It has been a few weeks since I last wrote an article, but I knew I would be writing on this topic sooner or later.
On Monday 30th January, I felt extremely honoured to have attended the National Federation Of Fishmongers AGM at Fishmongers Hall. I will be honest in saying that I had no prior knowledge of the immense history of the “Worshipful Company Of Fishmongers” before I attended the meeting. I had never been to the hall and actually, in all my times of visiting London, it was the first time I’d visited the City of London.
The City of London is an almost quirky mix of old and new. Churches and dark alleyways that I’d read about and have historical significance next to glass fronted coffee shops and high end fashion establishments. I smiled as I followed my walking sat nav and to the right was Milk Lane and to the left Bread Lane. I realised that I was very much in the middle of “Old” London when I came across Pudding Lane. One of my favourite parts of history is The Great Fire Of London and I’ll admit it gave me goosebumps. I turned onto London Bridge and I’d “reached my destination.”
I swallowed hard, just the outside of the building was beautiful. A strong stone structure with beautiful architecture. I suddenly felt very small, after all I’m just a little retail fishmonger.
Another fishmonger, Mr Gareth Hughes, had already said he’d meet me on London Bridge as I was a little unsure of where I was going. We then went to a little cafe and met Mr.Ken Watmough, one of the past presidents. He was a joy to listen to, talking about Rick Stein and his book, and Aberdeen where he is from, especially as I mentioned I am to go up to Peterhead for my holiday.
Then we walked back over to the Hall. Gareth pressed a bell, a doorman came and opened the door and had to have our names ticked off the list. That’s when I noticed the entrance. It is beautiful, great oil paintings hanging on the walls, and an amazing chandelier in the form of a shoal of fish. Mr.Watmough showed me where the cloakroom was, and he asked an attendant where the “ladies room” was, because they weren’t used to having female fishmongers attending. That made me laugh and Mr.Watmough.
We walked past a beautiful staircase with oil paintings in the alcoves and standards which bear the names of the wardens of the company all around the walls. Massive oil paintings of fish adorn the walls, with calligraphy markings underneath. Then we entered the meeting room. Standards carry on round the room, and floor to ceiling windows face out onto London Bridge and the Thames. The hustle and bustle of typical London life probably totally unaware of the history surrounding them. Each member of the NFF council shook my hand and feel very welcome, especially Mr.Rex Goldsmith. Not only is he Treasurer and hon.secretary, he is also the Chelsea Fishmonger. Mrs Caroline Hooper, past president Mr.Gary Hooper (who is also the organiser of the British Fish Craft Championships) Mr.George Hooper and current president Mr.Andrew Kenny also made me feel welcome and part of it.
It wasn’t until after the meeting, and I walked for miles (9.43 miles to be exact!!) that I really began to think and appreciate what I am an associate member of. So I did a little research.
The date of formation of the “Worshipful Company Of Fishmongers” was 1272. It is also one of 110 livery companies of the City of London and is actually 4th in order of precedence and has held that prominent position since 1515!
The earliest recorded Hall for the company was built in 1310. The Hall built after it, and on the current position it is now on London Bridge, was built in 1434. Sadly this Hall, along with all the other Livery buildings, was destroyed by the Great Fire Of London in 1666. It’s replacement was opened in 1671. That Hall was subsequently destroyed to make way for the new London Bridge, and rebuilt in 1834. There it stood until it suffered severe bomb damage during the Blitz campaign, but it was restored and reopened in 1951.
Just the Hall itself carries so much history.
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FISHMONGERS
The NFF was formed back in 1932, as a voice for independent fishmongers and a body to represent fellow fishmongers should the need arise. The way people buy their fish has moved in a different direction and people will buy pre packed fish or *whispers* from a supermarket. High streets have changed from having a butcher, fishmonger and general shop, but rather than diminishing the need of the Federation, it actually makes it more important.
Independent fishmongers need a voice. A lot of fishmongers are starting to use social media to their advantage. They literally show the world that there are fishmongers out there and high quality affordable fish. The Federation has involvement with The Seafish Industry, promoting fishmonger training and skills. It also works in conjunction with Billingsgate market and keeps its members informed by quarterly newsletter about all matters pertaining to the fishing industry and the effects on fishmongers. The NFF, through Mr Hooper, also organises the biggest event in the fishmongers calender, The British Fish Craft Championships.
WHY IS THE NFF IMPORTANT TO ME?
So, yes I’m not an independent fishmonger, and as such I am an associate member of the NFF. My livelihood, by and large, is not a difficult one and I don’t have to fend for myself. Every reader of my blog knows it’s still my dream to be an independent, but having my certificate on the wall, along with my certificates of achievement from both the Fish Craft Championships and Tesco make me very proud. It allows me, as far as I’m able, to promote the fishmongering trade and what it stands for. It allows me to get involved with aspects of my career I never thought possible. It gives me a sense of pride being one of only three female Tesco fishmongers to be part of the NFF. It also gives me a great sense of pride when people ask me what I do for a living, and I smile and say “I’m a fishmonger.” and I can talk about the NFF. There aren’t that many careers which allows you to pursue your dream, and actually make dreams happen when you weren’t even aware of them in the first place.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen for reading.
The National Federation Of Fishmongers website, more information and details on how become a member: http://www.fishmongers.info
They can also be found on Facebook and Twitter:@NFF_fishmongers
More details for Fishmongers Hall, London Bridge:www.fishhall.org.uk
GCH Fishmongers, Bedford, can also be found on Facebook and Twitter: @GCHfishmongers
Mr Rex Goldsmith- The Chelsea Fishmonger on Twitter :@rexgoldsmith
Gemma and Russell Lambert of M&O Fishmongers Horwich can be found on Facebook and Twitter: @m_o_fishhorwich
Also look on:
@seafishuk & @fishisthedish for great ideas, recipes and competition links.