Fishing Without Permission... at Maxstoke Castle?

Maxstoke Castle and its moat, possibly the scene of the transgression?
Image courtesy of Benjamin Earl

The said William Dilke hath been pleased to forbear any further Prosecution, upon his being become bound not to offend in ye like manner for ye future.

The bond dates from 1728 and is between a John Vale and Warwickshire landowner William Dilke who lived at Maxstoke Castle. In order to avoid prosecution for a previous offence Vale here agrees that he and his heirs will not attempt to fish again on Dilke’s land and will therefore avoid having to pay a £10 fine (roughly a hundred days wages for a skilled tradesman at the time- so not insignificant).

An existing relationship

This bond suggests an existing relationship between the two men, and an attempt of the landowner, William Dilke, to manage the unlawful fly fishing – where this was is open to conjecture, but it would be nice to think it was in his extensive moat at Maxstoke Castle! If the bond does relate to the castle moat, it may have been easier for Dilke to manage illegal fishing because of the close proximity of the house to this site. Surely those attempting to fish illegally could not have hoped to remain undiscovered for long? The bond suggests a leniency in place of the collection of a heavy fine- despite the repeated behaviour suggested.

The home of William Dilke, and the potential scene of the crime, is Maxstoke Castle, a 14th century moated and fortified manor house three miles outside the Warwickshire town of Coleshill. The Dilkes (later the Fetherston-Dilkes) have been in ownership of the castle since the 17th century. At the time of this bond they would have been well known as the landowners. In the 18th century, William Dilke (possibly the William named in our Bond) married Mary Fetherstone-Leigh of another Warwickshire country house – Packwood House, in Lapworth, and the family became the Fetherston-Dilkes. They are still in ownership of Maxstoke today.

Bonds

Bonds were common legal agreements drawn up between two parties. The first part written in Latin outlines the terms, naming the two parties and how much the person being bound will have to pay as a penalty. This is not necessarily the result of committing an offence it could be a penalty for not undertaking certain conditions laid out in a deed. The second part, which we have transcribed, was written in English; it explains the reason for the bond and basically what the bound person is promising to do. If they stick to the bond they will not be liable to pay the sum outlined in part one.

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