A glance at the map which accompanies this volume will show that the East Riding is much less copiously watered by rivers and streams than any other portion of the county. This arises chiefly from the absence of any great elevations which form the never-failing source of rivers.

The Ouse, which is formed by the junction of the Swale and the Ure, does not enter the Riding, but becomes its western boundary from York throughout the remainder of its course to the Humber. It receives several considerable tributaries from the Pennine hills, but these lie wholly within the North and West Ridings. Its length, from Swale Nab at the junction of the Swale and Ure to where its waters are lost in the Humber, is 59½ miles, and it is navigable throughout its whole course. It flows through a low flat country, elevated but very little above the sea level, and is ascended by the tides to Naburn Lock, about five miles below York, where its average rise is about 6 feet 4 inches, its highest 10 feet 11 inches, and its lowest 4 feet 3 inches. Previous to the construction of the lock in 1757, the influence of the tides was felt as far as York; and the small craft of the time could reach the city with the tide, which did not flow more than four feet at Ouse bridge. By the construction of this lock, vessels of from 120 to 150 tons burthen were enabled to reach the city, and for upwards of a century it answered its purpose. This lock is 90 feet long, 21 feet wide, and 10 feet 6 inches deep. A new and larger lock was constructed, and formally opened by Prince Albert Victor in July, 1888. Its dimensions are 152 feet by 26 feet, and 13 feet 6 inches deep. Dredging operations have also been carried on, and now vessels of 400 tons burthen can pass through to York. By this river the greater part of the rainfall of Yorkshire is conveyed to the sea; including its tributaries the extent of land drained by the Ouse is 4,207 square miles.

York owed its importance in times past to its situation on this navigable river. Further down, on the Ainsty side of the river, is Bishopthorpe, the residence of the Archbishops of York; still further down, the river passes under the ruined walls of Cawood Castle, the fortified abode of the earlier occupants of the archiepiscopal see, and for some time the residence of Cardinal Wolsey, after he had incurred the displeasure of Henry VIII. About two miles further down is Riccall, where Harald Hardrada, of Norway, and Earl Tosti moored their fleet previous to the battle of Stamford Bridge. Passing the villages of Wistow, Broadgate, and Barlby, the river flows between its low banks to Selby with its beautiful abbey church. After passing Barmby-on-the-Marsh the river channel begins to widen, and at Goole, where the average rise of the tide is 11 feet, the Ouse becomes a noble stream. About nine miles lower down it receives the waters of the Trent, and the united streams are thenceforth known as

The Humber. - This fine estuary measures from Faxfleet to its mouth about 37 miles, and has an average breadth of between two and three miles, and a depth of water at Hull sufficient to float vessels of the largest size. The average rise of the tides at the latter town is about 16 feet 3 inches, whilst the highest tides rise a little over 26 feet. When the tide begins to flow in the estuary the waters of the Ouse rise with startling suddenness, and occasionally with considerable violence. This peculiar rising or water-rush is locally known as the "Ager," a name of doubtful origin, but supposed by many writers to have been derived from Oegir, the terrible water-god of our Teutonic ancestors. The name of the river is of uncertain etymology. It was called Aber by the Ancient Britons, and in Ptolemy's Geography it is named Abus both the British and Latin name having the same signification, that is, haven or estuary. Geoffrey of Monmouth, who is, however, a very unsafe guide in the derivation of place-names, says it received its name from Humber, king of the Huns, who was chased by Locrine, the eldest son of Brutus, into the estuary, and was there drowned. Drayton, in his "Polyalbion," advances the same derivation. But how are we to account for the place called Humber near Leominster, and for Humberstone near Leicester, and for Humberton in the North Riding? They could have no connection whatever with the legend.

The Derwent, from the Celtic dwr gwin, the bright clear water, rises in the eastern moorlands of the North Riding, and flowing southwards through Forge valley, its course is deflected by the Wolds, towards the west. At this point it becomes the boundary between the East and North Ridings, and flows thence through a low flat district called the Carrs. At Stamford Bridge the river enters the East Riding, and flows in a southerly direction to Barmby-on-the-Marsh, where it empties itself into the Ouse. Its total length is 72 miles, and the area of its basin is computed at 870 square miles. On its banks stood Derventio, first a British and afterwards a Roman town; but its exact site has not been determined, though it is generally supposed to have stood in the vicinity of Stamford Bridge. Further up the river, at Malton, was another Roman station, and in medieval times a celebrated Gilbertine monastery.

The Hull is formed by three brooks, which unite their waters near Driffield. It flows southward, passing within a mile and a half of Beverley, with which it is connected by a canal, and thence forward to the Humber, at Hull, or Kingston-upon-Hull, as it was anciently styled. It is 28¾ miles in length, and drains the land between the Wolds and the sea. It is navigable up to Frodingham Bridge, some miles above Beverley, and thence to Great Driffield by means of a canal.

Gypsey is the name given to several intermittent brooks that rise in the chalk hills, in the neighbourhood of Rudstone, and flow in an easterly direction to the sea. They burst forth, sometimes quite suddenly, out of the ground, particularly after long rains, and continue for some time to pour forth water in considerable volume. At other seasons they are perfectly dry. They will be more fully described in the parishes through which they flow.


The configuration of the coast line, no less than the physical structure of the surface, is directly dependent on the nature of the geological strata which constitute it. This is strikingly illustrated in the contour of the coast of Yorkshire. Whilst the softer rocks yield to the action of the sea, and are scooped out into bays, the harder rocks resist its force, and form bold headlands projecting into the sea. this is conspicuously seen in the chalk cliff of Flamborough Head, and the coralline oolitic rock of Filey Brig. South of the latter is Filey Bay, which has been recommended by a Royal Commission as eminently suitable for a harbour of refuge. Recent discoveries have shown that the Romans had a station at Filey, and some antiquarians think that this, and not Dunsley, is the "well-havened bay" mentioned by Ptolemy. South of this bay the land rises into lofty chalk cliffs, 450 feet high, near Speeton, and 159 feet at the extremity of Flamborough Head. These chalk rocks contain numerous interesting fossils, the remains of an earlier world; among them may be found many forms of Spongiadæ, Marsupites, Apiocrini, and other beautiful crinoids. The rocky ledges in the face of the cliffs, are the haunts of innumerable flocks of sea fowl. These birds, which were formerly destroyed in a wholesale fashion by so called sportsmen, are now fortunately protected during the breeding season by an Act of Parliament, passed in 1869.

South of this headland is Bridlington Bay, with its little harbour of Bridlington Quay, and further on lies the flat alluvial plain of Holderness. Here the coast is low, and constantly suffering from the encroachments of the sea. The rate of destruction has been accurately ascertained by the recent Ordnance re-survey, completed in 1889, and found to have been 215 feet since 1852, or at the rate of 5ft. l0in, per annum. Towns and villages have been swept away by the sea, and are now only known by name; and Ravenspurn, once a famous seaport, was, centuries ago, engulfed, and now lies under the water. But whilst the sea is encroaching on the east coast of Holderness it is receding on the shores of the Humber estuary, and there many thousand acres of warp have been gained, and converted into good agricultural land.

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Data transcribed from:
Bulmer's East Riding
Scan, OCR and html software by Colin Hinson.
Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.