Becks, banks, drains and brains book is launched

book launch
book launch

Becks, Banks, Drains and Brains is a new book that tells the story of our predecessors’ efforts, from medieval to modern times, to drain and improve the vast swamp that was the River Hull valley.

It has been researched and written by members of the River Hull Valley Drainage Heritage Group. The group has been supported by East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Rural Policy and Partnerships Team.

The book charts the ingenuity and efforts of our ancestors over many centuries, as they battled to overcome the major challenges involved in developing effective drainage in the salt marshes and carr lands of Hull’s shallow valley. It investigates the early improvements made by the Medieval Monastic Houses, the enforcement work of the Commissioners of the Courts of Sewers, and the lives and work of the 18th and 19th Century engineers who devised the major schemes that eventually turned the Hull valley into one of England’s best drained marshland areas.

Welcoming guests to the launch Councillor Jonathon Owen, deputy leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, praised the huge amount of voluntary effort and expertise that has gone into creating the book.

Attending the event was deputy lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire, Mr Christopher Oughtred, and guest speaker Howell Lloyd OBE, emeritus professor of history at the University of Hull and director of Hull Maritime History Centre, both strongly commended the volume to readers wishing to explore the history of how their local landscape has been created.

Professor Ian Reid, chair of the River Hull Valley Drainage Heritage Group, stressed that the book also charts 20th Century developments and considers how history can inform our response to current drainage challenges.

He said: “This volume pulls together the complex story that lies behind control of surface water east of the Yorkshire Wolds. It is a tribute to all those people who have made this part of the East Riding the place it is today. A changing climate requires that we understand and maintain our drainage system so that we can mitigate future flood hazards.”

A limited number of copies of the book are available on request. These are free to interested parties, although a donation can be made to assist the River Hull Valley Drainage Heritage Group’s future work. Copies should also soon be available for loan through libraries in the East Riding and the City of Kingston upon Hull.

To request a copy of the book, in the first instance, email

Professor Ian Reid, Deputy Lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire Mr Christopher Oughtred, Howell Lloyd OBE, Councillor Jonathon Owe