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Founder's great-granddaughter takes over long-running fish and chip shop

PUBLISHED: 10:21 10 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:32 15 January 2020

Alanna French becomes the fourth generation of her family in Wells' fish and chip shop French's as she becomes manager, pictured with her dad, Marcus, managing director. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Alanna French becomes the fourth generation of her family in Wells' fish and chip shop French's as she becomes manager, pictured with her dad, Marcus, managing director. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2020

It is an almost century-old business born out of a wartime love affair with Norfolk.

Fish and chips at French's, Wells' fish and chip shop. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYFish and chips at French's, Wells' fish and chip shop. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

And now seaside chippy French's, based in Wells, is marking another milestone after its founder's 25-year-old great-granddaughter took over the running of the family business earlier this month.

Based on the quay, the multi-award-winning fish and chip shop was first opened in the town by William Thomas French in 1919.

Following his death in the late 1970s, it was then passed on to his sons Maurice and Reggie French, who later left it to Maurice's son Marcus French in 1984.

Marcus, now aged 60, has been behind the fryer since the age of 11 and learnt all of the tricks of the trade from his father, as well as the family's secret batter recipe which is still used today.

French's, Wells' fish and chip shop. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYFrench's, Wells' fish and chip shop. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Now the time has come for the business to change hands once again, with the responsibility being passed to one of Marcus' two daughters, Alanna French.

Excited for the new challenge ahead, the former nurse said it was heartwarming to be able to keep the family business going.

"I thought it would be quite sad if the business went out of the family," she said.

"I am looking forward to implementing some of my new ideas and taking over the reins.

French's Fish & Chip Shop is almost 100 years old. It is pictured here in its early days.  Picture: Matthew Usher.French's Fish & Chip Shop is almost 100 years old. It is pictured here in its early days. Picture: Matthew Usher.

"I would like to update the shop and we are also getting a new range in March. This will allow us to serve more gluten-free items on the menu. We would also like to increase our vegan and vegetarian menu but we will also continue to be a traditional fish and chip shop too."

VIDEO: Norfolk fish and chip shop one of top 20 in country

French's Fish & Chip Shop has been on Wells Quay for almost 100 years.French's Fish & Chip Shop has been on Wells Quay for almost 100 years.

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Miss French also has a one-year-old daughter, Taya, and said it would be lovely to see the business passed down to a fifth generation in the French family.

The shop itself originally opened in the front of the building with a coal fire range and also sold fresh fish. Slowly it expanded over what was originally three separate cottages to become what it is today.

Mr French added: "During the Second World War, fish and chip shops were not rationed and after the war it was boom town for them. In its heyday it is estimated there were thousands and thousands of chip shops but now it's down to about 10,000.

Alanna French becomes the fourth generation of her family in Wells' fish and chip shop French's as she becomes manager, pictured with her dad, Marcus, managing director. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAlanna French becomes the fourth generation of her family in Wells' fish and chip shop French's as she becomes manager, pictured with her dad, Marcus, managing director. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

"It still remains one of Britain's favourite dishes and we still use my granddad's recipe for the batter.

"We are very lucky to have our shop in such a lovely place."

A brief history of French's

After visiting Wells in 1914 and meeting his future wife Blanche, William Thomas French vowed that if he survived the First World War then he would return to the seaside town and set up a business.

He tried unsuccessfully in 1919, and returned to his hometown Tamworth, Staffordshire.

But by 1921, his father-in-law, Mr Hawes, had found a property opposite the town's bank and soon French's was born.

By 1925, William was offered another business on the quay - which is where the chippy remains today - and for a while ran both shops.

When the couple's sons Maurice and Reginald returned from National Service, they gradually took over the business until Reggie's death in 1984. Due to Maurice's ill health, he handed the business over to his son, Marcus.

Next year, French's marks its 100 year anniversary - making it one of the longest running business founded in Wells.

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