End of an era beckons for Lowestoft fish market

06:30 29 March 2011

Lowestoft Fish Market. Fish merchants (from left) Lionel Roberts, Richard Masterson  and Gary Roberts. Photo: Andy Darnell

Lowestoft Fish Market. Fish merchants (from left) Lionel Roberts, Richard Masterson and Gary Roberts. Photo: Andy Darnell

Archant © 2011

It used to be a bustling hive of activity as hundreds of trawlers unloaded their catches to be scrutinised carefully by large gangs of fish merchants.

In the 19th century and even up until the 1980s, Lowestoft fish market was well known for its landings of herring and cod, caught in huge numbers.

Since, then dwindling numbers of trawlers have unloaded at the port as declining fishstocks and strict quotas on catches have forced fishermen to have up their nets and lines.

And now the death knell looks as though it has finally sounded for Lowestoft fish market and its remaining handful of fish merchants.

They say have been told that their tenancies may not be renewed in two year’s time by site owner Associated British Ports (ABP).

The move is forcing the remaining three merchants to consider moving to new premises away from the seafront.

It is a tough decision for the fish merchants, many of whom have been in family-run businesses since they were 14-year-olds in the 1960s.

Once they move, a significant aspect of the Lowestoft’s proud maritime heritage will end.

Fish merchants claim that ABP wants them out of the European-funded fish market building so they can be replaced by richer, renewable energy companies.

ABP has insisted that it has not talked to any renewable energy company about moving to the offices of the fish merchants – although it did admit that any new tenant could boost the town’s economy.

Richard Masterson, of William Masterson & Son, started working for his father in the 1960s.

Now 64, he employs four people and says he will be sad to his see business relocating several miles away from the dock.

Mr Masterson said: “Like the proverbial fish, I will be gutted when we move. This has been in the air for two or three years.

“There is nothing like being at the dock when the fish arrive and that feeling will be lost.”

Brothers Lionel, 58, and Gary Roberts, 56, have worked for their family-run business, L G Roberts, since they were both 14. The business employs a total of seven people who sort through, gut and pack cod, skate, whiting and herring.

The older brother said: “If you think about Lowestoft, you think about the fish dock and market. The two used to go hand in hand.

“At one point you used to see 100 trawlers and fishing boats here and the market would be packed. Now you just see two or three fishing boats. It is sad to see.

“We are looking at moving to another location - but it I have to say it is quite depressing to think of doing that.”

As the Roberts brothers discussed their situation, they were visited by Lowestoft-based fisherman Ian Lowe who operates the Western Lady and brings all of his catch to the market.

Mr Lowe said the end of the fish market mirrored what was happening in the region’s small fishing fleet which was struggling to make a living due to quotas.

He said: “This is another case of the industry being decimated. Soon there will nothing left to say this was part of the one of the most important fishing towns in the country.”

All of the merchants’ tenancy agreements include a six-month termination clause with ABP, which operates ports at King’s Lynn, Ipswich, Grimsby and Hull.

Roger Arundale, ABP deputy port manager for East Anglia, said other ports were seeing a move away from fish docks as the industry was declining and space was at a premium due to the emergence of new industries.

He said: “We have not spoken to any other party about moving into the fish market offices. But you have to take that in the context that the fishing industry is declining.

“Obviously it would be said to see the fish market go as the port of Lowestoft was built on the fishing industry.

“But the future for Lowestoft and its port is a very positive one.”

Visit to see a picture gallery of more images of the fish market past and present.

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  • The enforced departure (from Lowestoft fish market) of the remaining fish merchants is sorry news indeed. There will be many different views on these matters, but but with the march of time and modern developments, the demise of the industry seems inevitable nonetheless. As an electrician working in and around Lowestoft I often had occasion to visit and work on the fish market, and I can well remember the busy atmosphere on and around the dock. Many Lowestoft lads of my age (70) will have had family connections with the town fishing business, and I am no exception. My grandfather was George Breach and he and several other members of his family owned and worked fishing vessels during the 20s30s. However, there are individuals and heritage organisations in Lowestoft that seek to preserve the memories of the port and the Beach Village, and this is fortunate.

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    N L Bland

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

  • Since being pushed into the EU this all round workforce of people connected to the fish industry has been cut cut cut. Such another terrible shame on our polititions for not backing our fishing industry, not one of the top three political parties has shown any bite in saving this industry and not just in Lowestoft. Sincerely hope everyone concerned remembers this when next they vote, as the EU is NOT beneficial only to those with their snouts in the trough.

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    Paul Platten

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

  • The morning I left Lowestoft for Australia I visited the fish market to see my brother Bill Quantrill who had just landed. It was packed with boats and very vibrant. My husband family was also connected with the industry, Great Grandfather Belton owned the boats 'Boy Alan' and 'Nil Desperandum'. When visiting Lt in 2009 I was devastated at not even being able to visit the fish market, where my brothers Bill and Frank and my father Jimmy (Shorty) Quantrill worked. Please don't let your history be lost.

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    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

  • It is a massive shame that this industry is dying out. How something like this can be allowed to happen is beyond me. The band that I'm in, Crumbs For Comfort, wrote a song called "Lowestoft Bay" that's all about the decline of the industry. Here are the lyrics: Rolling hills mean nothing to us The sea is where we belong It's brine, not blood, that runs through our veins By Lowestoft Bay we were born There's been a port here For hundreds of years And as we leave the harbour We will remember a better time On Autumn waves we sailed out with A fleet of a thousand boats strong For many days we'd go to sea For the "Silver Darlings" we would trawl Then on landing the catch we'd send it all on To the Scotswomen down in the Scores And the Triangle Tavern Is where we spent all of our best times We could see them Leaving this old port Trawlers and drifters are leaving here Coming to Lowestoft Bay no more We could see them Leaving from the shore Trawlers and drifters are leaving here Coming to Lowestoft Bay no more There are rules to obey, when we catch too much We must throw the dead back overboard And as we head for home we will lament A fleet leaving for Holland's shores So come all ye longliners, man your boats And bate those lines once again And for lives that were lost St Margarets is where we remember We could see them Leaving this old port Trawlers and drifters are leaving here Coming to Lowestoft Bay no more We could see them Leaving from the shore Trawlers and drifters are leaving here Coming to Lowestoft Bay no more We will stay here And we'll carry on Getting ready to set sail again Mariners we are forever more We could see them Leaving from the shore Trawlers and drifters are leaving here Coming to Lowestoft Bay no more No more


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    Alex Brown

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

  • that is so sad! I remember the 1960's! Lowestoft will never be the same again!

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    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site


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