Main Menu

Early fishing history, and an early legal battle

It is certainly true that much of the area currently known as Sidney Sussex was mainly a rough common until the early nineteenth century.  Indeed it was a marshy common stretched  over most of this area nearly up to Old Clee Church and known as Smallfleets Common.

However it must not be assumed that this area has therefore no early history, as of course, it was full of creeks and paths and included the main and well-trodden pathways to Grimsby and to Clee.

As previously explained, these pathways were the haunts of fishermen, fish sellers, tradesmen, monks and regrettably, highwaymen.  All added to the history of the area prior to the build-up of further habitation which then became, Beaconthorpe, New Cleethorpes and New Clee which, of course eventually combined to be Sidney Sussex.

There were two main trading paths from Grimsby to our area in the fourteenth century, but the most used particularly by fish carts, skirted the Wellow Abbey and went in an approximate straight line to Clee Church. It then split, turning right to Humberston and Tetney and left to Oole, Itterby and Thrunscoe.

This path became more used as the increase of fishing in our area prospered.  This in turn encouraged Grimsby to apply and obtain a Charter from Edward 1st (1239 – 1307) which enabled them to extract tolls for all vessels loading, unloading or anchoring within their harbour.  This Charter also applied to all adjacent villages and hamlets.

The villages of Oole and Itterby resisted this strongly as, not only did these charges effect trade, increase the costs of fishing and therefore fish, but as they saw it, was an infringement of their freedom giving money to a neighbouring settlement that had done nothing to earn it.

Eventually in 1336 the matter came for trial in the Court of Westminster.  This simply meant that the hamlets had to send representatives to London for a legal trial in a building about the size of their own entire village. This must have been quite frightening for those involved though history unfortunately does not record any names.

Whoever went, probably had not seen any town quite like the busy hive that was London at that time and the contrast between that and home must, to say the least, have been startling.

The roads were at that time appalling – muddy and often impassable in winter, extremely dusty and full of holes and ruts in summer. To this must be added the considerable costs of the travel by people that were simple fishermen and possibly could not even read or write.

Needless to say, the case was won by Grimsby whose representatives presumably returned in triumph.

Our local residents just took little notice of the decision and simply increased considerably their smuggling activities using quiet beaches and convenient creeks in our area.