quaker burial grounds in fishlake

 

 

    


 Burial Place Lane, Fosterhouses.

While researching the history of Fosterhouses one unusual name appeared in various title deeds relating to land purchases in the area – “Burial Place Lane, Fosterhouses - Quaker Burial Ground”. This prompted some obvious questions - “Why would there be a Quaker burial ground in Fosterhouses and where was it ?”

Before starting out on this particular piece of research my knowledge of the Quaker movement was limited and much of the information in this article is taken from an excellent book by Richard Hoare called “Balby Beginnings – The Launching of Quakerism”[1]. This book contains a very interesting history of the Quaker movement in the Doncaster area.

While Quakerism, as a form of worship, began in the East Midlands in around 1646, around the Doncaster area it appears to have started with the arrival of George Fox, in Balby, in 1651. Fox’s first followers in Yorkshire were, in the main, radical puritans.

In the 1650’s Quakerism spread widely through previously conformist and non-conformist rural parishes. In the Hatfield/Thorne/Fishlake area, its growth seems to have been influenced by very difficult communications, given the large sizes of the parishes and a population of traditionally independent people. Fishlake in the seventeenth century was very isolated - the River Don formed a physical barrier to the south and east of the parish. There was also major discontent following Vermuyden’s drainage scheme which left, at least some residents, in a worse position than prior to the drainage “improvements”.

It seems that Quakerism brought religion to people in a different way and would have started in the Fishlake area with local outdoor meetings, or meetings held in individual homes. From the little that is known about the occupations of the early Quaker converts, it seems that most were from among the farming and rural trades.

In 1676, the parish of Fishlake, contained 136 dissenters out of 564 potential communicants. About half of the 136 dissenters   were Quakers. This was quite a substantial proportion of the overall population.

The meetings in the Fishlake area probably peaked around 1660. From 1700 onwards, meetings declined until they disappeared in the middle 1700’s. In 1743, the Archbishops Visitation noted only 2 families and 4 women were members of The Society of Friends. In 1764, the Fishlake Quaker meeting merged with Thorne; the final decline thought to have been precipitated by the Methodist Revival of 1739 – both Ingham and Wesley preached extensively in this area. By 1851, 67% of the adult population of Fishlake were Methodists.

Known Quaker families in the Fishlake area were:

·       John Petty – a skinner who emigrated to New Jersey

·       Sarah Stopwith – originally from Fishlake. She settled in Sykehouse after marrying a Henry Frankland in 1686. Henry Frankland was the son of a Quaker weaver from Rawdon, near Ilkley.

·       Robert Dickenson – who, in 1672, licensed his house in Fishlake for dissenting worship and was accused, in 1675, (Archdeacon’s Visitations, Borthwick Institute, York) of holding a conventicle (an illegal service).

·       Thomas Womersley and Abraham Decow – listed as Elders in 1669.

In 1962, Kenneth Arthur, the vicar of Fishlake, published a short pamphlet on Fishlake Church and parish, in which he refers to previous research:  

“Canon Ornsby[2] notes that in the Quakers Burial Ground at Foster Houses, a broken tombstone was found bearing the names of Thos. Womersley and Elizabeth his wife”.

It is not clear, however, when the tombstones were found or whether he had seen it himself.

·       The Pease family from Sykehouse and their descendants – very important Quakers both in Hull and Darlington.

Land in the Fishlake area was given to the Quakers from quite an early date:

The Bladworth Legacy

At a court baron of the Manor of Hatfield in 1658, Bridget and Thomas Bladworth gave half a rood of land (about one eighth of an acre) adjoining the East Field in Fishlake, for the creation of a burial ground and meeting house. Quaker registers show burials being made there from 1657.

The extract from an Ordnance Survey Map of 1848 (not to scale) reproduced overleaf, shows the site of the original burial ground in Fosterhouses, to the north of Fishlake. Burial Place Lane is now an earth track and nothing remains to show that a small part of the adjoining land, was once a Quaker burial ground.

 

 

 

The Thomas Perkins Charity

At a court baron of the Manor of Hatfield on 05 April 1661 Thomas Perkins surrendered 3 pieces of land of more than 5 acres from his estate at Fosterhouses in Fishlake to John Bladworth (who was acting on behalf of the Quakers) for a rental of 40 shillings, with a life interest for his widow Mary. The land is where he, his brother William and his father William are all assumed to have been buried.

By 1692, the 40 shillings was not being paid, so perhaps any burials had ceased. John Bladworth died, in Thorne, in 1693.

This land was assumed in the nineteenth century to be at Fosterhouses, where there was a known Quaker burial ground (see The Bladworth Legacy), but no details of the exact site were recorded in Quaker records of that period.

Of course, every piece of research raises further questions and I would very much like to know the whereabouts of the three pieces of land amounting to five acres referred to in the Thomas Perkins Charity. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that it was a field off Burial Place Lane which was ploughed up just prior to World War Two, but this may well have been a reference to the original, much smaller and long disused, burial ground referred to in the Bladworth Legacy. Any help to solve this problem will be very gratefully received. Please contact me via the Fishlake History website: http://www.fishlakehistorysociety.uk.

 

 

Carole Smith

May 2018

 

 

 



[1]

Published by Balby Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, Quaker Meeting House, 6 James Street, Sheffield in association with Sessions of York England. September 2002

 

[2] Vicar of Fishlake 1850-1886