In early 1674, Charles Cotton started building a stone Fishing House on a narrow meander of the River Dove - a few hundred yards from his main dwelling at Beresford Hall. Famously, Cotton dedicated the House to his fishing friend and Compleat Angler author Izaak Walton; commemorated by their combined initials being etched in stone above the door. Above their initials is the inscription: Piscatoribus Sacrum (Sacred to all Fishermen). Over the centuries, this hallowed building has barely stood the test of time physically, but mythically - due to it being a central part of Cotton's Part Two - has become a shine for fly-anglers. 


Front view of Cotton's famous Fishing Temple (Oct 2021)
Set in a small meander of the River Dove.

“Charles Cotton’s Fishing House is a unique building designed specifically for the sport of angling. 
It was an elaborate building in relation to its simple function, an expression of Cotton’s dedication to angling and to his entertainment of fellow anglers.
The Fishing House is a fine preservation of Charles Cotton’s angling endeavours and its association with the popular work The Compleat Angler makes it of national significance.
Charles Cotton wrote a section on fly-fishing in The Compleat Angler in 1676 in which the Fishing House is featured and contains a description of the building. 
The building is also a Grade II listed building, NHLE 1188084.”

Source: Historic England

fly fishing silhouette
Charles cotton fishing house river dove compleat angler walton

Greyscale plate, by George Samuel, of Cotton's Fishing House
(from John Hawkins 1808 edition of The Compleat Angler)

If fly-fishing has a sacred place, a holy of holies, then it lies within a tiny bend in the River Dove near Hartington, where the counties of Derbyshire and Staffordshire meet. It was on this spot in 1674 that Charles Cotton, devoted friend and follower of Izaak Walton and author of the fly-fishing chapters of Walton’s Compleat Angler, built his Fishing House.

The Field (2010)


“The little Fishing House was built to commemorate one of the most beautiful friendships of which we have record, that of Cotton and Walton.

Charles Jacob Sembower
The Life and the Poetry of Charles Cotton (1911)



Side view of Cotton's Fishing House
(Oct 2021)


Door to Fishing House with Latin inscription and conjoined initials below (Oct 2021)


The stone fishing lodge on the banks of the River Dove in Staffordshire was built at the spot where Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler — the world’s most reprinted book after the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible — and his friend Charles Cotton spent many hours fishing for trout.

Simon de Bruxelles in The Times (2014)


In 1674, Cotton built the little square Fishing House on the banks of the Dove that is the true shrine and tabernacle of modern anglers, with its famous interlacing of initials I.W. and C.C. over the doorway, and the inscription Piscatoribus Sacrum, 1674. The Fishing House has been through many vicissitudes and restorations, yet it stands today with the exterior just as it was in Cotton's time. I hope it will always so stand, sacred to fishermen and especially to the memory of two fishermen. 

Roderick Haig-Brown
'Izaak Walton: His Friends and his Rivers'
in Writings and Reflections (1982)


The Fishing House is 15 feet square, and 30 feet in height … the favourite residence and place of retirement of Mr. Cotton, and Mr. Walton.

Sylvanus Urban
Gentleman's Magazine and Chronicle (1829)


One of Cotton's favourite recreations was angling, which led to an intimacy between him and Walton. His house was situated on the banks of the Dove, a fine trout stream, which divides the counties of Derby and Stafford. Here he built a little fishing house dedicated to anglers. The interior of this house was a cube of about fifteen feet, paved with black and white marble; the walls wainscoted, with painted panels representing scenes of fishing: and on the doors of the bureau were the portraits of Cotton and Walton.

Alexander Chalmers
Works of the English Poets (1810)


“Charles Cotton built a Fishing Temple which stands in a corner of private grounds by the River Dove in Beresford Dale and is a secular shrine to all anglers.”



Original text, video and colour photos
© Copyright Colin M Jarman (2022)