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The Humber is a large tidal estuary on the east coast of Northern England. It is formed at Trent Falls, Faxfleet, by the confluence of the tidal Yorkshire Ouse and the tidal River Trent. From here to the North Sea, it forms part of the boundary between the East Riding of Yorkshire on the north bank and North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire on the south bank.
Although the Humber is an estuary from the point at which it is formed, many maps show it as the River Humber.
Below Trent Falls, the Humber passes the junction with the Market Weighton Canal on the north shore, the confluence of the River Ancholme on the south shore; between North Ferriby and South Ferriby and under the Humber Bridge; between Barton-upon-Humber on the south bank and Kingston upon Hull on the North bank (where the River Hull joins), then meets the North Sea between Cleethorpes on the Lincolnshire side and the long and thin (but rapidly changing) headland of Spurn Head to the North.
Ports on the Humber include Kingston upon Hull (better known as simply Hull), Grimsby, Immingham, New Holland and Killingholme. The estuary is navigable here for the largest of deep-sea vessels. Inland connections for smaller craft are extensive but currently only handle one quarter of the goods traffic handled in the Thames.
The Humber is now only an estuary; but when the world sea level was lower during the Ice Ages, the Humber had a long freshwater course across the dry bed of the North Sea.
In the Anglo-Saxon period, the Humber was a major boundary, separating Northumbria from the southern kingdoms. Indeed, the name Northumbria came from Anglo-Saxon Norðhymbre (plural) = "the people north of the Humber".
The Humber currently forms the boundary between the East Riding of Yorkshire, to the north and North and North East Lincolnshire, to the south.
From 1974 to 1996 the areas now known as East Riding, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire constituted Humberside. For hundreds of years before that, the Humber lay between Lindsey and The East Riding of Yorkshire. "East Riding" is derived from "East Thriding", and likewise with the other Ridings. "Thriding" is an old word of Norse origin meaning a third part. Since the late 11th century, Lindsey had been one of the Parts of Lincolnshire.
On 23 August 1921, the British airship R38 crashed into the estuary near Hull, killing 44 of the 49 crew on board.
The estuary's only modern crossing is the Humber Bridge, which was once the longest single span suspension bridge in the world. Now it is the fifth longest.
Before the bridge was built a series of paddle steamers operated from the oddly-named Corporation Pier railway station at the Victoria Pier in Hull to the railway pier in New Holland. Steam ferries started in 1841, and in 1848 were purchased by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. They, and their successors, ran the ferry until the bridge opened in 1981. Although the railway to New Holland closed in 1977, passenger and car traffic continued to use the pier until the end of ferry operations.
The line of the bridge rather mimics an ancient ferry route, from Hessle to Barton upon Humber, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book and in a charter of 1281, and which was recorded as still running into the railway era in 1856.
Two fortifications were built in the mouth of the river in 1914, the Humber Forts. A coastal battery at Easington, Fort Goodwin or Kilnsea Battery, faced the Bull Sands Fort.
Fort Paull is further downstream, a Napoleonic-era emplacement replaced in the early 20th century by Stallinborough Battery Sunk Island.
Graham Boanas, a Hull man, is believed to be the first man to succeed in wading across the Humber since ancient Roman times. The feat, in August 2005, was attempted to raise cash and awareness for the medical research charity, DebRA. He started his trek on the north bank at Boothferry; four hours later, he emerged on the South bank at Whitton. He is 6 feet 9 inches (205.74 cm) tall and took advantage of a very low tide. He replicated this achievement on the television programme Top Gear (Series 10 Episode 6) when he raced James May who drove a Alfa Romeo 159 around the inland part of the estuary without using the Humber Bridge.
This river's name is recorded in Anglo-Saxon times as Humbre (Anglo-Saxon dative) and Humbri/Umbri (Vulgar Latin ).The Latin name Abus (probably from Latin verb Abdo which means to cover with shadows) has the meaning of black/dark river so as into Welsh Afon Ddu means black/dark river. The successive name Humbre/Humbri/Umbri could continue to have the same meaning; in fact, the Latin verb umbro means, once again, to cover with shadows with the sense of black/dark river. Another hypothesis is: since its name recurs in the name of the "Humber Brook" near "Humber Court" in Herefordshire or Worcestershire, the word humbr- may have been a word that meant "river", or something similar, in an aboriginal language that had been spoken in England before the Celts migrated there (compare Tardebigge). An element ambri- 'channel, river' is reconstructible for proto-Celtic and the Ancient Celtic prefix su- 'good' routinely developed into Welsh hy-.
The Humber features regularly in Geoffrey of Monmouth's 12th-century fictional chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae. According to Geoffrey, the Humber, invariably referred to by the Latin word for river, was named after "Humber the Hun" who drowned there while trying to invade in the earliest days of Britain's settlement.