Fishlake History Society

Recording historical information before it disappears

Fishlake History Society

Recording historical information before it disappears



In general this geographical area has suffered from the neglect or lack of interest by historians and this is reflected in the paucity of material collected or published about local history.

The first such history which mentions Fishlake was by Edward Miller called "The History and Antiquities of Doncaster and its Vicinity" published in 1804. This includes some historical notes on Fishlake village p351 to 352 limited in length and content.

In 1828 more reliable and substantial history was written by Rev Joseph Hunter called “South Yorkshire", Fishake is covered in volume 1 on pages 191 to 194 with a larger chapter on Hatfield Chase. This is a very useful account of ecclesiastical history and accounts or pedigrees of important local families typical of the time.

Then in 1882 John Tomlinson published his "Levels of Hatfield Chace and Parts Adjacent". In the pages 175 to 197 we find a substantial section on Fishlake and with additional references in the sections on the draining of the levels. Tomlinson, although covering both ecclesiastical and non ecclesiastical topics has limitations and must be used with care. Tomlinson is fundamentally an antiquarian so we see quotes, extracts and footnotes loosely linked by antique prose but these copied extracts are not always reliable.

The 19 th century represents the most active period in local history writing in this region. This is exemplified by the work of Canon George Ornsby vicar of Fishlake from 1850 to his death in 1886. A scholar and historian in his own right and appears to be the only vicar of Fishlake to have taken a very active interest in the history of the church. During his incumbency he produced a number of volumes both transcription and histories on ecclesiastical matter for the Surtees Society (a society dedicated to the publication of manuscripts regarding the history of the ancient kingdom of Northumberland). Indeed he was elected as Vice President in 1863. While incumbent at Fishlake his published his Diocesan Histories York, SPCK 1882, but with no mention of Fishlake. However he did collect material together for a history of Fishlake which was previously stored in a chest in the vestry but has now been deposited at Doncaster Archives. He gave it the grand title of  "Collectanea quaedam ad pochia de Fishlac Spectantia". Much of this material was distilled in a paper read to the Yorkshire and Lincoln Architectural Societies at Doncaster September 23 1857 by Ornsby and afterwards printed in the Associated Architectural Society's Report, 1857 p91 to 108. This collection includes original material with Ornsby's observation during the restoration of the church fabric which took place a few years earlier. It is lamentable that this talented historian did not write more and extend his interests beyond the history of Fishlake church.

Fishlake Church appears in ' The Charm of Yorkshire Churches p 69 by Ella Pontefract and Maria Hartley who provided the illustrations published by 'The Yorkshire Weekly Post', Leeds no date but c1930.

It is worth including a curious recollection of Fishlake as it was in the late 1920's as seen through the eyes of a travelling puppeteer, 'Puppets in Yorkshire' by Walter Wilkinson published in 1931, Geoffrey Bles, London, p 54-63. Wilkinson was a British puppeteer who traveled the country between the wars with his puppet show and recorded his findings. This volume covers Yorkshire. Chapter V 'The Bard Partch' covers Fishlake and Sykehouse. He recollects encountering the vicar of Fishlake and then a humorous visit to the shop evoking days gone by.

Numerous references to Fishlake, Fishlake Ferry and River Don are covered in 'The Early History of the Don Navigation, by TS Willan, 1965, Manchester University Press.

An architectural account of Fishlake Church can be found in  'The Buildings of England' series. 'Yorkshire West Riding by Nikolaus Pevsner, 1959, p 201 -203, Penguin Books.

The first publically available history guide to Fishlake church and charity school history was published in 1962 entitled “S. Cuthbert Fishlake c 1200-1961" by Kenneth Arthur the then vicar of Fishlake. This booklet (now long out of print) is largely based on the work of George Ornsby ( see above) with some additional material by way of an update.

An important archaeological survey of Fishlake village undertaken by John Magilton in 1977, 'The Doncaster District: Archaeological Survey' p 41-42,  'A Museums and Arts Services Publications, Doncaster.

In January 1980 the present author published an article, 'The Township of Fishlake-An Essay touching its History' for the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Local History Studies Section. A revised and updated version of this article has been posted on this blog.

More recently a very interesting article was published entitled “Open field farming in Fishlake and Hatfield: the evidence of the court books 1582-1808", by Dan Byford published in "Aspects of Doncaster. Discovering Local History" edited by Brian Elliott 1997, p87-110. This is a scholarly work which greatly contributes to our understanding of local agricultural practices using primary sources mainly the Fishlake and Hatfield Bylaw Books.

In celebration of the millennium in 2000 villages put together a booklet celebrating the long history of Fishlake village entitled “Fishlake The Story Of A South Yorkshire Village. The First 2000 Years”. Published in c 2000 edited by Helen Hepworth. This booklet represents a very useful introduction of Fishlake's past using material from substantially enhanced using the oral history gathered from village resident.

A second edition was published in 2004 edited this time by George Wade. This is an expanded addition of the above.


A reference booklet for those villages who died during the wars 'Fishlake War Memorial: The Fishlake Fallen' by John Deeney and Jamie Quinn, 2011

The recent formation of the Fishlake History Society in September 2015 brings promise of further research to be undertaken by members of the group.

These articles published here in this wordpress file by the present author, Rob Downing, represents a genuine attempt to contribute to our knowledge of Fishlake's long and fascinating history. At least I very much hope so.


Rob Downing 22 September 2016.