Coastal Erosion and Archaeological remains

Whilst the stripping of our dunes and beaches come as a sad blow to the coast dwellers, shore birds, beach lovers and those who so value our shorelines, it may not be seen as such to the archaeologists. Many historical relics have been uncovered in the past fifteen years on the coast of Norfolk.

In 1939 our north-east Norfolk coastline was fronted by a massive barrier of steel stakes, barbed wire and minefields to act as a deterrent to enemy invasion. By 1945 six years of beach accretion had buried these war time defences under over 5 metres of sand and dune. But soon after the introduction of offshore aggregate dredging, the accretion reversed and beaches suffered ever increasing sand stripping leading to dune erosion exposing the items long covered.

An older piece of history to appear was a coaster that sank in a storm at Hemsby in 1799 with the loss of all thirteen hands. It had been deeply buried by sand as the beach accreted and then turned to dune. But within two years of the commencement of large scale offshore aggregate dredging, the beach level began to drop to permit the dunes to be eroded. Our bungalow became undermined and in February 1988 dropped to the new beach level now six metres lower.

As the beach erosion furthered, immediately below the site of our bungalow by some further two metres, the long buried and forgotten shipwreck appeared.





Discovery of elephant  

The next discovery was the uncovering of an ancient elephant as the soft sand cliffs of West Runton were destroyed. Click here for more details from the UK Fossils Network












In 1998 amateur archaeologist John Lorimer discovered on north-west Norfolk Holme beach RSBP Nature Reserve what was to become one of the most interesting archaeological sites in Britain. It was a timber circle of 55 wooden tree trunks with a central upturned oak constructed in 2049-50 BC when metal tools were being used for the first time. It was believed to be a ritual monument, perhaps linking life on earth with the sky or the spirit world. It was promptly called ‘Seahenge’. A second, even older, timber circle that dated back to 2400 BC was later found only a few metres away from ‘Seahenge’.

Rusting army tank

The north-west coast of Norfolk continues to lose its sand cover at a rapid rate, with the result that a further unexpected discovery was made by Mike and Gilly Plumb when they went bird watching between nearby Brancaster and Titchwell beaches in early March 2006. They came upon the rusting remains of two rusting army tanks, a further insight to the war years when the beach was used by the Royal Tank Regiment as a practice range.


Other notable finds on the Norfolk coastline include a Roman fort at Brancaster, a long drowned village church of Lessingham, near Eccles, a collection of flints dating from 10,000 BC at Titchwell, and an Iron Age settlement at Heacham.

So Norfolk has been habited for over twelve thousand years. But we wonder for how much longer? Perhaps instead of ‘BC’ and ‘AD’ we should now date findings with ‘PD’ (Post dredging).

Pat Gowen – 6th March 2006

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