150 years of Fish and Chips

2010 marked the 150th anniversary of one of Britain’s most popular foods – fish and chips.

The first shops to sell Fish and Chips opened in 1860, one in London, the other in Lancashire. Each of the ingredients had existed separately for some time prior but got together in 1860 to make the perfect partnership.

From those humble beginning, the popularity of fish and chips has escalated so that today there are more than 10,000 fish and chip shops in Britain, and tens of thousands of others can be found around the world, wherever the British Empire left its mark.

According to the British National Federation of Fish Friers more than 14% of Britons eat fish and chips at least twice a week, and last year over 300 millions servings were sold in the UK.

There is some debate over who exactly opened the first chippie, as the Brits call purveyors of fries fish flesh and potatoes.  Historians accept that the first fish and chip shop was opened by Joseph Malin in 1860 in London’s Cleveland Street. However, Lancashire also lays claim to having invented the famous meal. Certainly the first fish and chips recorded in the North were sold in 1863 by John Lees from a wooden hut in the market at Mossley, near Oldham.

Well before the mid-19th century chips had become a staple food of the industrial North of England, while fried fish had been introduced to London’s East End much earlier in the century. In 1839 Charles Dickens referred to the “fried fish warehouse” in Oliver Twist.

By World War I, the industry had positioned fish and chips as a patriotic dish, and in the 1930s Harry Ramsden became the first to sell it to richer clients in his Yorkshire restaurant, which grew into a national chain.

In a 2008 poll, fish and chips was voted above the queen as the thing Britons best love about Britain, while lawmakers celebrated its birthday this year with a motion proclaiming it as “at the heart of British culture”. Meanwhile, Rock and Sole Plaice, which claims to be the oldest chippie in London, is on the capital’s tourist trail and serves up to 2,000 portions a day, largely to foreigners.

Fish and chips may even have environmental benefits, as it has been discovered that you can convert used cooking oil from chippies into fuel to power cars, so that in the future, chippies may supply fuel to power both people and their cars.

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