The countryside around Fishlake remains relatively untouched by modern agricultural development and is remarkably rich in wildlife. It is a landscape of low-lying meadows and damp pasture, criss-crossed by green lanes and drainage ditches, in which plants typical of marshy sites abound. The network of hedgerows survives largely intact; some are hundreds of years old and support a wide range of shrubs and trees.
Fishlake became an inland port, and the quayside was here on The Landing. It is likely that exports included tanned leather, wool and cloth, and imports included items not found locally such as stone, pottery, metals and millstones.
The Landing was once known locally as "Cuthberts Haven" in memory of the spot where St.Cuthberts body was landed in the late 9th Century.
The large brick farmhouse opposite The Landing was once known as The Old Hall. Although rebuilt in the mid 18th century a re-used plaque over the door gives an earlier date of 1610. The two second storey windows are blocked off, evidence that the house was subject to window-tax.
There are two limestone crosses in fishlake village, each of which has the base and a portion of the shaft still remaining. Possibly these late medieval crosses have taken the place of earlier Anglo Saxon ones.
Two theories exist as their purpose. One, that they were preaching crosses marking the spot where the bones of St.Cuthbert rested. The other that they were market crosses. The evidence is uncertain, but if fishlake had a weekly market, it had certainly disappeared by the 16th century.
The magnificent church represents the former prosperity of Fishlake village. Built by the Normans in the 12th century and dedicated to St.Cuthbert, it was reputed that his body rested here on its way to burial. His bones were carried by his faithful monks for seven years over a wide district between the Humber and the Tweed in order to escape the Danish pagans.
The south-west doorway is the pride of the church and is perhaps the most lavishly decorated in Yorkshire. The tower belongs to the reign of Edward IV (1463-83) who is represented in the two badges on the south side, one a rose surmounted by a royal crown and the other a falcon standing on the fetterlock. The figure of St.Cuthbert is represented on the west side in the canopied niche, as usual with the head of St.Oswal in his hand.
The Pinfold was used as a pound for confining stray animals. It was managed by an annually appointed keeper called the pinder, who was responsible for feeding and watering the animals. A toll was exacted for their return. The position of pinder was maintained until 1929.
Fishlake Endowed School
The endowed school at Fishlake is one of the oldest educational establishments in the area, and is the only endowed school in South Yorkshire.
It was founded by the Reverend Richard Rands of Sussex in 1641 for his friends and countrymen at Fishlake "the place of his nativity." The endowment of £300 was used to purchase thirty five acres of farmland, the income from which was used to pay the schoolmaster a salary (the £14 per year).
The scholars used to have to pay 2d a week for lessons and a further payment for coal and books.
Lane rental for common grazing
There are 50 miles of ancient green lanes in the parish of Fishlake. Once these rights of way were under the jurisdiction of the Parish of Fishlake Bye Lanes Committee, whose job it was to maintain these lanes, sell the 'eatage' (Grazing Rights) and pay an appointed pinder.
Every spring the eatage was auctioned off to the local farmers for the period April to December. This practice survived until the 1930s.
Burial Place Lane
Fosterhouses, once an outlying settlement of non-conformists, in particular Quakers. Although no purpose-built meeting house was ever established, the Fishlake Quakers did bury their dead in a cemetery along 'Burial Place Lane'. It was still in use in the last century, but the site was cleared of its memorial stones and ploughed up after the Second World War.
The ruins of two of the original three corn-grinding mills in Fishlake still exist. The oldest is the one on the East Field, which was built before 1771. Once a wooden mill existed off Pinfold Lane (behind the allotments). This burnt down some time before 1902.
The derelict tower mill in the field on the Nab is the most recent and survives to its original height. First recorded in 1902, it is probably built from local bricks.
Drainage has been a problem in Fishlake since the earliest times due to the clay soil and low-laying nature of the countryside. Some parts of the land are only four feet above sea level and were periodically flooded by the rivers Don, Torne, Idle, Aire and Went. Charles I, in 1626, requested that the Dutch Engineer Cornelius Vermuyden be employed to drain 70,000 acres. Vermuydens scheme was not successful, indeed local people claimed it made matters worse. Riots ensued in which flood banks were destroyed and Flemish workmen attacked. It wasn't until after the Second World War that further flooding was prevented. As you walk along Far Bank you see the lake which was created to provide enough soil to build up the bank. As you reach the stiles to come off the bank you cross over Taining Drain, one of the four main drains in existence in Fishlake before 1500.
Circular Walk Route
Parking is available alongside The Landing.
Hall Farm can be seen opposite.
Make your way towards the church past the stone cross on your left.
Follow path through churchyard past the vicarage.
Stay on footpath over stile and bridge to rejoin road. The Pinfold is 50 metre's to your left.
After viewing Pinfold return to footpath to school. Turn right at school and left at road. Remain on causeway to go past cricket club on your left.
If you wish to follow the shorter walk keep on causeway as road bends left and turn left onto Mill Field Road. If you want a longer walk take stile beside white farm gate on your right and walk in front of the mushroom farm tunnels. Bear right to stile. Cross field next to stile, over dike and remain on the hedge side until you meet Hayes Lane. Turn left onto lane to road. Turn left at road. Take grassy track to your right after farm buildings.
Follow track as it turns left to go in front of Gothic House.
Continue to road and turn left. As road bears left, follow footpath on your right (muddy after rain) past site of the Quaker burial ground. Rejoin road after Water Gardens, turn right and immediately right again onto Mill Field Road.
At the old mill take left turning to return to village. Turn right at junction to second stone cross.
From the stone cross take lane along bank top called Far Bank. Carry on at junction of lanes, through farm gate and over stile in front of farmhouse.
Follow the barrier bank past lake to the next stile. Make your way to the road through the gateway cut out of bank. Turn left at road and continue to join Fishlake village. Turn left to stiles over training drain. Follow the path behind houses which runs alongside the old bed of River Don to return to starting point.
How to get there
For directions to Fishlake Heritage Trail please ring the number at the top of this page.
By Bus: Telephone Travel South Yorkshire on 01709 515151 for full details of all bus services.