History of Fishing at Burton Bradstock

Rowing hard to haul the Seine net

Rowing hard to haul the Seine net

Short sound clip describing fishing method by locals

Mermaids too?

In the summer of 1757, a mermaid was cast ashore at Burton Bradstock, or so 'tis said. It was 13 feet long, its head partly human and partly that of a hog, its extremity that of a fish and its fins resembling hands. Strange things have been seen by Burton men in the years since, particularly after too much cider(!), but nothing stranger than this! No other mermaids have been reported since.


Fishing from Hive Beach, Eastwards to Chesil Beach, and Westward to West Bay by men from Burton Bradstock was very popular, and for over 100 years, their boats were kept on Hive Beach, probably from 15 to 20 at any one time.

Type of boat - Lerret or similar rowing boat with Seine net.

The Lerret - the fishing boat that used the Seine net

Stern and bow of lerrets were the same shape - this enabled them to pay out the Seine net either side of the boat and then, when they had the Mackerel in the net, it wasn't necessary to turn the boat around to swing the net round the sides, and the helpers on-shore pulled in the net from either side of the boat as it drifted in.

The Seine net is a meshed net (long bag) with narrow ends paid out by the boatmen. The net is held by ropes either side of the boat by those on-shore and is gradually pulled in.

Hauling in the Seine net


Teaming - night fishing with lines for flat fish. I.e.Whiting (Blen)

Feathering - using lines from a boat to catch mackerel - by this method, the men could determine when they had caught a sufficient quantity - mainly for their own use.

Catching mackerel

Prawning - usually at night by boat - close under the cliffs.

Herring drifting - again at night - for the crews' guidance, one man would be on the beach with a flashing light!

Distribution of the catch - During the late 1800's to the early 1900's, the owner of a boat would give each crewman a portion of the catch - a certain amount for himself, the rest would be taken by his wife and other members of the family in baskets to the villages inland and sell the fish to the local residents. In later years two gentlemen, one Walt Turner (nicknamed 'Cutty' - because he always wanted to cut the price!) and a Mr. Greenslade from Poole, were usually available to buy the fish.

1864 - The new railway system from Bridport was a boon to local fishermen!

"The railway proved its commercial worth in June 1864 to the seine-net fishermen of West Dorset. An estimated total of 50,000 fine mackerel were pulled ashore at Chideock and Burton Bradstock early on a Wednesday morning. They were brought to Bridport and sent off by train, but for once there was sufficient for a fair quantity to be sold in the town as well, at lOd. per dozen. " Source unknown.

Checking the net - fish on the beach

Checking the net and preparing the gear after use

Hauling in the catch

Pulling the net ashore

May Williams braiding nets at her cottage

May Williams braiding nets at her cottage.


Fishing in 1933 (Colin Sibley's pics)

1940's - Lou Brown in centre (Colin Sibley's pics)

1940's - Pulling in the net.

L to R: Bob Cammell - ? - Bertie Williams - Mary Brown? - Lou Brown

further fishing pictures

Jim Reeves

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