Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Salt and Somme

Our second dip into the Wolds Walking Festival this morning was blustery and a little wet, but we enjoyed being introduced to the succession of sea banks at Marshchapel and to the salt making which went on between them.  These gentle hillocks are not what one would expect on coastal marsh and not what one finds on flatter landscape immediately inland of the village.  They are actually a form of ‘post-industrial’ landscape, albeit the industry was mediaeval.  Once the shore had been scrapped and the takings filtered to produce the concentrated brine needed for salt making, the remaining sand and soil accumulated in piles which became hillocks like this.  The village hall has a full scale reproduction of a detailed map from the 1590s, and this indicated that Christopher Hildyard was involved in the process in its last days.

Meanwhile, the other ‘local history’ activity was a visit last week to the Research Room at the Imperial War Museum to read some of the the letters sent home by Lt Col Kyme Cordeaux, the Great Coates man who made his home at Brackenborough and who was commanding the ‘Grimsby Chums’ Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment on the first day of the Somme.  My most striking personal discovery (military historians may well already be aware of this) was that the failure of the bombardment to damage the German defences ahead of the assault far from being a surprise on 1st July was something he’d actually forseen when writing to his wife the previous week.  I’m lined up to do a talk at St Nicolas’ on the evening of 28th June which will be partly based on this material.

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