Balchin, Andrew Timothy
Doctoral Thesis, Department of Economic and Social History, The University of Hull, September (1990)
Although the East Riding was the smallest of the three Ridings of Yorkshire, containing in 1831 some 711,360 acres compared to the 1,275,820 acres of the North Riding and the 1,629,890 acres of the West Riding (1), it was nevertheless the seventeenth largest county in England. At its furthest extent it reached some 42 miles north to south and 33 miles east to west. It was fairly compact in shape, with easily identifiable borders. Much of it was bounded by water, to the east by the North Sea, and to the south by the River Humber which formed a major barrier with Lincolnshire. To the south west between the Humber and York the River Ouze formed the border with the West Riding. Part of the north west border with the North Riding was the River Derwent.
The geography of the Riding could be divided internally into five major physical areas each with its own individual identity, formed by different geology, soil types, landscape, climate, land use and settlement pattern. The eastern coastal plain of Holderness, from Flamborough Head in the north to Spurn Point in the south and inland to the River Hull, was composed of a flat low-lying chalk platform covered by deposits of glacial boulder clay with occasional lighter areas of sand and gravels. Much of this region lay less than 75 feet above sea level. The south coast bordering the Humber, composed of reclaimed silts and salt marshes, was still in the process of formation. A major area around Sunk Island was not connected permanently to the mainland until the 1800s as that area of coastline gradually silted up.