Fishing and fishermen

Elizabethan times

Reproduced with permission from the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder, 1990

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

b) ELIZABETHAN TIMES: A great insight on Brighton's fishing industry in the sixteenth century is provided by the 1580 Book of Auncient Customs (sic) which laid down strict rules and procedures for the fleets and the distribution of the catches, and detailed the seasonal voyages or 'fares' that were undertaken by the Brighton boats. There were 80 boats, 400 men, 10,000 nets, and four inshore fares were fished:

i) 'Tucknett', with boats up to three tons, fishing for plaice, from February to April;
ii) 'Drawnet', three tons, mackerel, May-June;
iii) 'Harbour', eight tons, conger, summer;
iv) 'Cok', two to six tons, herring, October-December.

The English Channel fares were:
v) 'Shotnett', six to twenty-six tons, mackerel, April-June;
vi) 'Flew', eight to twenty tons, herring, November-December.

The furthest trips were to the North Sea where the fares were:
vii) 'Yarmouth', fifteen to forty-five tons, herring, September-November;
viii) 'Skarborow', eighteen to forty tons, cod, June-September.

With the fisheries run on a co-operative basis, each catch was divided into a number of 'shares' to be divided amongst the men. Tucknett fare, for instance, was divided into thirteen shares per boat, and each man took at least one share, more if he contributed nets. Always, one share was divided with a quarter going to the churchwardens for church maintenance and town defences, one-half to the vicar as a tithe payment, and one-quarter to the master of the ship.
The men were kept away from the town for several months during the important Yarmouth fare in the North Sea. Out of season, or during the less important Scarborough fare, the fishing boats were usually used for conveying cargoes along the coast.
{3a,10,11,12,17,273,296a}

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

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