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Tyne and Wear HER(10881): Sunderland, medieval fisheries - Details

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Sunderland, medieval fisheries



Agriculture and Subsistence

Fishing Site



Documentary Evidence

There is a documentary reference relating to the delivery of herrings to Darlington, probably from Sunderland in 1183 {1}. In the fourteenth century Durham Priory regularly bought fish supplies from Sunderland. Accounts of 1307-8 record purchases of salt fish, eels and haddock and accounts of 1333-4 record an order of five loads of whiting. The priory rented a stable from William Rakwood in 1441-2 for use as a 'fish house'. In 1536-7 John Cotysforth was the priory's fishbuyer at Sunderland. From the late fifteenth to the second decade of the sixteenth century the priory bought herring and salmon from Sunderland [and Newcastle and Shields] {2}. The River Wear fisheries formed part of the bishop's rights and were leased to local people. At the river mouth salmon were caught by stell fishing (stakes fixed in the river) off Coney Warren north-east of the town moor. The Hedworth family of Southwick fixed a net here in the fourteenth century {3}. West of the stell there was net fishing in an area called the Sayne (a seine net hung vertically in the water) {4}. There were also a number of yares (semi circular enclosures of stones or stakes and wattle) in the Wear. In 1321 Prestyare and Milnyare are mentioned, others were Ebyare, Bradyare, Owensyare and Marlesyare {5}. In 1440 Bishop Robert Neville appointed a commission to remove a number of yares which were a hazard to shipping. The Hedworths sold their right to fish for salmon off Coney Warren to George Grey in 1630. Various yares were lost due to passing colliers and keels and ballast quays.




M.M. Meikle and C.M. Newman, 2007, Sunderland and its Origins - monks to mariners, pp. 88-89; Victoria County History Durham, I, p 338; J.T. Fowler, 1898, Extracts from the Account Rolls of the Abbey of Durham I (Surtees Society xcix), pp 3 and 20; II, pp 3,4 14, 20, 72, 73, 79; III, p 666; Hatfield's Survey, p 137; Raine (ed), Inventories and Account Rolls, pp 141, 154, 205; T. Potts, 1892, Sunderland - A history of the town, port, trade and commerce, p. 81

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