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Henry Harbin and the Battle of the Fishing Nets 

The Admiralty Court of Poole assumed authority over activities in the harbour, including fishing and the conservation of young fish by the use of nets of suitable mesh size. They were particularly suspicious of the practices of fishermen from Wareham. This witness statement from the early 17th century tells of a confrontation, not exactly on the high seas but on the calmer waters of Poole harbour and with rowing boats rather than fighting ships:

The coppy of Henry Harbin’s examination to be seen on the file – taken in Mr Melmoth the ironmonger’s yeare of Maioralty 1635

Henry Harbin, Water Baylieffe of the towne & County of Poole sayeth that he having a warrt [warrant] under Mr Maior’s hand & seale of Poole to fetch in such drawers as should be found fyshing within ye libertyes of the towne of Poole, and to bring in their netts to be viewed whether they be lawfull, goeing aboard a boate of John Northover of Stoborough fishing in our libertyes wth a sett of netts, shewed his warrt to the fishermen of the sayd Northover’s boate, and telling them that by virtue thereof, he did require them to bring in their boate and netts before Mr Maior of Poole, whereupon they sayd they would obey the warrt, and takeing their words in that kind they presently rowed away towards Warehame, sayeing they did not care a ffart for them, and there uppon the sayd Henry sayeth that he causeth his boate to rowe towards the other boate, the company of the sayd other boate sayd that if they did come abord them, they would shoote them, and thereupon the sayd Harbin’s company attempting to enter the other boate they strake Anthony Millett on the head with an oare and brake his head and the oare likewise and there uppon Phillipp Northover leapeing into the sayd Harbin’s boate and struggling with his company, William Northover & Richard Northover went away with the other boate towards Wareham, and the sayd Phillipp Northover confesseth that the netts wch they fysheth with were those netts that were formerly seised by the towne for unlawfull netts, but delivered back upon security given never to be used agayne in or libertyes.

John Melmoth Maior               Henry Harbin        

With our thanks to Jenny Oliver who researched this piece

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