LOOKING at Axholme’s necessary and elaborate system of waterways with two major pumping stations at Keadby and West Stockwith, aided by a score of minor ones, we can well appreciate the difficult task Vermuyden faced in trying to reclaim a vast acreage of flooded and boggy areas.
Not surprisingly, the failings of his efforts became apparent only months after its completion, and clearly revealed that there had been serious faults in its planning, calculations and execution. Whether really serious research into the conditions of the terrain across the whole area had been made we do not know.
The newly cut River Torne was far too narrow and shallow to make for an effective channel.
This defect prevented the Central Axholme commoners from enjoying any benefit, and moreover, they were even worse off, because, as the new Torne had been cut through higher ground, land which had previously stayed dry was now often flooded.
A similar defect in South Yorkshire saw floods which ruined barns, granaries, stackyards, and private houses, in the Snaith, Fishlake and Sykehouse areas.
Vermuyden attracted huge local antipathy and hatred, at one stage being described as ‘a monster of a man whose natural qualities no one English epithet can answer!’
In Axholme he had rudely disturbed immemorial rights effective in the interests of the poor.
The decision of Charles l to allow Vermuyden to proceed was precipitate and this absolute monarch ignored long-standing and ancient statute.
A Court ruled in favour of the Hatfield Commoners as early as 1630, and Vermuyden was made to restore 4035 acres to these complainants.
In the Epworth Manor many protestors tried to change things by violence - a business that would persist right up into the 18th Century.
They fought numerous Court cases in seeking justice as the Isleonians firmly believed that neither King or Vermuyden had any claim on the common land. They agreed that the Dutch did have legal right to drain Hatfield Chace but not the Manors of Finningley, Misterton, and Axholme.
In the Epworth area land taken for reclamation meant its stock farmers lost valuable meadow land and winter fodder.
The drainage work left them with unwanted summer flooding and in addition a lot of fishing and fowling was lost.