When eating salmon had to be limited

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How times have changed.

A magazine article from 1901 shows that salmon appeared to be so plentiful in the River Don during the 18th century that rules had to be put in place to limit the amount of it fed to apprentices each week.

Salmon in the River Don

“Tradition says that the early Sheffield indentures for apprentices contained a clause to the effect that apprentices should not be compelled to eat salmon more than three times a week.

“Be that as it may, it may interest Sheffielders to know when the last few catches of this fish were made in this neighbourhood.

“When we look at the River Don flowing through Sheffield today, the great number of weirs, sluices, and the dirty water impregnated with acid, ochre, and sewage of all kinds it is difficult to realise that the Don was ever a salmon river.

“Salmon in former times were mostly speared with a kind of three-pronged harpoon at night by the help of a horn lantern, the fish attracted by the light were speared by the person holding the lantern.

“The last few salmon were caught in the Don on or about: –

In August, 1756, a very fine salmon was taken at Broomhead Mill in the Yewden stream, a tributary of the Don.

Mrs John Bedford, senior and Mr Grayson, of Oughtibridge, witnessed the spearing of salmon in the Upper Forge sluice in the autumn of 1794, and the salmon spears hung in the kitchen at Oughtibridge until about 50 years ago.

Mrs Daniel Doncaster remembered a salmon being caught at Lady’s Bridge about 1820-1825.

A salmon neck or trap is mentioned in one of the Duke of Norfolk’s lease, as being on the weir at Brightside.


n From Notes And Queries. A Quarterly Magazine (Illustrated) Devoted To The Antiquities, Family Traditions, Parochial Records, Folk Lore, Quaint Customs, Etc, Of South Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Notts, And Lincolnshire. Edited by William St Q Leng, MA, LLB.

Published by Sir WC Leng And Co, Office of the [Sheffield] “Weekly News” Series, 19 High Street, Sheffield.No.8. Vol. II. March, 1901. Page 222.

Michael Parker

Deepcar, Sheffield S36