Ravenser Odd – The Lost Town That Sank Beneath the Sea

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Ravenser Odd, also called Ravensrodd was a port town in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England on the sandbanks of the Spurn heritage coast in the Humber estuary.

The town’s name probably stems from Ravenser, ‘Hrafn’s Eyr’ or ‘Hrafn’s Sandbank’ which is mentioned several times referencing the spurn in the Icelandic sagas. It has been proposed that the area was used as an embarkation point for the Norwegian Armies of Harold Hardrada that were defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066.

The name of Ravenser was also applied to a small nearby rural settlement, possibly of Danish origin that was located near the base of the headland.

Most of what we know about Ravenser Odd comes from contemporary sources, from the Chronicle of Meaux Abbey which documents reports of inquisitions and grants, to the state records and the awarding of a Royal charter granting a market and annual fair.

The town was founded around 1235, as inferred from the statement of a jury during an inquisition held in 1276 which said “forty years and more ago, the casting up of the sea caused stones and sand to accumulate, and on them, the Earl of Aumale began to build a certain town which is called Ravenserodd, and it is an island, the sea surrounds it.”

Over the centuries Ravenser Odd became a town of national importance, with a bustling seaport with wharves, warehouses, custom sheds, a tanhouse, windmills, a court, prison, and collected dues from over 100 merchant ships every year.

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What led to Ravenser Odd’s success was through the act of forestalling, where ships would be forced or persuaded to land at the port, rather than take their cargo to the intended ports of Grimsby or Kingston upon Hull.

By 1340, the fortunes of the town began to decline due to coastal erosion. A Royal inquisition in 1346 documented that two thirds of Ravenser Odd had been lost and an account by a chronicler of Meaux Abbey wrote “At that time the chapel of Ravenser…. and the majority of the buildings of the whole town of Ravenser, by the inundations of the sea and the Humber increasing more than usual, were almost completely destroyed.”

Contemporary accounts record an almost Armageddon image of looting, devastation, and a mass exodus of the town’s merchants to Hull, situated further up the Humber. By 1356-57, the town had become completely flooded and by 1362 had succumbed to the sea during the Grote Mandrenke storm (also known as Saint Marcellus’s flood) that also contributed to the loss of the Medieval town of Dunwich on the Suffolk coast of England.

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