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Former Fish Smoke House

A Grade II Listed Building in Alexandra, Suffolk

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.0557 / 52°3'20"N

Longitude: 1.1569 / 1°9'24"E

OS Eastings: 616527

OS Northings: 244403

OS Grid: TM165444

Mapcode National: GBR TMW.598

Mapcode Global: VHLBT.0LFG

Entry Name: Former Fish Smoke House

Listing Date: 8 November 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1410194

Location: Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4

County: Suffolk

District: Ipswich

Electoral Ward/Division: Alexandra

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Ipswich

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk

Church of England Parish: Ipswich St Mary-le-Tower

Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich

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Summary

Former fish smoke house dating to the last quarter of the C19.

Description

MATERIALS: red brick and pantiles.

PLAN: small building, square on plan, with a lean-to on the north and east sides.

EXTERIOR: the tall smoke house has a pitched roof and, on the north gable end, a projecting chimney with a circular pot. On the south and east sides the lower part of the building, just above the lean-to, have been rendered; and underneath the lean-to, the brick has been whitewashed. On the east side is a thick, refrigerator door clad in vertical timbers with two strap hinges. Above this is a timber hatch door, also with strap hinges. On the same side above the lean-to is another similar, but smaller, hatch door. The south side has two small openings, one about half way up and the other just below the gable. The north side has two openings similarly placed, on either side of the chimney. The west side is not visible. The single-storey brick lean-to has timber rafters clad in corrugated iron.

INTERIOR: the building is now used as a storage room and the floor appears to have been covered in concrete. A low ceiling has been inserted but through the access hatch can be seen the smoke-blackened brick and the timber hanging racks which appear to survive intact.

History

The fish-curing works was built in the last quarter of the C19 in the back yard of a fishmonger’s shop which closed in the mid-1990s. Auction particulars from April 1876 include a plan which shows that there were no buildings on the plot at that date. The first edition Ordnance Survey (OS) map of 1884 depicts a building facing onto Tacket Street and a number of small buildings to the rear. There is a building on the site of the smoke house but it appears to have a slighter larger footprint. The second edition OS map of 1904 shows the same footprint as the current map which indicates that the lean-to had probably been erected around the smoke house by this date. The lower level of the smoke house was later converted into a fridge/ cold store, but has more recently been used for storage.

There were two main methods of curing fish with smoke. After being gutted and soaked in barrels of brine, the fish were attached onto long sticks called speets. These were suspended tier by tier on vertical timbers called loves (pronounced loaves) and then exposed to the fumes of smouldering oak chippings on the floor. The wood fire was dampened with sawdust to create smoke as naked flames would cook rather than smoke the fish. The other main method used smoking pits around two feet deep with racks suspended above. This produced hot smoked fish ready to eat. The unusual presence of the chimney on the smoke house in Tacket Street indicates that another method may have been used. Smoke houses with a chimney have an underground flue which opens in the middle of the floor under a stone table. There are apertures in the chimney which are opened and closed by valves to regulate the smoke released in the house. The advantage of this method is that the smoke is considerably cooled before it is admitted and eliminates any ash rising with the smoke. There is insufficient evidence in the smoke house in Tacket Street to know which of these methods was used.

Reasons for Listing

The former fish smoke house is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
*Rarity: it is a significant survival of a late C19 small-scale commercial fish smoke house, a once common but now increasingly rare building type. Most smoke houses of this late date were on a larger, industrial scale so the survival of a small smoke house on such a modest commercial scale is particularly unusual;
*Intactness: it is a well-preserved example with surviving wooden racks attached to the smoke-blackened brick walls, thereby directly illustrating the industrial process;
*Historic interest: it is a rare remnant of the east coast herring industry in Ipswich.

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