage road, or other eligible communication between the island and the neighbouring towns on the borders of the Humber, an act was passed for making and maintaining a road from the church to the town of Ottringharn, which was completed in 1841, at a cost of about £5,000. Other roads have since been constructed.

The soil is rich and requires very little manure for some years after it is first reclaimed. The land was formerly much infested by the grey grub and wireworm, whose ravages were very destructive to vegetation. Jesse in his "Gleanings in Natural History," tells us that in the year 1813, hundreds of acres of pasture were destroyed here by the long legged gnat, tibula oleracea, and rendered as brown as if it had suffered a three months' drought; a square foot of the dead turf being dug up, 210 grubs were counted in it. One of the principal toasts at the rent audit used to be "Destruction to the grubs."

The land having been regained from the sea belonged to to parish. A chapel was erected near the Old Hall, at which a clergyman from Hedon used to officiate. Under the lease of 1802, a new chapel was built, and a chaplain engaged by the lessees to officiate on the island; and in 1831 an act was passed for endowing, among other places, "a chapel erected on Sunk Island in the River Humber." Under the provisions of this act, the island was formed into a parish to be called the parish of Sunk Island, and the living endowed with £8,333 6s. 8d., in the three per cent. consols. In 1877, the old church dedicated to Holy Trinity was removed, and a new one erected on an adjoining site. A Vicarage House was also built at the same time, the total cost of the two being about £6,000, part of which was contributed by the lessees, and the remainder by the Crown. The church is a substantial building of red brick, consisting of an apsidal chancel, nave, and tower with a short spiral roof. There is a stained glass window in the chancel to the memory of the Rev. Robert Metcalf, first incumbent of the parish, and 42 years curate of Patrington. The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £230, in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, and held by the Rev. John Stephens.

The Wesleyan chapel was built in 1858. It is a commodious structure of red brick, in a kind of Gothic style. The school with master's residence attached, was erected in 1857, for the accommodation of 100 children, and there are a little over the half of that number in average attendance. The Crown subscribes £60 yearly towards its support.

There are no springs in the parish, and the inhabitants are dependent on the rain for their supply of water. Previous to the erection of the church, boring operations in search of water were undertaken by the Crown; the supply was plentiful, but in each case the water was too brackish for domestic use.

[Description(s) from Bulmer's History and Directory of East Yorkshire (1892)]


  • Transcript of the entry for the Post Office, professions and trades in Bulmer's Directory of 1892.

Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.