School of History, Classics and Archaeology


The East Yorkshire to Norfolk Historic Seascape Characterisation

The East Yorkshire to Norfolk HSC project forms part of a larger programme implementing Historic Seascape Characterisation (HSC) across England’s coastal and marine areas.

It does this by mapping the historic character of the present-day coastal and marine environment, using many of the same principles as its sister project, Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC).

The HSC project uses a robustly tested national methodology, and so far about 80% of England’s seas and adjacent UK Territorial Waters have been assessed in this way.

Current projects, including the East Yorkshire to Norfolk study area, contribute to a national database used by English Heritage to help manage the coastal and marine environment, raise public awareness, and inform research.

In particular, pressures on England’s coastline and sea resources from activities such as sea defense, aggregates extraction, oil and gas exploration, and wind-farm construction require careful assessment. HSC has an important role in informing marine spatial planning policy and the implementation of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.

The HSC is also used to increase our knowledge and understanding about the past. The coastal and marine environment in the East Yorkshire to Norfolk study area has been used and exploited for thousands of years in a variety of ways.

For example, there are internationally significant remains of human activities in many parts including the rapidly inundated Norfolk coastline, the drained area of the Wash and Fens, as well as the Humber Wetlands.

In the long distant past part of the study area was physically joined to the European continent, making the now submerged land-bridge between England and Europe a rich archaeological zone. Throughout England’s history, the land and its people have been had close interrelationships with coastal and marine areas, which continue to shape their identities.

As a result, a major objective in the HSC project is to assess the relationship between the land- and sea-scapes. These -scapes or views of the land, coast and sea, are placed in a single framework that can be used to examine overall character alongside other data, such as those derived from research on the natural environment.

In the more recent past, there was extensive fishing along the coastlines of Lincolnshire and Norfolk, which also included trapping along the tidal rivers like the Ouse, Nene and Trent and into wetland areas such as the Humber, Wash and Fens. There are also the vestiges of many important historic ports and harbours which linked England to a global trade system.

In more recent times, these same areas continue to instil meaning for their inhabitants, providing a livelihood as well as creating new opportunities for industry and tourism.

The East Yorkshire to Norfolk HSC has a wide brief, taking into account the diverse historic character of the coastal and marine environments. This brief is tailored to suit English Heritage’s set of responsibilities for the marine heritage, but also has scope for the development of research applications that can be used to develop new archaeological and historic knowledge about England’s maritime past.

More information about the HSC can be found by following the links to English Heritage, Archaeology Data Service and by viewing the Irish Sea HSC project which was carried out by Newcastle University.

For further information about the project please contact Oscar Aldred:

Phone: 0191 208 7846