England's Historic Seascapes: Withernsea to Skegness

Museum of London Archaeology, 2010

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Museum of London Archaeology (2010) England's Historic Seascapes: Withernsea to Skegness [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1000104

Silver Pit Character Area

Present Day Form

The Silver Pit offshore character area is situated in the west-central section of the study area. The geology of the area comprises Chalk bedrock overlain by glacial till (clay, sand and gravel debris deposited from ice sheets) know as the Boulders Bank Formation. The water depth across the area varies between 15m and 32m and the maximum tidal range is 2-3m. The seabed is rough gravel and rocks probably derived from the glacial till.

Sea Use: Present

The Silver Pit palaeochannel is the remains of an ancient river valley running out of the Wash. It is currently used as a thoroughfare and fishing area. Commercial shipping crosses the area on a regular basis and it is seasonally fished for cod, plaice, soles and dabs.

The Amethyst gas field crosses the top end of the area and gas from this area is piped to shore at Easington gas terminal.

Sea Use: Past

The Silver Pit character area has been shaped by thousands of years of dynamic sea level changes and erosion and deposition. The channel is an eroded relic palaechannel that was formed in the Devensian/Holocene period. The channel is connected to the Ouse Nene palaeochannel, situated further to the south. Once the area was inundated, marine traffic would have crossed this area on a regular basis from the Roman period onwards utilising the North Sea route from the Humber ports. Fishing activity would have been carried out in the area from the medieval period onwards. The Close's Fisherman's Chart (UKHO 1953) taken from surveys and reports from 1904 to 1925 describes the area as mostly foul and very foul off the Humber. This was not always the case, however, as the Silver Pit was discovered to be a bountiful fishing area by chance in 1835. Sole were found to be so plentiful in the pit that they sold for as little as 5d a truck load. The boom was short lived, however, as the abundance of soles in the pit apparently declined in 1838 (scarborough's maritime heritage.com).

Archaeological Potential

The Silver Pit character area has potential for the presence of drowned land surfaces resulting from the fact that sea level has fluctuated between -120 metres and +10 metres over the past 500,000 years. From the period 500,000 BP to 22,000 BP (before present), human population levels were low, and little more than stray finds may be expected, although these may still be of considerable archaeological importance.

From 22,000 BP to 2100 BP parts of the North Sea were dry land and human population levels were higher, especially in the Mesolithic age. Finds dating to the Mesolithic have been found to a depth of 40m so any area of sea bed above that has potential for habitation.

Inundation of the North Sea landscapes occurred between 10,000 and 6,000 BP and the most likely evidence for human occupation would be, therefore, Mesolithic in date. Earlier Palaeolithic occupation is less likely to be found and later Neolithic occupation is likely to have been limited to the inshore and very highest of the banks and shoals such as the Dogger Bank. The areas position adjacent to the Silver Pit channel makes it a prime Mesolithic habitation area. Consequently, there is some potential for surviving evidence of human activity within the area along the margins of this channel with less likely survival beyond this.

Over the last 6000 years (if not more), humans have used sea faring vessels and this area and wrecks and related material that may lie on the sea floor or be buried beneath the sea floor.

Character Perceptions

The area is perceived as an important navigation route and fishing area.


Close's Fisherman's Chart (UKHO 1953)

Fisheries Sensitivity Maps in British Waters (MAFF 1989)


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