Skipsea – Isle of Ships

Open Bridges: A River Full Of Stories – gathering stories to preserve the heritage of the River Hull, its bridges and the people and vessels which have used it over the years.

Skipsea Iron-Age mound and Church

Following on from visiting the north and north-western sources of the River Hull, last weekend we followed the river’s tributaries north-east to Skipsea and Barmston. Skipsea is the site of one of the most recent major discoveries in British archaeology. Hidden in plain sight for hundreds of years, Reading University confirmed in 2016 that the Norman motte and bailey castle was in fact a massive 2,500 year old Iron Age burial mound.

Click on the video to join us sitting in the sunshine looking at Skipsea mound waiting for the sun to set, imagining it’s past lives…

So the mound re-purposed by Drogo de la Beuvrière in 1086 after the Norman Conquest, Skipsea meaning “Isle of Ships” became one of the most important East Coast ports and harbours by adding a navigable channel linking the port to the North Sea at Barmston.

The mere and springs that once surrounded Skipsea were drained in the 18th century but can still be seen from above flowing north and linking with Barmston beck. They then flow west and join with Old Howe and Kelk beck from Kilham springs and mere at Frodingham beck above Emmotland.

At Emmotland they meet the north and western tributaries flowing from Nafferton mere and beck, Driffield beck and river head, Little Driffield mere and beck and the springs at the deserted mediaeval village of Elmswell and becks from Kirkburn and Southburn.

An 11th century Norman story of the River Hull valley and navigation shows the major eastern port and harbour at Skipsea linked by river to Norman settlements and churches at Barmston, Frodingham, Kilham, Nafferton, Driffield and Kirkburn.

Going back a little further to the 7th century sees Roman Pope Gregory instigating the first catholic mission to convert Pagans to Christianity. In 601 AD Gregory wrote to the English Archbishop Mellitus with an idea that to ease the transition from pagan to Christian, pagan sites of worship should not be destroyed but adopted and appropriated both physically and spiritually to Christianity. So across the country; henges, stone circles, standing stones and round barrows were gradually subsumed and dedicated to Jesus Christ. This is evidenced in round and oval churchyards across the country and notably at the sites of churches built on existing early prehistoric sites at the sources of the River Hull.

Returning to Iron Age Skipsea and a prehistoric picture of the East Riding and the River Hull valley shows the area settled by the Parisi at the southern end of its territory, with settlements linked by river tributaries and places of worship at the source of these tributaries; the massive burial mound at Skipsea linked by river to the iron age cemeteries at Kirkburn Parish (Southburn and Eastburn) and Nafferton, with settlements at Kilham, Barmston, Kirkburn, Driffield and Nafferton.

Pre Iron-Age and you can see the sources of the River Hull connected by cursus north above Driffield and Kilham to the sacred Neolithic landscape of Rudston and the Gypsey Race…

Open Bridges: A River Full Of Stories 

Do you have memories about how life on the River Hull has changed over the years? Of what it was like then and what it’s like now to live and work on the river?

If you would like to talk to us about sharing your memories you can contact us. Click here to get in touch.

Rich & Lou Duffy-Howard

Kirkburn St Mary's
stone carving detail

Open Bridges made history when for the first time all 13 of the bridges over the River Hull in the UK’s City of Culture 2017 raised, swung or closed simultaneously splitting the city of Hull in two at 20:17 hours on 22nd September 2017.  Historic vessels sailed down the river, met by 21st century tugs, to the sound of a new musique concrète work by composer John Stead.

Open Bridges is an independent Hull/East Yorkshire based project.

‘Skipsea – Isle of Ships’ References and further reading:

Loughlin, N and Miller, K.R (1977) A Survey of Archaeological Sites in Humberside, Humberside Joint Archaeological Committee.

Cope, Julian (1998) The Modern Antiquarian, Thorsons.

Lancaster, James (2018)

Harrison, J (2018)

Halkon, Peter (2013) The Parisi: Britons and Romans in Eastern Yorkshire. The History Press

Reading University (2016) Press Release


3 thoughts on “Skipsea – Isle of Ships

  1. Reblogged this on Loudhailer Electric Company and commented:

    Following our exploration of the north and north-west sources of the River Hull we followed the river’s tributaries north-east to Skipsea and Barmston. Skipsea is the site of one of the most recent major discoveries in British archaeology – hidden in plain sight for hundreds of years. Have a look at the link. If you would like to share memories of life on and around the River Hull for ‘Open Bridges: A River Full Of Stories’ get in touch.


  2. Thanks for posting about a lesser-known place – I enjoy reading anything about this area and long to walk that coast. I hope it was a nice sunset, I can imagine watching the old field-lines and other shapes emerge from the fields.


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