"A Place By the Sea"

Sunrise over Bridlington
Sunrise over Bridlington

A programme of archaeological excavation, evaluation, watching brief and geophysical survey was carried out at Sewerby Cottage Farm, Bridlington between 1999 and 2004. The work took place on a residential housing development run initially by Tay Homes and then after 2001, by Redrow Homes. The site covered sixteen hectares and involved the construction of 385 houses. The archaeological work consisted of three open area excavations, two separate phases of evaluation and two episodes of watching brief.

Excavations in trench seventeen in 2000 revealed a sequence of mid to late Neolithic occupation. During the mid Neolithic a series of timber settings and small scale structures were erected within a natural linear hollow. The abandoned remains were then overlain by secondary midden deposits bearing several thousand pieces of flintworking waste. A post built structure was constructed during the late Neolithic further along the same hollow. This building was re-built on two occasions and during one phase was given a rough cobble floor. When the building had been abandoned further midden deposits were dumped over its remains. Further Neolithic occupation was found within a tree throw in separate excavations in the farmyard carried out during 2003. In the northern part of the development area, excavations in 2002-3 revealed further Neolithic remains. Five groups of pits, spanning the mid to late Neolithic, were excavated. Many of these contained deposits rich in pottery and flint waste.

Excavation underway on site
Excavation underway on site

The site was occupied intermittently throughout a period of over five hundred years during the second half of the fourth millennium BC. It is rare to find evidence for Neolithic occupation and buildings but exceptional to discover a site where the Neolithic archaeology is stratified showing repeated visits to the same place over such a long period of time.

During the late Iron Age much of the development area was enclosed by land boundaries, revealed throughout the evaluation and excavation programmes. In the northern excavations a square barrow and round barrow were also constructed at this time. The square barrow contained a late Iron Age inhumation and was furnished with an iron dagger and missile head. A rural farming settlement built up around the land boundaries and barrows and occupation continued until the end of the second century AD. The settlement was based around arable cultivation and livestock. Three crop driers were used between the first and second centuries AD and in the north of the site there was evidence for a system of fence-lines and droveways related to livestock management.

This farmstead was abandoned by the middle of the third century but there is evidence for some occupation during the Anglian and mid Saxon periods. Finds of Ipswich ware indicate some activity during the eighth or ninth century AD. This kind of pottery was produced in Ipswich and is only rarely found in East Yorkshire. It may have got here through trading or fishing voyages up the coast.