History of Fishlake Village

The Fishlake History Society is now up and running and has a more detailed website with regard to history. www.fishlakehistorysociety.uk/

FLEEING the pagan Vikings monks from Lindisfarne or Holy Island travelled with their relics and other valuables down the east coast of Northern England, along the Humber and up the river Don to spend a night en route at Fishlake. They disembarked with the body of Saint Cuthbert at what we still call the Landing and spent the night on the site of the present parish church of Saint Cuthbert.

At the time of the Norman Conquest the village belonged to King Harold and then passed to William with a mention in the Domesday Book of 1086, forming part of Hatfield Chace.
 

Nikolaus Pevsner called St. Cuthbert's Norman doorway " perhaps the most lavishly decorated in Yorkshire" whilst the tower belongs to the time of Edward IV and still bears his falcon. One tradition, still maintained , is of the vicar of Fishlake being paid an annual sum of 6 shillings and 8 pence to preach a sermon on Faith, Hope and Charity.
 
Towards the end of the mediaeval period the village became an inland, and even a ship-building, port. Names of some of the buildings along the river still bear witness to that era ( such as the Old Anchor Inn and the Custom House). The stone river marker on the Landing indicates the distance in miles to Tinsley near Sheffield.

Stone 'butter crosses' exist in the village. they may be the remnants of Saxon preaching crosses which were later used as places to sell cheese and eggs.

In 1626 Cornelius Vermuyden received a charter from Charles I to drain the Isle of Axholme and Fishlake to create fertile farmland. The locals did not take kindly to this threat to their livelihood--they lived on the eels and fish from the ponds which Cornelius and his Dutchmen were draining-- and the result was fisticuffs. It is said that in those days there were twelve pubs in Fishlake to 'slake the thirst of the Dutch workers'.

Hall Farm, opposite the Landing, is an imposing building. The squire lived here and it still bears traces of Pitt's Window Tax. 

In 1641 Richard Rands, a clergyman in Sussex, died leaving 300 in his will "to found a school in the village of his nativity". The money was fetched on the eve of the Civil War and was invested in land to pay for a school and a teacher's wages. At first, Fishlake Endowed School was a grammar school teaching Latin although it later became an all age school. The school was to achieve notoriety in Edwardian times when a woman was appointed head for the first time. Miss Winifred Gould started to teach Darwin's Theory of Evolution and the result was mayhem. Children were removed from school and made to walk to Stainforth, where they were nicknamed 'Monkey Children' , and the vicar took Miss Gould to court. The trial eventually reached the Leeds Assizes where the judge awarded Miss Gould a farthing's nominal damages.
 
The village had a number of Methodist chapels ( one began life in a barn on Dirty Lane). The longest in existence was Zion Chapel on Pinfold Lane which belonged to the New Connexion. Next to the chapel is the village pinfold where stray farm animals were kept by the village pinder until they were reclaimed by their owners.

The old village shop and post office had served as a warehouse for goods arriving by river and even managed to feature in Walter Wilkinson's 'Puppets in Yorkshire' which described his travels across the county in the 1920's. The remains of two corn grinding windmills still exist and provide more than a clue to the occupations of the population in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
 
For more information see DMBC's Fishlake Heritage Trail leaflet and Fishlake, the First 2000 Years (Second Edition by George Wade).

With thanks to Dave Croucher, David & Joy Chaffer and Steve Cook for supplying these images.

Links to websites with further historical details are available on the links page.

Letter to the Doncaster Chronicle 1891

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