Fish and Chips

Today I started my first day of exhibitions planning at Gallery Oldham with natural history curator Patricia Francis. The theme for the exhibition, which will be on display some time next year, is fish and fishing. Oldham and surrounding areas were home to a large number of active angling societies during the past two centuries. As a result, the Gallery has a wealth of source material about the history of fishing in Lancashire.

In addition, the collections themselves contain many fish models, specimens, casts and fossils as well as a library of books on fish and angling.

My first task was to search for potential objects and research material using the CALM museum database. After about an hour of searching, I came up with a list of objects and archival material. The Oldham Local Studies and Archives library is across the road from the museums and galleries, so Patricia and I took my list over and I searched for books and pamphlets that might shed more light on the subject.

I also looked through several boxes of fish models. Nearly all of the models were created by the company Edward Gerrard & Sons, naturalists, taxidermists and articulators who operated in London during the 19th century and the first half of the twentieth century. More information can be found on this website, where the following photograph is from:

I set about assessing the condition of the models and whether they would make suitable objects for exhibition. Happily, most of them were in good condition.


A few of the models need minor conservation work, as they are chipped and the plaster is showing. A small chip can be seen on the tail of this model of a rainbow trout.

Speaking of chips, while researching in the archives I came across a few books and archival material on the history of the fish and chip shop. According to John K Walton, author of Fish and Chips and The British Working Class, Oldham lays claim to the birth of the chip in Britain, while the fried fish part of the meal originated in London. Fryer Chatchip proclaimed:

Lancashire was the birthplace of the chipped-potato trade in England as London was the birthplace of fried fish, and just in London the fried-fish trade was carried on for years without potatoes, so in Lancashire was the potato trade…without fish. Londoners are learning to like chipped potatoes, especially those in shops where a Lancashire potato peeler has been installed, and Lancastrians are learnng to like fried fish, especially from those shops where the losses on “spuds” are not transferred to the price of selling fish.

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2 responses to “Fish and Chips

  1. Hi again Gina, long time no post. Glad to see you are still pursuing the dream. I am totally a lady in retirement now but am finding out about possible home based work. [part time] Are you back at college now?

    • Hey Pat!

      Good to hear from you. 🙂 Hope all is well. I’m not at college…my traineeship at Manchester Museum ended in March, so since then I’ve been volunteering and looking for work. I’m also pursuing my AMA qualification, which is work based study.

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