Revised 22/11/2019





[SURR411] William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey, and son-in-law of William the Conqueror, held vast estates in England in eleven different counties, his main seats being in Norfolk (centred on Castle Acre), Sussex (centred on Lewes) and Yorkshire (centred on Conisbrough).

His principal English holding appears to have been the Honour of Conisbrough (acquired 1069), a large estate with numerous villes belonging to it, all in the Strafford Wapentake of the West Riding. Many of these villes were clustered around the manor, but also extended down as far as Harthill on the Nottinghamshire boundary. Other villes in this southern area came under the manor of Laughton en le Morthen, and there was no particular pattern as to their assignment. Conisbrough manor also had a number of villes in Hatfield Chase, good hunting land in the north-east of the Strafford Wapentake, bordered in the north by the River Don. These latter villes were Edenthorpe, Fishlake, Hatfield, Kirk Bramwith, Kirk Sandall, Long Sandall, Stainforth, Thorne and Tudworth Green. Only Barnby Dun and adjacent South Bramwith may not have been part of the Conisbrough Manor, whose holdings in any case are only deduced from the Domesday Survey, which is complicated as it shows parts of these villes being also held by either Roger de Busli or William de Percy.


Recommended reading includes: "St. Cuthbert's Church, The Parish Church of Fishlake" (2003)
A visit to the church itself (usually open) is also recommended

A ville of particular interest is Fishlake, the northernmost ville in the manor, being on the opposite (north) bank of the River Don. It had perhaps a population of around 280 at the time of the Domesday Survey, sufficiently large for the 3rd Earl of Surrey to create it as a parish in "that part of the Chase which lay north of the Don". The Earl gave the right of presentation of the Rector to the monks of Lewes, whose Priory had been endowed by the 1st Earl in 1077. The Priory had already been presented with the gift of "the Church of Conisbrough with all its other churches", including Hatfield "with its chapel at Thorne". However, there was not yet a church at Fishlake, and presumably any possible building work would have ceased with the untimely death on a Crusade of the 3rd Earl (still only in his late twenties) without male issue in 1147. Later, his daughter Isabel married Hamelin Plantagenet, who became the 5th Earl, and continued the family support of Lewes Priory, building the church at Fishlake around 1170. Of this church little remains today, other than the Norman porch, priest's door in the south side of the chancel, and perhaps the columns in the nave. The porch in particular is described by Sir Nikolaus B.L. Pevsner as being perhaps the most lavishly decorated in Yorkshire.



Fishlake Church showing
south-west porch

(1 July 2009)

The Norman porch and carvings (all photographs taken 1 July 2009)

Outer (modern) porch

Inner Norman porch (1170)





Priest's door in the Chancel
(1 July 2009)

Columns in the nave
(1 July 2009)


The first castle at Conisbrough was probably a "motte and bailey" built c.1070 on the site of the present castle.

[SURR421] William, 2nd Earl of Surrey, acquired another Yorkshire Manor, that of Wakefield (1106), and built his castle at nearby Sandal (c.1130).

[SUR2441] Hamelin (son-in-law of the 2nd Earl) was the 5th Earl from 1164 to 1202, and spent a lot of time at Conisbrough, where he built the existing magnificent cylindrical Keep at Conisbrough Castle (c.1180), a suitable place for visiting royalty in which to stay. King John in fact stayed there in 1201. The Keep closely resembles that of Mortemer Castle, near Dieppe, also suggested as being the work of Earl Hamelin, and at one time a "de Varenne" possession too (from 1054). However, Mortemer Castle had been surrendered to King Henry II (1157), which is some time before Earl Hamelin became involved with Conisbrough Castle (1164), suggesting a flaw somewhere in the story.


Conisbrough Castle
(7 November 2006)


The Keep


In 1317, both Conisbrough Castle and Sandal Castle were seized from the de Warenne's by the Earl of Lancaster. But not for long, as the latter Earl led a rebellion (1322) against the king, was captured at the Battle of Boroughbridge, found guilty, and executed outside the walls of his own castle at Pontefract. Conisbrough Castle was forfeited to the king, but handed back to the de Warenne family not long after (1326). But after the last de Warenne Earl died (1347), leaving only illegitimate children, Conisbrough Castle reverted back to the king. Thus ended its association with the de Warenne family.