Thursday, 9 June 2011

Article - Vermuyden in Perspective by Colin Ella part 9 - Settlers found the going hard

MANY of Vermuyden’s countrymen, working their acreages of reclaimed land, soon found it no easy matter, and indeed, the experiences of many of them were unhappy to the extent of disaster.

They did not make enough income to pay their bank loans or their land rates. Furthermore, they could not raise enough to pay their workers’ wages.

It should also be remembered that there was still a barrage of lawsuits and bickerings resulting from the drainage operation. Some of the settlers made poor farmers as they lacked the necessary agricultural skills.

They were left to make the most of their own hasty workmanship, for which Vermuyden and his advisors must take the major blame.In the face of all this, many of the participants soon returned to Holland, poor, disgruntled, and embittered by the venture into which Vermuyden had led them.

And yet Vermuyden received a Knighthood for his efforts in Hatfield and Axholme, but likely including his earlier record too. Today in the South Yorkshire region we see institutions, streets, etc, named after Vermuyden, but significantly, in Axholme, such accolades are few and far between. Here, it was unlikely that the inhabitants of Axholme were happy to see Vermuyden knighted.

Over the years, the aftermath of what the Dutch engineer initiated has seen considerable acclaim, but again, much more so in Yorkshire.

During and after the Drainage work there was an unyielding stubbornness on both sides - and Vermuyden certainly did not help this situation in that, right from the start, his actions provoked the long lasting outrages.

The early erection of a gallows at the Sandtoft Stockade, with the threat to hang protesting commoners as well as later, the use of the infamous Star Chamber for their prosecution made clear the attitude of Charles I and the Drainage Management.

Under the power of this monarch the dreaded Court of the Star Chamber built up a fearsome reputation and became a byword for misuse and abuse of power, and the Isleonians’ case stood little chance of a fair hearing here. Small wonder that this biased Court was abolished by The Long Parliament in 1641.

As the Isleonians battled on through court case after court case their righteous cause was gradually vindicated and from being deprived of 13400 of common in 1630, some sixty years later, only 2868 acres of this land still remained in the hands of the settlers.

Next week in Part 10 - Battling for Justice.

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