22 May 2024

Could this stone be from lost island of Ravenser Odd?

by Angus Young

Experts are examining a stone thought to be originally used as a building block to see whether it was once part of a lost medieval island settlement in the Humber.

Ravenser Odd lay near the mouth of the estuary and was once home to about 1,000 people.

It operated as a port and was even given Royal borough status before being finally overwhelmed by the sea in 1362.

No trace of the island has ever been found although one of the bells at All Saints’ Church in Easington is said to be from a chapel that once stood on Ravenser Odd.

Now experts at the University of Hull’s Energy and Environment Institute are trying to discover whether the unusual stone found at Spurn Point is linked to the island.

Roughly rectangular in shape, it is 30.5cm long, 15cm wide and 9cm high.

Marine archaeologist Dr Katerina Velentza’s initial analysis of the limestone block was revealed in a talk by Dr Steve Simmons at a current exhibition on Ravenser Odd in the Hull History Centre.

Dr Simmons, a lecturer at the institute who is heading the research project into the lost island, said the stone featured two carved sockets with tool marks still visible on its surface.

He said investigations suggested it was of the same geological type and age of stones used in the construction of the 12th-century Roche Abbey near Rotherham and churches such as York Minster and Beverley Minster.

Dr Simmons said it was possible that stone extracted from a quarry near Roche Abbey had been brought to the island by boat and used in the construction of a chapel.

It is believed most of the buildings on Ravenser Odd were made from wood and cobbles held together with clay and were washed away by repeated severe storms.

Two underwater surveys using echo sounders carried out in 2021 and 2022 to
the east of Spurn Point found no obvious signs of man-made features on the seabed.

However, Dr Simmons said permission was currently being sought from the Crown Estate and Natural England to carry out further surveys in the inter-tidal waters to the west of Spurn known as the Old Den.

He said the discovery of the stone relatively close to the Old Den was an encouraging development but not definitive proof of the island’s exact location which remains unknown.

“We don’t know whether it is from Ravenser Odd or nearby Burstall Priory which also fell victim to the sea in the 16th century.

“Any future survey work at the Old Den would be very difficult because of the environment. As it’s in tidal waters, we could only really do it at the highest spring tide and with the available equipment we will only be able down beneath the surface to a depth of two to three metres.

“It would be quite speculative but, together with a desk-based archaeological investigation of Spurn and its surroundings, we will continue the search for Ravenser Odd.”

Spurn historian and author Phil Mathison said fragments of pottery and stone from the island could have survived its catastrophic end.

He added: “As this stone was found relatively close to the Old Den, it might well have been part of the town, perhaps forming the corners of the chapel.

“The rest of Ravenser Odd was probably built with cobbles and clay although there might also have been a limited amount of brick too.”

The free exhibition, Hull/Ravenser Odd: Twin Cities, Sunken Pasts, is running at Hull History Centre until Thursday, May 30. The centre is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9.30am to 4.30pm.