Whitehill Gas Storage Project

Project Profile

Project Title :

Whitehill Gas Storage Project,
East Riding of Yorkshire

Client :


Type of Work :

Geophysical survey,
Fieldwalking and Trial Trenching,
Environmental Statement and Building Recording

Project Gallery 

Excavated pit   Mid-Neolithic laurel leaf point/bi-facial knife from fieldwalking  
Prehistoric pottery   ditch section  
Excavating pottery   Whitehill Farm buildings  


Whitehill Gas Storage Project

Hunting for the ancient residents of Holderness

A campaign of fieldwalking, geophysical survey and trial trench excavation carried out as part of the environmental assessment associated with the Whitehill Gas Storage Project is revealing the history of a landscape which has been inhabited for over 12,000 years. So far, a wealth of evidence has been recorded ranging from the flint tools of prehistoric hunters that roamed the forests and marshes of the Holderness plain to traces left behind by the ancient farmers that over thousands of years have transformed the region.

During October 2007 large quantities of prehistoric flint tools and the waste products of their manufacture were identified during fieldwalking within many areas of the scheme corridor. Some of the tools were dated to a time when nomadic mesolithic hunter-gatherers would have taken advantage of the seasonal wealth of plants and animals that the ancient marshes of Holderness would have provided. The majority of the worked flint, however, dated to the neolithic period and the Bronze Age, when the early farmers that lived in the region began to cultivate and transform the landscape.

The flint tools identified included awls, burins and piercers that could have been used for working antler, bone, wood and leather and scrapers; probably used for de-fleshing and preparing animal hides before they were used to make items such as clothing and tent coverings. A number of knives and blades were also identified. Similar to modern day knives, although smaller and made of flint, these multi-purpose tools could have been used for a variety of tasks. Evidence for the manufacture of these flint tools was also recorded in the form of the flint cores from which 'blank' flakes had been chipped off in the early stages of the tool-making process. The hammerstones used for striking the cores and the waste flakes produced were also identified.

A geophysical survey of the entire footprint of the scheme corridor, covering an area of approximately 130 ha, was carried out as part of the archaeological evaluation works. The survey identified a number of areas containing previously unrecorded archaeological remains, potentially relating to prehistoric and later settlement and agriculture. In order to evaluate the sites identified within the eastern half of the development area, 167 trial trenches were excavated over a six kilometre length of scheme corridor from Aldbrough to Withernwick. During this evaluation remains dating to the Iron Age, Roman, early and later medieval periods were discovered; providing evidence relating to some 2000 years of settlement and agricultural within the area.

Amongst these new sites was an area of Iron Age or native Roman-period (Romano-British) settlement to the north of Aldbrough, in the area of the proposed wellhead compound. Excavated features probably associated with one or more farmsteads including pits, postholes, enclosure ditches and a possible roundhouse foundation trench were uncovered. Many of these features contained domestic waste including broken sherds of pottery, charred plant remains and burnt daub.

The area investigated around Whitehill Farm showed evidence of settlement, agriculture and occupation spanning a period of over 4,000 years from the neolithic to the early medieval period. Neolithic and Early Bronze Age flint tools, indicative of both settlement and flint knapping activity, were recorded within the fields surrounding the farm. The remains of up to three pre-Roman settlements, two possible Iron Age burial monuments (square barrows), three areas of Romano-British activity and possible evidence of an early Anglo-Saxon settlement were also recorded. The latter was indicated by the discovery of fragments of Anglo-Saxon pottery in the upper fills of several ditches. The pottery was similar to the cremation urns discovered in the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Sancton but appeared to come from a domestic rather than a burial context. Although early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries have been recorded on the Holderness plain, the corresponding settlements of these Early Medieval people have not yet been discovered in this area. Such remains, if present within the vicinity of Whitehill Farm, would be of significant local and regional interest and importance.

Another important concentration of archaeological remains was recorded close to Withernwick village where the preserved remnants of medieval and possibly earlier settlements were uncovered. These remains probably relate to the early history and late medieval decline of the village.

The project is still in its early stages, with further archaeological trial trenching and open-area investigations to be carried out over the next few years. Even so, it is clear that once completed these archaeological investigations have the potential to uncover evidence that will help illuminate the histories of the residents of this area of Holderness from prehistory to medieval times.