The chamber of secrets

The ancient burial site at Foxton beach.
The ancient burial site at Foxton beach.

A mystery chamber uncovered on a north Northumberland beach is not a prehistoric burial cist, the Gazette has been told.

The chamber was revealed in the cliff, just below Foxton Golf Club, by last month’s storm sea surge.

A number of readers contacted the Gazette after it was exposed and said they thought it was prehistoric or neolithic.

However, the site has been looked at by an archaeologist and it is not prehistoric.

Jessica Turner, historic and built environment officer for the Northumberland Area of Outstanding Beauty, said: “It is a very interesting feature but it is not a burial cist.

“It is made of slate which is not natural to the area.

“All of the sections are lined with clay which means it is a feature that was designed to hold water.

“Given where it is situated on the beach, it is a feature that is relatively modern and definitely not prehistoric.

“We think it is probably dating back to the 18th or 19th century and related to the fishing industry.

“It might be something like a bait pot.

“It is very, very interesting and we don’t have any comparable examples of it.

“We would like to excavate it to look at it in more detail.

“A lot of Second World War defences are coming out on the beaches at the moment and the lid that was pictured in the Gazette is made of concrete so that might not be part of it.

“We are hopefully going to investigate it further.”

The Gazette was contacted by a reader, who did not want to be named, on Facebook after the story was published two weeks ago. He said he and a friend had seen the chamber earlier that week.

He added: “It was just slates sticking out of the ground and looked like the bank had fallen in on something, so we decided to scrape the soil away.

“There was no concrete top on it.

“There was nothing in it apart from soil from the bank and once we realised what it looked like, ‘a grave/casket’, my friend phoned the Northumberland history department.”