There were two fishmongers in Edmonton. One was Bennett's which was by the
station and the other, which was nearer to us in
Lopen Road, was owned by Steve Hatt.
Although he was disabled, he had such a happy nature. His shop sold wet fish.
A strong favourite of mine was herrings and I also liked bloaters. Although
you can buy them today, they never seem to have that fresh look of my childhood
with their gleaming scales.
The 1911 census shows that my mother was right about
one of the fish shops: John Bennett, 39, fishmonger, born Bethal Green lived
at 113 Silver Street with his wife Harriet, 42, born Stepney, and his step
daughter Mary Mable, 15 born Bethnal Green.
Another fishmonger in Silver Street was George Payne, 32, born Hackney living at 13 Silver Street
with his wife Rose, 28, born Stepney, who assisted with business, and sons
George 7 and William 2. (According to Carolyn Middleton, her great grandfather, Alfred William de Grussa (an Italian name), went to work for Mr Payne.
The shop sold only fresh and smoked fish - no fried fish and chips. The hours were long.
Her great grandfather left home at 5am and never got home until late, after the
children were in bed. He worked six full days and had to go back on Sunday mornings to clean up. Apart from serving
in the shop, he had to prepare and smoke the herrings to make bloaters and also smoke the haddocks. These had to be opened up, soaked in brine and then put on steel rods. Both the herrings and haddocks were then hung on racks in a smoke room, or
'smoke hole' as it was called. A fire was lit and oak sawdust was
burned. This just smouldered and gave off thick smoke which smoked the
fish. Eventually Mr Payne offered
Carolyn's great grandfather the lease and the running of the business which he ran until 1922. By then
he owned a horse and a four wheeled 'lorry' and used to go to Billingsgate Market to buy his fish.)
Yet another fishmonger in Silver Street in 1911 was Amelia Brooks, 53, born Homerton London,
living at 87 Silver Street with her daughter Minnie, 20, born Hackney, her
son Harold, 16, born Hackney and daughter Violet, 14, born Tottenham. All
the older children assisted in the business.
However, there was no Steve Hatts in the 1911
Edmonton census. As my mother has been so remarkably accurate about
the names of the other individuals she wrote about in her
recollections, Steve Hatts must have moved
in shortly after 1911.
Our mothers could ask the fishmonger whether they wanted hard roes or soft
roes. To find out which was which, the fishmonger would press the side of the
fish with his hands and from a small hole out would come a tiny amount of roe,
which he could recognize as hard or soft.
I think the shop was mostly known for its fried fish. The frying took place
at the rear of the shop. We children could watch it because around the counter
were sacks of potatoes for the chips and we would climb on them to see over
the counter. Mrs Hatt would be standing over large vats of bubbling oil, with
vapour billowing out. She would have two containers, one with flour and the
other with batter made with flour and water. She would dip the pieces of fish
into the flour, then into the batter and then then drop it into the hot oil.
It would sizzle away until it was golden brown. Then she would take it out with
a wire slice with a longish handle and put it onto a wire rack to drain off
the surplus oil. All the time, noise was going on round the counter with people
When the fish was ready, our mothers were asked if they would like any salt or
Then the whole order was wrapped in newspaper to be taken away.
The pieces of batter that came off the fish were called crackling and we
children would buy it in halfpenny portions.