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ciation to the mackarel fisheries, it was the common practice, when a very slack market was expected, to throw all the fish overboard at the mouth of the Thames, a sufficient inducement not being afforded for encountering the hazards and expense of conveying it to London. This practice still prevails with regard to other kinds of fish, and even in the mackarel season which has just closed, immense quantities of them were lost, for the reason that the wind ⚫being unfavourable, many of the fishermen were with their utmost exertions, unable to reach the London market with their fish when in good condition. Two remedies have been proposed for this evil; the one is the establishment of a road from Holy Haven, on the Essex side of the river, for the conveyance of the fish by land carriage, and the other lately suggested is the use of boats to tow the vessels against wind and tide by a steam power. With regard to the former measure, it may be noticed, that the fish is already frequently landed at Gravesend, and brought from thence in machines. Gravesend is, however, nearer the metropolis, and the distance from Holy Haven to Gravesend, though not a very considerable, is sometimes a difficult part of the voyage. The Committee having understood, that the Fish Association were attending to this measure, suspended their consideration of it: this, however, they are now resuming. A serious, though not possibly an insurmountable, obstacle arises from the circumstance, that the Haven is not in the line of any public road; that horses would be wanted for the conveyance of fish only when the wind should be in a degree unfavourable; that when required they might often be so in considerable numbers; and that a new road which should be made, or an old one which should be repaired, would lead to a public road, where post horses cannot be obtained-an obstacle unknown on the Gravesend route.
Steam boats for towing the fishing vessels up the river, is a measure recently brought before the Committee, and to which due attention will be afforded.
The Committee would next notice some circumstances connect ed with the London fish market.
The London fish market appears to have been, in early times, at Queenhithe. The spot seems, however, to have suited the convenience of the public, more than that of the fishermen. In the eleventh year of the reign of King Henry III. (1226), the constable of the tower was ordered to compel the boats arriving with fish to proceed to the market at Queenhithe; and Edward IV. in the third year of his reign (1462), directed that two out of three vessels arriving with fish, should proceed to the niarket at Queenhithe, that the other should remain at Billingsgate, and preference be always shewn to the market at the former place. At that early NŮ. XII. Pum. VOL. VI 2 N
period, when the population of London appears not to have been a twenty-fourth part of its present amount, the metropolis was therefore furnished with two fish markets. The market at Queenhithe has been wholly discontinued, probably for some centuries, and it is not known that any other attempt has been made to establish a second market for fish, except that near Westminster Bridge. The latter was opened under the authority of an Act, 22nd Geo. II. for the amendment of which a Bill was brought in,, which was lost, and two Acts were passed, one in the thirtysecond, and another in the thirty-ninth year of that reign. The inhabitants of Westminster were extremely anxious for the success of the measure. It excited much interest, and underwent abundance of discussion. It appears, however, never fully to have taken effect, and its failure was at the time attributed to the difficulty which the fishermen had to encounter from the variations of the tide, the fall of water at London Bridge, and the increase of dis
That all the fish for the supply of this great metropolis, should have so long continued to be brought to a place in size so completely unfit for the purpose as Billingsgate market, is unaccountable. The crowding and confusion prevailing there, during the early hours of sale, are not to be described; the injurious effect of this inconvenience to the interests of the fisheries and the public, will however be readily understood. The fish is sold in a kind of auction: the place is completely forbidden ground to all unaccustomed to combat with its difficulties: many salesmen are scarcely able in the general scramble to seize a spot at which to sell their fish, and some are ready to resign their engagements, despairing of relief from this intolerable inconvenience.
The spot occupied by the fish stalls and standings is a small contracted slip of ground, of sufficient breadth only to permit one row of them on each side of it, and leave a narrow passage for purchasers. There are houses on one side of this place, the owners of which claim the exclusive right of all the adjoining standings; and would thus convert into private property one entire half of that part of the market which is appropriated to sales. A small part of it is unavoidably applied to other general purposes. The consequence of the fearful crowding and tumult unavoidably arising is, that the salesman is compelled to sell the fish in a random manner, with a preference to any one who will buy a large proportion, and thus a system of regrating is established clearly injurious in its effect, and of which the Public are probably little aware. There is a numerous set of persons who attend Billingsgate, passing under the quaint appellation of "Bomarees," whose business it is to watch all the favourable opportunities of the market, and to in
terpose their dealings between the salesmen and the fishmongers, as the variations of it shall render expedient. They are generally very active and expert, and are frequently the most successful in occupying stations of sale, while many of the regular salesmen are absolutely thrust out of it. The salesmen whose business is not considerable are thus particularly inconvenienced. These intermediate dealers are the persons who are expected to buy large quantities of fish, which in the general tumult it is contended would otherwise be sold with great difficulty. The fishmongers purchase to a great amount of these persons, who of course charge them precisely the prices which their dexterity has been able to promote. When the supply is very scanty their opportunities of bargaining are proportionably multiplied; and when it is not so there is often an unequal competition between them and the fishmongers, who, when they are offering a price for a small quantity, will be superseded by a "Bomaree," proposing a larger purchase. The market is under the superintendance of the city of London, whose officers attend it, and hold situations there of expensive purchase and considerable gain, derived from fees greatly augmented by the attendance of the irregular dealers above noticed. These persons are perhaps very successful in concealing the nature of their pursuits, for it is certainly understood to be the duty of the officers to prevent these practices; and some years since a regulation was enforced that they should not commence their sales before ten o'clock, which is after the fishmongers have generally completed their purchases.
The first object to which at this point the Committee directed their attention, was that of increasing the size of the present market, or of removing it to some contiguous spot of suitable dimensions. The fire at the late Custom-house seemed to afford a place in every respect fit for the purpose. It is understood to be held by the Crown at a fee farm rent. The measure has been laid before his Majesty's Government, has been received with the accustomed attention, and is now under their consideration. The profits actually derived by the corporation of London amount, it is believed, to the sum of but from 60l. to 70%. per annum. The multiplication of shops and standings for the sale of fish, within that ample range, the proportionate increase of any fees that may be due to the City, as the regular supervisors, on account of them, the various advantages which would thus be derived by the fishermen, the salesmen, the retailers, and the community at large, awaken the greatest anxiety that no trifling obstacles should supersede this great improvement.
The Committee having thus noticed two material impediments to the supply of fish in London, proceed to consider some circum
stances relative to its consumption affecting the metropolis, and the country in general, and the endeavours they have made on that subject. From the intimate connexion between the demand and the supply, this has been, however, in some degree anticipated.
There is no sort of public or general arrangement for the distribution of fish on its arrival, at the few yards of ground appro priated for the market at Billingsgate. A fishmonger residing near it may have the fish that he has purchased taken to his shop by the inconvenient method of hiring a porter. If it be at a distance, he must constantly employ a horse and cart, and no one unable to incur that expense, should attempt to open a fish shop far from the market. The poor walking dealers frequently after traversing a distance of two or three miles to this general resort, find there is no supply within their reach, and thus have to return with the loss probably of the earnings of an entire day. The The indispensable necessity of a constant outlet for all the fish brought to the market, renders the dealings of these persons of serious importance to the Public, particularly in distributing the fish in the metropolis, when the supply happens to be excessive. Indeed, the utility of encouraging and increasing the number of these little retailers, seems to be universally acknowledged. The Committee have, therefore, by no means considered it beneath their notice to afford them some assistance suited to their situation, and the result has fully induced them to persevere in doing so.'
An application, on the subject of a supply of fish, was lately made to the Committee, from some respectable individuals residing in the parish of Pancras, and in the northern parts of that of St. Mary-le-bone, who stated, that throughout a very large district in that quarter of immense population, fish was scarcely ever to be obtained; fishmongers not having been inclined to open shops at so remote a distance from the market. It was suggested to them, that one or more large depots might be formed there, and be supplied with fish by caravans, to be forwarded from Billingsgate, in quantities proportioned to the prices and supply for the day; and that such arrangements as to the prices of sale at these stations might be made, as might render them an accommodation to retail dealers choosing to resort thither, as well as a general benefit to
The method adopted was that of purchasing some asses and panniers to let to them at a trifling sum for hire, under the superintendance of one of the servants of the Institution, and it may be useful to state, that benevolent persons wishing to assist any poor individuals, and who will engage for their honesty, may in this way materially serve them, and benefit the Public. On application to the Secretary, he would give the necessary instructions to the superintendant of that little concern. Parish officers, and masters of work houses might thus very usefully employ many poor persons, who are now unfortunately but a burthen to the community.
the inhabitants. They were informed, that the Committee were ready to supply them at the cost prices, as soon as they should be prepared to receive the fish. It will shortly be seen, from what the Committee has done on the same principle in country places, that the measure is clearly practicable, and that if the inhabitants of the parts before mentioned, or any parts alike contiguous to the metropolis, should still remain unsupplied with fish of the best quality, and on very moderate terms, it will really be only for the reason that sufficient zeal does not exist to raise a trifling fund in order to commence operations, and provide for contingences, and to take a little trouble of superintendance and arrangement. The Committee repeat, that they are quite ready to afford a supply of fresh and salt fish on the above principle, to any parts adjoining the metropolis which are now unfurnished with that article of food.
The fish obtained, by persons resident in the country, is little more than that which a person calling himself a fishmonger, purchases generally from some London fishmonger, for a gentleman's table, in fulfilment of a particular order, or which is less frequently the case, it is that which is bought for such an occasion directly of the London fishmonger. Thus to the price at the market is added the usual profit of the London fishmonger, with that addition which the professed dealer in the country finds it necessary to make for the trouble of an occasional order, so that their fish may generally be considered as forbidden food. The Committee were informed by the clergymen of one of the midland county towns, that fish was as great a rarity with them, as in the interior of the Continent.
The natural anxiety of the fishermen to press with their cargoes to the London market, and the disqualification of these persons, and in truth, for the most part, of the body of dealers in fish, both personal and circumstantial, to produce any considerable improvement in the trade, have been already noticed. The latter must serve as a reason for the singular fact, that, notwithstanding the comparative greatness of the London supply, and that the country is so very scantily provided with that food, no particular exertions had been made for forwarding it thither by land carriage. The steps which the Committe have taken for promoting this object they proceed to mention.
It may, perhaps, be useful to premise, that the first attempt made for the conveyance of fish by land carriage, was by Captain Blake, at the commencement of the reign of his present Majesty. That active persevering friend of the fisheries caused several fish machines to be constructed at his own expense, and shops to be opened at all the principal markets in London, to which fish from Torbay, and various sea-ports, were conveyed for sale. The under