Adelingesfluet 1086 (Domesday Book). "Water-channel or stream of the prince or nobleman". Old English ætheling + fleot.
"A Dictionary of English Place-Names", Oxford University Press
Not much happens in Adlingfleet now that the Cross Keys, famous for its pie and peas and pickled eggs, is no more. However, like all of the area, it is excellent cycling territory.
Rumours of Past Greatness
Adlingfleet is different, with a history and indeed a fascination, that is all its own. Its geography underlies this.
A 16th Century visitor describes "Ethelinglfete" as "but an uplandeisch town". And it is! No mountains are visible but clearly from all diirections you climb a foot or two to Adlingfleet. It was an "island town" surrounded by marshes and rivers. And a basic truth of mediaeval geography is that "marshes divide but rivers unite". Adlingfleet is cut off to the south and west by tidal flooded wastes and these were only passable along the "King's Causeway" known in the Middle Ages as "le rodecause" that is the "riding causeway". Adlingfleet's links were across the river with Lincolnshire. In fact Adlingfleet and adjacent Garthorpe are two outlying parts of "that great belt of Saxon Country stretching along the south bank of the Humber from Trent Falls to the Lincolnshire coast and down to Peterborough".
In the greatest days of the Northumbrian Kingdom, Lindsey though from time to time it had its own sub-king, was very much part of Northumbria and these links were only broken when Northumbria's defeat by Mercia transferred the area to the Mercian Midland Kingdom. Even after the Conquest, the Archbishops of York maintained their claims to Lindsey. The determination of William the Conqueror to make Lincoln and not Dorchester (near Oxford) the See City of that extraordinary East Midland's Bishopric which, throughout the Middle Ages stretched from the Humber to the Thames, forced the Archbishop to give up his claims to Lindsey in 1071. He was bought off and so Lindsey and Lincolnshire moved into the province of Canterbury and Lindsey-Adlingfleet (unlike Lindsey-Garthorpe) became a sort of frontier town left on the wrong side of the frontier. Adlingfleet's links, through the ferries across the Don and the Trent, remained with the Lindsey Saxon Culture and communications system. We know for certain very little about this Saxon town of Adlingfleet but yet there comes to us, over and over again, mysterious hints of a vanished greatness.
The first of these is the name. This has a bewildering variety of spellings, but its meaning is not in doubt. A "fleet" is an inlet or channel of a tidal river and an "Atheling" is a Prince. Sometimes the "Atheling" is not any old Prince but, as it were, the "Prince of Wales", the Prince who is thought likely to be the heir to the throne. Which Prince (or just possibly Princess) first gave his name to this tidal inlet at the mouth of the Don we don"t know. We can"t even tell whether he (or she) was of the Royal families of Northumbria or Mercia or even perhaps Lindsey. But the name must imply that this was in some way a significant Royal estate.
Secondly, and very surprisingly, Adlingfleet was the third richest "living" in England. This becomes no less astonishing but more significant when we discover that numbers one and two were Lindisfarne and Bamburgh. They were the ecclesiastical and regal headquarters of the Northumbrian Kingdom and the wealth of those two churches must have been based not on the intrinsic economic prosperity (or even the size of the population) of the area but on the generosity of the Royal endowments. The same story can be told of the Aetheling's Church at Adlingfleet. The mystery of the Church's mediaeval wealth finds some explanation if Adlingfleet was a Royal Saxon centre of some ecclesiastical importance.
Thirdly, there is some other evidence for this. For the Anglo Saxon Chronicle tells us that "in 763 AD. Pectwine was consecrated Bishop of Whithorn at Aefletee (or perhaps - for the manuscripts vary "Adelfetee") by the Archbishop of York. "Ee" means "island" and so it was on "Aelfet" island that the consecration took place. The skullduggery of mediaeval Durham chroniclers tried to claim that this moment of ecclesiastical greatness fell to "Elvet" near Durham, but this must be bogus. We can"t prove it was Adlingfleet but it was probable. Surprisingly there were long standing links between the very opposite ends of the Northumbrian Kingdom's spheres of influence in Galloway and Lindsey. The complex tale of the links between Whithorn in Galloway and the Archbishop of York need not concern us. But York in those years was in some turmoil and it is not farfetched that the Prince's Church at Adlingfleet, so easily accessible by water from parts all of the North, was a safe and suitable place for the great ecclesiastical gathering that gave to Pectwine authority to be a spiritual leader of the Picts (for that is what the name means) in distant Galloway
Fourthly, despite the Danish invasion and settlement in the area in 1066, Adlingfleet is still a place of some importance with a major personage as its landowner. This is Siward the Nobleman (or Siwardbarn). He was a great nephew of King Edward the Confessor and plays some part too in the history of Sheffield. He submitted to William the Conqueror but then joined in a Danish invasion in 1069 and thereafter fled to join the "resistance movement" of Hereward the Wake on the Isle of Ely. He was captured in 1071, lost all his lands, and remained in prison until he was released "as an act of clemency" in 1087.
But Siward's Adlingfleet is recorded in the Domesday Book thus. "In Adelingesfluet Siwardbarn had 6 carcucates of land to be taxed; there is land for three ploughs. Geoffrey de la Wirce has now one plough and 13 villeins and one bordar with 3 ploughs. There is a church and a priest and one mill of 10 shillings; coppice wood one mile long and one quarenteen broad: the whole manor two miles long and one broad. Value in King Edward the Confessor's time four pounds; now thirty shillings".
Was this "Domesday" Church the same as that in which Pectwine may well have been consecrated in 763. Because of the Danish invasions almost certainly not! Yet there is further mystery here. The Danish Great Army between 865-875 set about the conquest of England and also it would appear its colonisation. For Haldenby which is barely a mile away from Adlingfleet is where the Danish General Halfdene settled his veterans. That it has barely survived - it is one of the tiny handful of DMV's (deserted mediaeval villages) in the Diocese of Sheffield - suggests that it is a less favoured site than Adlingfleet. Had Saxon Adlingfleet been seized and destroyed by the invading Danes? And, if so, how had the ancestors of Siward returned and rebuilt the Church? Or - as the evidence suggests - was the Danish settlement here a peaceful one foreshadowing that alliance between Dane and Saxon which was to prove disastrous to Siward in 1069?
Before leaving Saxon Adlingfleet a more speculative piece of historical reconstruction is appropriate and illuminating.
Bede was both writing his History and corresponding with the Archbishop of York in the 730s about a hundred years after the conversion of Northumbria to Christianity. He viewed the future with some alarm because, he claimed, "there are innumerable places, as we all know, allowed the name of monasteries but having nothing of a monastic way of life." Bede saw these "many and large foundations" as being "useful neither to God and man". Modern historians are not sure that all Bede's criticisms were fair. These "monasteries" can be defended both because, says Professor Wormald, "several apparently dubious houses seem to have achieved high standards of Christian culture" and also because they were a serious attempt to relate the Christian life to the Anglo-Saxon understanding of their family, its past and its future. These "monasteries" were meant to be some sort of focus for Royal and family loyalties. There are some plausible reasons for believing that Adlingfleet might have been one of the "monasteries" about which the Venerable Bede complained.
St.Willibrand's father, St.Wilgils is the first clue. Willibrand has some claim to be one of the first famous Yorkshiremen. He was born on 5th November, 689, and having been put into the care of St. Wilfrid at Ripon as a child, eventually became the Apostle of the Netherlands. His father Wilgils (and we must assume that his mother was dead) then retired to a hermitage "in the headlands that are bounded by the North Sea and the River Humber". This phrase was written by another famous Yorkshireman Alcuin and he must have meant Spurn Head and not Adlingfleet, but it shows that the Anglo-Saxons" fondness for isolated and storm-tossed spots on which to build monasteries extended to the extreme south of Northumbria. If Spurn Head why not Adlingfleet too? Only a few names have come to us of the early "monasteries". But in 757 A.D. a Yorkshire abbot named Forthred had complained to the Pope that the King had taken three monasteries from him. Pope Paul I wrote to King Eadberht of Northumbria (737-758) about this and a record of the letter has survived. The three disputed monasteries were at Stonegrave, Coxwold and "Donaemuthe". The scholars tell us that the whereabouts of "Donaemuthe" is unknown. To me, having lived for many years in houses that overlook Tynemouth Priory, which certainly began as an Anglon-Saxon monastery, it seems obvious that "Donaemuthe" is at the mouth of the Don and that must mean Adlingfleet. If this was so, it would explain why this spot was chosen for Pectwin's consecration and perhaps also explain why Adlingfleet emerges into the Middle Ages so surprisingly important.
The Fight for the Rectory of Adlingfleet
At the beginning of the 13th Century Adlingfleet was still the third wealthiest living in the country. By the end of the century it had sunk to number six but was still worth having with its vast income (in money of those days) of £153/6/8. Little good came to Adlingfleet from this ancient, and difficult to explain, wealth.
The succession of local landowners plays a part in this tale. The Geoffrey Wirce who took over from the Northumbrian Siward at the Conquest apparently soon returned to Normandy, and Adlingfleet became part of the growing estates of the D"Eyville family. But by the end of the century the family's involvement in the losing side of civil wars and vast debts led to their decline and the sale of the advowson of Adlingfleet to the Lovetots. This sale and the claim of at least three patrons to present four different people as Rector of Adlingfleet (none of whom probably ever set foot in Adlingfleet) led to a prolonged legal dispute of astonishing virulence.
The main protagonists were Robert of Scarbrough and Bogo de Clare. "Both" says Canon Richardson "were shameless pluralists without any compensatory redeeming features like those of John the Frenchman". Robert was Archdeacon of the East Riding and Dean of York as well as to be claiming Rector of Adlingfleet. Bogo's skill in acquiring benefices was even greater. He died in 1291 holding 2 canonries, 3 dinities in Cathedral and Collegiate Churches and 24 parishes with an income of £2,200. Archbishop Pecham said he behaved "as a robber rather than a rector". After prolonged dispute both Robert and Bogo resigned from Adlingfleet and in 1291 both died.
Meanwhile, Sir John de Lovetot seems to have established his right to present but the victory was shortlived. For, for half a century at least, Selby Abbey had been determined to "round off" their empire and to settle the long running disputes between them and successive Rectors of Adlingfleet by the acquisition of Adlingfleet Rectory for themselves. By 1306 papal approval had been gained and the first Vicar was appointed. The final seal was put on the new arrangements in 1315 when the last of the Lovetots, Joan Lovetot, agreed to sell to the Abbot of Selby whatever claims she might have had to the Advowson of Adlingfleet.
In 1307 the Rectory was appropriated to Selby Abbey and, thereafter, the Abbey appointed stipendiary priests (or chaplains) to care for the parish. The fabled wealth of the benefice went to Selby Abbey and after 1307, Vicars of Adlingfleet were not significantly better off than other incumbents. Their stipend was £9. Up to the Dissolution of the Abbey in 1539, the Abbots of Selby continued to appoint a succession of Vicars of Adlingfleet. At the Dissolution the advowson went to the Crown and, rather unusually, remained in Royal hands.
Adlingfleet church by the end of the Middle Ages was a very fine building indeed with a nave and tower as we see them now but also with a chancel that was said to be twice as long as the present nave. The repair and maintenance of that chancel was the responsibility of the "Rector". No doubt Selby Abbots as long as they were "the Rector" would do their duty. But clearly after 1539 no-one repaired the chancel. Eventually it began to fall down and in 1794 was demolished and replaced by the present small chancel. Someone somewhere has, through these centuries, been getting an income from Adlingfleet's Rectorial tithes and reneging on the responsibilities for the chancel of Adlingfleet church that went with that income. Selby had swallowed up Adlingfleet yet the parish never became part of the Selby-controlled Peculiar of Snaith. The matter is neatly put by the Historian of the Snaith Peculiar: "The Vicar of Adlingfleet, though completely isolated and detached from the diocese by the peculiar of Howden (in the diocese of Durham!) on the north, the peculiar of Snaith on the west and south, and the diocese of Lincoln on the east has ever refused obedience to the commissary of Snaith. It is also long since he contrived to incorporate into his own parish such parts of Haldenby, Fockerby and Eastoft as were anciently in the parish of Snaith". The Archdeacon of York and the Rural Dean of Pontefract had no more loyal priest within their jurisdiction than the Vicar of beleagured Adlingfleet!
The Battle for the Frontiers
To the mediaeval Rector standing on the tower of Adlingfleet church much of the geography of his parish would stand out clearly; to the north the Ouse and to the east the nearby Don set their clear limits. To the west the ancient road to Rawcliffe, Turnbridge and beyond - the King's Causeway would lead the eye along and then back to the ferries across the Don and Trent. But along that road through the featureless Marsh, where did the parish stop? And again, looking southwards into the Waste and the medley of rivers and meres that led back to Crowle and to Thorne, where was the parish boundary? The four fields that made up the arable area of Adlingfleet would stand out clearly, but the areas of common and waste that surrounded them and on which the beasts of this and perhaps neighbouring villages grazed, would be a great deal less clear. And ships loading and unloading at the Quay beyond Whitgift, where they in the parish?
The first Rector whose name has survived - Walter son of William - took the large view of his parish. The tithes of Reedness, Whitgift, Ousefleet, Eastoft, Fockerby and Haldenby were his. "Not so", said Selby. Some (if not all) of these villages are in the parish of Snaith and so the tithes belong to Selby Abbey as the "Rector" of Snaith since 1100. A compromise was reached in about 1164: the tithes were to go to Walter for his lifetime only. In return he was to pay 40 shillings per annum to the Abbot of Selby and swear fealty to him. Thirty years later Walter's successor, confusingly also called "Walter son of William", (or could it be the same Walter repenting in old age of the compromise of his youth) went back on the agreement with Selby. He showed that he thought Ousefleet was in Adlingfleet parish by building a Chapel there. Selby reacted strongly; convinced the Papal Delegates that the "Composition" of 1164 was still in force and so it was decreed "by apostolic authority" that "the Chapel was to be thrown down to the foundations". If round one had been a draw, round two clearly went to Selby.
But in 1247 (or perhaps 1245) Adlingfleet had a new Rector who was more than ready to renew the battle. He was certainly a North Countryman and possibly a Yorkshireman. But his career and fame began in France. There, despite his extreme unsuitability for a life of poverty and humility, he became a Franciscan Friar and won the favour of Pope Innocent IV who at that time was in France as a result of his struggles with the Emperor. Innocent is described as "a born ruler who was as unscrupulous in choosing means as resolute in achieving ends". The Pope sent John back to England to raise money for the Papal Wars. Confusingly he was known to the Chroniclers of the day - because he came from France - as John the Frenchman. All these Chroniclers were monks. Monks had the money. John wanted the money for the Pope and the King. The monks hated John and Alexander his fellow-friar. They "cloaked the greed of wolves under the fleece of a sheep". These "so-called brothers, set out from the King's Council riding noble steeds, equipped with golden saddles and in secular fashion adorned with the riches robes and military spurs". At both the Pope and the King's behest John was made Rector of Adlingfleet. This was not the only rich benefice he acquired, but clearly - as even a wicked Yorkshireman would - he minded a great deal about his parish at Adlingfleet. For he set about building a great new church at Adlingfleet in the newest style of architecture. The nave survives; the chancel, which was twice the size of the nave was demolished in 1794; the transepts seem never to have been completed on the scale originally planned. The huge chancel is something of problem. Certainly this hammer of the monks was not building a monastic church. There is no evidence that there was any plan for the creation of a collegiate church here. The most likely explanation is that this chancel was meant to provide a fitting setting for Adlingfleet's treasured fragment of the True Cross with space for pilgrim worshippers and the large "Trunc" or "Almsbox" into which generous offerings were made. A Royal Charter of 1261 recognised an Annual Fair of eight days at Adlingfleet beginning on the Eve of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This new church was to be for the towns of Ousefleet, Whiitgift, Eastoft, Reedness, Swinefleet, Fockerby and Haldenby.
But John's energies were also put to less praiseworthy uses. In 1248, the Chronicler tells us, "whilst a dispute was in progress between the monks of Selby and John the Frenchman a clerk of my lord the king, one monk was killed and more wounded and beaten". In 1250 the battle raged over "a certain weir in Wytegift". The jury had to decide whether it belonged to "the church of Athelingefled whereof John le Franceys is parson" or to "the Abbot". It seems they decided in favour of Selby. It was as part of this continuing feud that John demolished Whitgift Church and carried off the stone to Adlingfleet and built himself a chamber (camera) there. It is possible that this "camera1 survives (just!) in the ruined building near the church. Whitgift Church had been built about a hundred years earlier and was, presumably, thought to be a Chapel-of-ease in Snaith parish. Since the foundation of the Abbey Selby had had a "fishery" at Whitgift. But St. Mary's Abbey at York was at this time the principal landowner at Whitgift. So John battled as furiously with St. Mary's, York as with Selby. And, apparently, not without success! For in 1253, the Chronicler (Matthew Paris) tells us "the Church of St. Mary of York incurred great loss and dishonour on account of a certain charter which their opponents, of whom the greatest was John the Frenchman, judged should be repudiated. It is thought that this John, who was of northern origin, craved insatiably to swell his own revenues from the property of the said church in those parts. In the same way also the said persecutor John, whom the Lord the Avenger deprived of an eye, harassed Selby Abbey on a similar charge with irreparable damage".
But John's triumphs were short-lived. He seemed set for a great career in England. Pope Innocent IV wrote to the Archbishop of York in 1250 asking that "not withstanding his impaired sight and defect in one eye, that no hindrance be given to his promotion to superior orders."
"His life", said the Pope, "is adorned by honesty, by literary attainments, exemplary manners and recognition at the apostolic see." But his health failed. In 1252 rumour of his death "whilst in a remote part of northern England where he had gone to plead against certain monks" was believed to have prevented the King from making him his Treasurer. I think he probably had had a stroke. In 1255 he dies whilst at his other northern benefice of Caldbeck in Cumberland.
His enemies have the last word: "John the Frenchman, one of the most eminent of the lord the King's clerks and councillors stricken incurable by paralysis deserved to be mourned with dry tears by the monks of St. Mary's Abbey at York and of Selby".
John's successors as Rector of Adlingfleet were not able to hold what he had won. In 1304 Whitgift Church is to be rebuilt and Henry de Lacy, Count of Lincoln, grants to Selby Abbey "the cemetery in the vill of Wytegift consecrated a long time ago". This is so that the church can be rebuilt "which church or chapel the present and future inhabitants in ths vills of Ousefleet, Wytegift, Essetoft, Redenesse and Swynflet and also the tenants of XI bovates of land in Folquardeby and XIII bovates of land in Haldenby which aforesaid vills are within the boundaries of the parish of Snayth, will hear divine office and will receive and have the church's sacraments… " This decision doesn"t leave much for poor Adlingfleet. (A bovate is probably about 15 acres).
At some point Adlingfleet won back a little of what had been lost. For, writing in 1795, the Vicar tells us that the parish "consists at present of the four following townships - Adlingfleet, Fockerby, Haldenby and Eastoft".
The memory of these ancient battles lingers on. Around 1950 the parishes of Whitgift and Adlingfleet were united. The union was not a happy one and when the United Benefice of Marshland was created in 1988, Adlingfleet, though content to share their incumbent with the parishes of Whitgift, Eastoft and Swinefleet, rejoiced to become again a separate parish as they had been in the time of John the Frenchman.
The Battle to make a living
If prehistoric man lived in Marshland no traces of his presence has survived. Our history begins with the settlement of Saxons and Danes more than a thousand years ago. In the days before modern transport a village could only survive if year-on-year it could be fed. In the Marshland townships (or villages) we see four ways in which they make can a living.
First there are the arable fields. These gave bread and some feed for the animals. Adlingfleet had four of those open fields: Trent, West, Fowerstangs and Town End. Their name - there is still a "fowerstangs drain" - give us a good idea of how they were arranged round the village. And though the "Open strip" system was abandoned in Adlingfleet with the Enclosure Act of 1766, we have only to journey into the nearby Isle of Axholme at Belton, Epworth and Haxey to get some impression of what the "Open Fields" looked like.
Secondly, there were the animals grazing freely in the pasture and waste. In an area like Marshland this was probably as important as Arable Farming and the right to pasture animals - Cow gaits - has remained an important part (and sometimes a controversial one) until modern times. In Adlingfleet the surviving right to Cow gaits in Cow Lane is a direct link with more than a thousand years of a community's history.
The river, through both trade and fishing, provided a third source of livelihood for most of the Marshland townships. The Admiralty Courts exercised a jurisdiction to ensure that the rivers were open for traffic and free of pirates. In 1310, Edward II (who showed a great deal of interest in Marshland spending time at both Adlingfleet and Cowick), appointed two men to look after the Salmon in the waters of Humber, Ouse, Trent, Don, etc, and to ensure that there was a close season for catching Salmon. Whitgift's first historical mention comes with the gift of the fishery there to Selby Abbey which, it was claimed, took place in 1070. Corn, animals and fish provided food for the people.
The fourth source of prosperity in the Marshland was inedible - it was peat. To this day Thorne Waste seems a virtually inexhaustible source of peat. That within the peat were found great tree trunks and, occasionally human remains was a great source of puzzlement to our ancestors whose confident belief in a creation in 4004 BC left an inadequate timescale for the creation of this peat wilderness. They sought an explanation in Noah's flood or, more ingeniously, in the belief that the ancient woods that once covered the neighbourhood were destroyed by fire as an incident in the Roman pacification of their not-yet-quite-conquered province. What was not a matter for debate was that the growing prosperity of the Middle Ages (with its steady clearing of the woods by the plough) led to a fuel shortage and something like a gold rush for the peat turves of the Marshland. A "Turbary", that is the right to cut peat, became a licence to print money.
A study of the ancient boundaries of the townships and parishes shows that nearly all extend down into the Waste or Moor: all must have a share. An old name for the neighbourhood is Inclesmore. The complexities of the mediaeval system of multiple rights to the same piece of land ensured more fierce disputes as a variety of people and institutions claimed the right to cut and sell peat turves. One way and another a large number of Religious Houses in both Lincolnshire and Yorkshire acquired a share in the Marshland or Inclesmore Turbaries. Thornton Abbey shared with St. Mary's, York the distinction of having the largest Turbaries but Selby too had its share.
Through the centuries fishing has vanished and, in modern times, the grazing of animals became less important. Peat is still being exploited. But the main change through the centuries has been the steady increase in the area of land under the plough and its fertility. In the 18th and 19th Centuries this was brought about by "warping". This involved flooding the land with water from the rivers in such a way that the fertile soil, washed down from the rest of Yorkshire, settled on and made prosperous the Marshland. Even in 1795 the then Vicar of Adlingfleet could write. "The land in general, being what is called warp land (i.e., land made by the overflowing of the tides), is extremely fertile and produces great quantities of grass and hay. Not much corn is sown here, the land being for the most part applied to grazing of cattle for the market. A good part of the grounds being suitable for the growth of flax great quantities of that article are sometimes produced within the parish". Rather gloomily, he adds that the parish is "low and unhealthy, the inhabitants being very generally afflicted with agues and other complaints owing to the great stagnation of waters in the several neighbourhoods"
Adlingfleet since 1320
Since then Adlingfleet has had a good deal less history! But there was a number of reasons why a lot seemed to be happening in this neighbourhood in the early years of the 14th Century. The first was simply Scotland. Edward's first attempt to control and conquer Scotland made necessary the transport of great armies and the supplies needed to keep them armed and fed. This brought great fleets to Adlingfleet. Then Edward II's defeat at Bannockburn brought the Scots into England. Parliaments met at York and Lincoln. The King and the royal administration spent a great deal of time in the north. Edward II stayed frequently on his Manor at Cowick and seems to have passed through Adlingfleet more than once. And then the accidents of inheritance brought the estates of the Lacy Earls of Lincoln (including the Lordship of Snaith) to Thomas of Lancaster. He was "not only the richest landowner in England, he was nephew to Edward I, first cousin to Edward II, he was brother-in-law to Philip IV, uncle to the Queen of England and to three Kings of France". He was also the leader of the opposition to Edward II. Civil War led to his defeat and capture at Boroughbridge and he was sentenced to death by the King in his castle at Pontefract. His lands were forfeited to the King. It seems likely that it was these events that underlay such turmoil in Marshland that twice Adlingfleet Churchyard needed to be reconsecrated because in it blood had been shed.
But after Edward II's death, there was peace with Scotland and Royal visits to the north became much more of a rarity.
That Adlingfleet was no longer a rich living after its appropriation by Selby, again made it less likely that well-known people should fight for the privilege of being Vicar there. It became "small living" no different from thousands of others up and down the country.
As the trading and manufacturing history of England developed, ports were needed that led somewhere: the future lay with Airmyn and Rawcliffe and Selby and eventually Goole. As a port Adlingfleet seemed to have sunk into obscurity long before the cutting off of the southern Don made it a landlocked village. But of course life went on. We can trace the succession of Vicars from that day to this. Some have been able and conscientious. Others, alas, neglectful of their duties. That the Church still stands is proof that priest and parishioners looked after it (or at least the nave) sufficiently for it to be handed on from generation to generation. We can trace too the passing on of the lands of the parish sometimes from father to son and sometimes through marriage to more distant relatives. And, most unusually, we see the events that led to the links between Adlingfleet and Catherine Hall (now St. Catherine's College), Cambridge. As the Dayvilles had become the Egmantons so the Egmantons became the Skernes. The period after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 seemed to be a prosperous period of Adlingfleet's history. 1663 and 1697 had seen new bells in the church. The 1663 bell had the significant inscription "soli Deo Gloria. Pax Hominibus" and this must refer to the almost miraculous restoration of both King and Church and the hope of an end to Civil Wars. In 1697 two more were added. The bill has survived for £43/10/9. At much the same time Robert Skerne of Fockerby founded four scholarships to St. Catherine's Hall and bequeathed land in Adlingfleet and Whitgift to endow them. His great niece, in due course, inherited both his estates and his interest in St. Catherine's. She seems to have been a wealthy woman and in her will the greater part of her wealth went to St. Catherine's Hall. With this bequest the Grammar School at Fockerby was founded (or refounded) with some "closed" Scholarships to St. Catherine's College. The benefaction was large enough to enable the College to create six fellowships and ten scholarships and to extend their buildings. The reforming zeal of the Victorians abolished the closed scholarships. Today Fockerby Grammar School is a private house. But the Skerne Foundation still exists and notices can be read today on the Parish Council noticeboard inviting Adlingfleet parishioners to apply for educational grants from the foundation. Though St. Catherine's College has long since sold its Adlingfleet estates, two further links remain with that curious benefaction. The first is Mrs Ramsden's splendid memorial in Adlingfleet Church. It bears the not entirely truthful inscription "This monument is erected in memory of Mrs Mary Ramsden, widow of William Ramsden of Norton in the Country of York Esqr. She died the fifth of April 1745 and bequeathed her whole Estate to Catherine Hall in Cambridge". Presumably it was by her choice that her memorial was to be at Adlingfleet and not Norton. And she took care that some of her estate went to the Governors of York Infirmary for the use of poor persons from the Adlingfleet district. And she cared too for their spiritual well-being: One Pound a year was to be paid to the Vicar to preach a sermon at 10.30 a.m. each 5th November. It still is and he still does!
A result of this benefaction was to make Adlingfleet a good place for education. Apparently students came from all over the world so that they could go to Cambridge with a Skerne Scholarship from Fockerby Grammar School.
"Rivers, Rectors and Abbots", David Lunn - Bishop of Sheffield, 1990