Fishlake History Society

Recording historical information before it disappears

Fishlake History Society

Recording historical information before it disappears

The Church Courts: Some Fishlake Cases.


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Taken from Elizabethan Life Morals & the Church Courts. F G Emmison.


The Church Courts from the middle ages to the nineteenth century had jurisdiction over a wide variety of cases including, amongest others, those involving matrimony, defamation, tithe, probate, clergy breach of faith (Fidei Lesio) and church rights. These court cases were heard at York and the records (known as cause papers) survive between 1300 and 1858. They are now in the keeping of the Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York. It cannot be over estimated how important these records are for local and family historian.

Apart from the abundant tithe cases the other common type of cases which are represented in the surviving collection are deformation and sexual misconduct. This was one of the main methods by which the Church attempted to enforce strict moral standards on the population during the 16th and 17th centuries. However, as time went on this practice by the church to control moral conduct became very unpopular.

Some of these cases predate Parish Church Registers, naming inhabits and locations, in the case of Fishlake before 1561 when the registers began. The ages and occupation of those involved. Others describe in great detail the functioning of local taxation arrangements such as Tithes. In rare cases family trees and relations within families are given. Cause papers often record the precise words of those involved in giving evidence, ie verbatim quotations. This enables modern readers a rare insight into the language and private thoughts of our ancestors.

As there are a huge number of tithe dispute cases I will leave those to last, presented in chronological order. To begin with here are the non tithe cases also in chronological order.

CP.F.193. 9/12/1455-9/7/1456. Appeals, defamation, theft.

Plaintiff. William Turpin of Fishlake, employed by servant to John Wright. Defendant. William Yerwith of Fishlake.
Witnesses. Thomas Sissotson aged 30 of Fishlake. William Snatheberd 60, Campsall. Thomas Rowley 28, Campsall. William Turpin won and defendant appeals but the original sentence was confirmed.

CPG 46. 15/11/1519-16/11/1519. Matrimonial (Annulment consanguinity).

Plaintiff. Thomas Haworth. Defendant. John Shortbird. Note this case has a family tree showing how he is related to Agnes Palmer within the forbidden degree of consanguinity.
Witnesses: William Burroughs aged 68, Thorne, Richard Dovey aged 60, Thorne, John Welbourne aged 60, Kirk Bramwith, William Robinson aged 60 Fishlake, Hugh Woodhouse aged 60 Fishlake, William Jubb aged 60, Fishlake, John Palmer aged 60, Thorne, Hugh Robinson aged 49, Fishlake, Thomas Baxter aged 60, Thorne. Place names mentioned include Fost Howses Foster Houses (interesting early spelling).

CPG 3920. 1500-1600. Benefice case (annual pension).

Plaintiff. Vicar of Fishlake, Clerk. Defendant. Nicholas Holmes, Clerk.

CPG 591. 5/11/1555-28/2/1555. Benefice cases, annual pensions.

Plaintiff. Nicholas Holme, Clerk. Defendant. Henry Johnson, vicar of Fishlake, Clerk. A pension had to be given to the retired vicar of Fishlake, Rev Holmes by the present incumbent Henry Johnson, by a grant of the Archbishop, it was complicated by the fact that Holmes had a wife.

CPG 2368.27/6/1588. Defamation, Sexual slander.

Plaintiff. Ann Doughty, wife of Hugh Doughty. Defendant. Alice Watson, wife of Robert Watson.

Ann Doughty and Alice Watson was seen by a witness, William Milner aged 30, a carpenter who was working in the town gate (street) at the door of Robert Womersely, building a new door frame of timber when he saw Ann Doughtie and Alice Watson at Womersley’s door where they began multiplying words one against the other amongest which he heard Watson say to Doughty, “thou are a honest woman who can hear nothing spoken of Thomas Jepson’s wife’s labour but goes and tells it to a knave boarded at thy house and art naughty with him. If I had my will I would tear thee in sunder with my teeth”.
They appear to have been arguing that one or the other had a lodger at her home, the one found guilty would have done penance in the parish church. In this instance no outcome was recorded.

CPG 2759. 6/7/1594-7/11/1594. Defamation and Sexual slander/ Character.

Plaintiff. Thomas Waite. Defendants. Richard Clarke and William Coleman at Fishlake.

The slander took place in the house (Inn) of Thomas Temple, butcher, aged 50. He was a witness to a New Year's Eve drinking party when William Coleman shouted slander and abuse at Thomas Waite, calling him amongest other words as a common drunkard and bastard getter. Other witnesses were Richard Crabtree 46 husbandman and Robert Heaton aged 29 husbandman. It was said of Waite that he was a drunken knave, drunken boaster, drinking and making merry together in one Thomas Temples house in Fishlake.
The plaintiff Thomas Waite won the case, so Coleman was found guilty and did penance at Fishlake church recited out loud the words he had said.

CPH 5019. 24/04/1602 Violation of Church Rights (assessment).

Plaintiffs. Nicholas Waller churchwarden, Robert Haughton, churchwarden, Thomas Parkin churchwarden, Edmund Waite churchwarden, Defendant. Richard Nayler, gentleman.

In this case it appears that the parish church at Fishlake “was in decay and stood in need of restoration to the value of forty shillings”. That Richard Nayler had been required to pay towards the repairs. Richard Nayler lived and farmed in Sykehouse and described as a wealthy man. He and his wife and children attended Fishlake church for divine service and to receive sacrament as did other inhabitants of the township of Sykehouse, including Edmund Howson, John Howden, Edward Howson, Robert Atkinson, Humphrey Beamonte and John Cooke. It was expected they pay 1d for every acre of ground which they either use themselves for received rent towards the repairs of the parish church. Clearly, Richard Nayler had not been making payments. It would seem that despite there being a chapel at Sykehouse residents there who chose to attend a Fishlake church were expected to make a financial contribution.

CHP 2983. 09/11/1671. Violation of Church rights. Dispute over pension.

Plaintiff. Dean and chapter of the cathedral and metropolitan church of the Blessed Peter of York. Defendant. William Pinkney esquire/gentleman of Mansfield Woodhouse, proprietor or farmer of the rectory of the parish church of Fishlake

CPG 5621. 1671 Deformation and sexual slander.

Plaintiff. Suzanna Laycock (husband Richard Laycock) and Defendant Elizabeth Howson (husband Edward Howson) of Fishlake. Here, Suzanna Laycock brought a case against Elizabeth Howson who she said had been making slanderous remarks about her behaviour by accusing her of being a whore. No outcome recorded.
An extract below.

“The said Elizabeth Howson speaking to the said Susanna Laycock said thou art a whore and a common whore and that she should prove her a whore and further speaking to her said Susanna Laycock said thou art a whore and hath plaid the whore at Selby oft enough".

And yet another case the following year involving the same Susanna Laycock...

CPH 2981. 18/01/1672 - 27/07/1672. Defomation and Sexual Slander.

Plaintiff. Christopher Stamper. Defendant. Margaret Frankis wife of Anthony Frankis, Fishlake. Witnesses. Richard Laycock 40 Yeoman and James Gray 30 husbandman.
The case. Christopher Stamper brought Margaret Frankis to court for slandering his name by accusing him of sleeping with other men’s wives. Defendant, Margaret Frankis, won, despite all the good testimonies for Christopher Stamper. Extracts below.

"the said Margaret Frankis said and reported Christopher that the said Chrsopher Stamper last Saint Gillyaire day* at night at Knottingley, said in bedd allnight with Suzannah the wife of Richard Laycock that the said Christopher Stamper was and is a dishonest man, and had carnal knowledge of her body, and did committ”…………………."that the said Christopher Stamper had committ the crime of adultery with the said Suzanna Laycock".

Richard Laycock said “that this (witness) hath known the (plaintiff) Christopher Stamper for twenty years last past and more during all which time he hath been and still is a man of good name game and repute and honest conversation and never aspersed of any notorious crime or offence that the (witness) ever heard of in this cause”.

James Gray of Donsthorp parish of Fishlake. "that during the time this hath known the... Christopher Stamper he was always taken for and to be a very honest man".

*St Gillyaire Day referrers to St Gilard Day June 8th. St Gilard 448-525 AD. He was the Bishop of Rouen, Normandy, France.

CPH 3334 1677. Benefice case neglect of duty.

Plaintiff. Edward Dickenson. Defendant. William Eratt clerk, deacon, curate of Sykehouse.

CPH 3333 1677. Violation of church disputed election of school master rights. Plaintiff. John Brogden. Defendant. William Errat.

Not listed....1744-1745. Violation of Church Rights, pew dispute. Plaintiff Ann Cooper and Elizabeth Gray, defendant Richard Ellis.

Test CP 1813/2. 1813 Testamentary dispute value of goods. Between John Case, farmer and David Case brother and administrator of the goods and chattels of John Case diseased late of Sykehouse.


Tithes and tithe disputes. Tithes were originally a tax which required one tenth of all agricultural produce to be paid annually to support the local church and clergy. They were usually divided into Great and Small (or lesser) tithes. Great tithes were paid to the rector made up of corn, gain hay and wood. Small tithes went to the vicar and comprised of calves, lamb, wool and milk. Usually in goods (kind) but by 19 th century they were converted to monitory payments.

The ownership of the tithe was a property right that could be bought and sold, leased or mortgaged, or assigned to others.
From early times very many disputes arose regarding how much, by whom and for what. Unresolved disputes ended in the court for resolution but given these were church courts most cases resulted in favouring the tithe collector as can be seen below. Fishlake was no exception. Here are some examples which have survived. To begin with a very early example from 1452.

CP.F188. 16/2/1452. Tithe dispute of Hay.

Plaintiff. Prior and Covent of Durham. Defendant. William Thornholm of Fishlake. Witnesses: All from Fishlake except one, John Clark, John Bladworth of Kirk Bramwith, Thomas Wright, William Parkin, Thomas Parkin John Clark, John Parkin, John Pearson, John Parkin junior, John Wait, Richard Hodgkinson, John Jenkin, Robert Cook and John Bladworth junior. Note. Blakesyk Lane is mentions, now known as Blacksyke Lane.

Fishlake in the 16th century we see many tithe problems many involving William Trimingham. 14 in total.

CPG 1318. 23/08/1564-05/07/1567. Tithe of Hay. (Plaintiff won).

Plaintiff. William Trimingham, farmer of the tithes of Fishlake. Defendant. Richard Waite.

Witnesses: Edward Bladworth 54, husbandman of Kirk Bramwith. Thomas Doughty 50, husbandman of Campsall. John Wilkinson 60, husbandman. John Bird 50,Webster. William Craven 60, husbandman. Richard Parkin 41, husbandman. Thomas Howden 50, mariner. William Parkin 54, husbandman.Thomas Parkin 63, gentleman. Thomas Gibson 50, cordiner. Edward Wright 54, husbandman. William Goodbairn 77, mariner. William Willis 66, presbyter. Hugh Doughty 54, husbandman. Richard Austen 58, husbandman. William Awburn 58 husbandman. References to local place names, Town Ing, Byerley Ing, Dickham, Medley, Middle Holding, Bladworth House, Dowstrop.

CPG 1327. 08/02/1565. Tithe of pigs, sheep, wool and geese.

Plaintiff. William Trimingham farmer of the tithes. defendant. John Newsam.

CPG 1300. 23/03/1565-04/05/1566. Tithe of pigs and geese.

William Trimingham, plaintiff and Thomas Wells defendant. A case of tithes of pigs and geese.

Witnesses are Robert Sewell aged 70, husbandman. John Jennings aged 43, mariner. Thomas Hall aged 60, Tanner. Robert Hall aged 61, labourer. Roger Robinson aged 48 of Snaith husbandman. Thomas Wait aged 53, husbandman. Richard Howle aged 60, husbandman. Henry Johnson clerk aged 62 and Robert Abury aged 60, husbandman.

CPG 1285. 23/03/1565-03/05/1566. Tithe of pigs and geese.

Plaintiff. William Trimingham and Thomas Waite. Defendant Richard Hawk.

This case occurred when there was a dispute as whether or not certain tithes should be paid in money. William Trimingham plaintiff and Thomas Wait. Defendant. Richard Hawk aged 70 lived farmed in Fishlake and paid his tithes of pigs and geese in kind. He was a servant to John Redman Clark and Vicar of Fishlake and collected  the tithes for him in kind for six years. Robert Hoyle aged 66 husbandman, live 26 years in Fishlake before moving for six years to Birkin and then came back. Thomas Hall, aged 60, Tanner paid his tithes all his life in kind. Robert Hall aged 64 labourer, John Jennings witness, mariner also in court. Robert Abney aged 60 husbandman of Bramwith move there from Fishlake, 10 years ago he said he wanted to pay 2p a pig 2p a goose for his tithes. Thomas Waite age 54 farmer agreed at Easter with others to pay tithes in money. However, Henry Johnson 62 vicar said he had been vicar 32 years and all tithes in the past had been paid in kind. Roger Robinson 36 farmer, William Allet farmed tithes.
The reason for tithe collectors wanting to be paid in money was for simplicity but at this time when inflation was so great it was much more profitable to receive payment in kind. 

CPG 1325. 12/07/1565-11/12/1567. Tithe of pigs and geese.

Between William Trimingham farmer of tithes in Fishlake and Thomas Pindar defendant. Tithe dispute regarding pigs and geese. Plaintiff (William Trimingham won). Witnesses include, John Wilkinson aged 60 husbandman, John Bird aged 50 webster, William Craven aged 60 husbandman.

CPG 2191. 14/03/1565-17/05/1566. Tithe of pigs and geese.

Plaintiff. William Trimingham farmer of the tithes. Defendant Thomas Pindar, Thomas Wells, William Gibson, John Newsam, Thomas Wait and Richard Wait.

Witnesses: William Waller, clerk curate. Thomas Doughty 50, husbandman of Campsall. Edward Bladworth 54, husbandman of Kirk Bramwith. Richard Asten 58, husbandman. Edmund Wright 56, husbandman. Hugh Doughty 54, husbandman. William Waller 66, clerk, William Goodbairne 55, mariner. William Parkin 50 senior, husbandman. Brian Parkin 63, gentleman. Thomas Gibson 50, cordiner.

CPG 1454. 15/06/1565-25/11/1567. Tithe of Pigs and geese. (Plaintiff won).

Plaintiff. William Trimingham. defendant. Thomas Wait.

Witnesses: William Walker 66, clerk. Richard Asturne 58, husbandman. Edmund Wright 54, husbandman. William Awburn 58, husbandman. William Goodbairne 77, mariner. Hugh Doughty 54, husbandman. William Parkin 52 senior, husbandman. Richard Parkin 41, husbandman. Thomas Howden 54, mariner. Thomas Parkin 63, gentleman. Thomas Gibson 50, cordiner. Edward Bladworth 54, husbandman of Kirk Bramwith. Thomas Doughty 51, husbandman of Campsall.

CPH 1324. 02/11/1566-13/03/1566. Tithe of corn, hay and wheat.

Plaintiff. William Trimingham. Defendant Thomas Parkin.

Witnesses: John Jennings 43, butcher. Robert Wells 40, husbandman. Henry Johnson 63, clerk. John Bird 50, weaver. Thomas Waddington. Thomas Wadilove 38, husbandman.

CPG 1357. 18/05/1566. Tithe.

Plaintiff William Trimingham farmer of the Fishlake by marriage with Anne Bradford. Thomas Crabtree.

CPG 1326. 17/01/1566-23/03/1567. Tithes of Corn, hay, beans, peas, wheat and rye. (Plaintiff won).

Plaintiff. William Trimingham. defendant. Elizabeth Bezacle, widow.

Witness: John Jennings 43, butcher. Robert Wells 40, husbandman. John Bird 50, weaver.. Thomas Waddington. Henry Johnson 63, clerk, vicar of Fishlake. Thomas Waddilove 38, husbandman.

CPG 1757. 24/10/1573-14/5/1575. Tithe of cattle, herbage, sheep, horses and wool.

Plaintiff. William Trimingham farmer of tithes in Fishlake. Defendant. Robert Palmer, Doncaster St George. Four witnesses out of the area. Field names Norton Fields, Hellwyckit Close, Smallage.

William accused Robert of non-payment of his tithes for the pasturing of his livestock. Robert admitted to owning the animals, but claimed he had paid tithes for some of the pasture land, but not for the rest. Robert produced counter articles in which he claimed that the land upon which he pastured his livestock had previously belonged to Monk Bretton priory, and thus was exempt from the payment of tithes. He traced the descent of the land ownership from the dissolution. William denied that the land was exempt from payment of tithes. William also produced interrogatory questions to be put to the Robert’s witnesses. These witnesses testified that the disputed land had belonged to Monk Bretton priory at the time of the dissolution. The court found for the Plaintiff, William Trimingham.

CPG 2453. 1587. Tithe of wood and cattle.

Plaintiff. William Trimingham farmer of the tithes. defendant. Thomas Parkin. Reference to Bank Ings.

CPG 2348. 1587-1588. Tithe of Firewood.

Plaintiff. William Trimingham. Defendant. William Haughton. Reference to Brown croft.

CPH 1793. 12/10/1627-29/03/1628. Tithe of Cattle, horse and hay. (Defendant won).

Plaintiff. William Trimingham, gentleman, proprietor farmer of the rectory. Defendant. Francis Wood.

CPH 4938. 28/5/1662-24/10/1664. Tithe of sheep, wool, cattle and milk.

Joint plaintiff Edward Waller armiger (a person entitled to use a heraldic achievement) and farmer and John Brown gentleman were joint tithe owners, the person in the dispute is Thomas Sale (defendant) yeoman who refused to pay his tithes on his sheep as he said they had not pasture at Fishlake 30 days before clipping. This period of time always save them paying tithes to the tithe owner of the place where he lived if this period or longer was spent pasturing in another parish. In 1661 he had five cows and 4 calfs which gave 8 gallons of milk a week. In 1662 he had six cows and six calfs  and gave 8 gallons of milk a week, 2 acres of meadow. Tithe value of fleece 6d the reason for the low figure is a slump in the wool trade. A calf for 6s 8p. 1 gallon milk 2p.
Witnesses: testifying William Huscoft farmer of Sykehouse aged 25. Robert Beaumont aged 30 grassman. John Laverock aged 25 farmer. Francis Simpson aged 52 gentleman Hatfield. Thomas Crabtree aged 35 labourer. Richard Sale aged 30 farmer. William Dawson aged 26, farmer. Nicholas Beaumont aged 33, butcher and Anne Stringer aged 19, spinster.

CPI 2596. 1797. Tithe of Lambs.

Plaintiffs. William Hunt and Thomas Birks both joint farmers of the tithes. Defendant Thomas Wickham, farmer of Fosterhouses. The Plaintiffs won so William Wickham is justly compelled to pay what he owed.

As can be seen from the above there is a great deal of scope for further study of these cases by local and family historians.


Robert Downing April 2023.