Harry Ramsden's Famous Fish and Chips

A British Tradition

The Taste and the Aroma

How would the British manage without their beloved fish and chips? Afterall, they’ve been eating them for one hundred and fifty years!

To eat fish and chips out of a small, rectangular, white paper bag protected by plain white paper and then wrapped in a second layer of white paper, is a British way of life and steeped in tradition!

Steaming hot chunky chips of all shapes and sizes soaked in vinegar and sprinkled with salt is a treat for anyone, whether you are British or a foreign tourist trying to get to grips with all things British.

 You can detect the location of a chip shop by that telltale chip shop ‘aroma’ half way down the road.  In the past you knew your hands would soon be black with newsprint but today plain white paper has been substituted for Health and Safety reasons! So, gone are the days of reading the headlines whilst enjoying the substantial portions of fish and chips whilst walking home. Still they  seem to taste better in the open air.

Today, it is surprising to learn that this real British culture is one hundred and fifty years oldFish and ChipsCredit: geograph.org.uk.

Early Beginnings

            Joseph Malin opened the first fried fish and chip shop in London in 1860 whilst the first chip shop in the North of England stood on the present site of Oldham’s Tommyfield Market. Early fish and chip shops were understandably basic. A huge pot of cooking fat was heated on a coal fire. The smell it evoked caused the authorities to label the trade as ‘offensive’.

In 1896 Samuel Isaacs opened a fish restaurant in London. The fish and chips, bread and butter and pot of tea that he served have been a tradition still in evidence in many seaside towns today although the price is more than the original 9 pence! From simple beginnings Isaacs began to carpet his restaurants, have waiters, tablecloths, cutlery and flowers. The working class could begin to afford dining out. As well as in the surrounding districts of London, restaurants began to spring up in southern seaside resorts and it is on the coast that these restaurants have retained their popularity. Isaac’s trademark was ‘This is the Plaice’.

During World War II fish and chips were not rationed and became popular again, particularly as it was a very satisfying meal in times of hardship.

The famous Harry Ramsden

Moving northwards, the mention of fish and chips generates the famous name of Harry Ramsden who, in 1928, started his business in a wooden hut in White Cross, Guiseley, West Yorkshire. The original hut still stands on the same site as the main restaurant, which is the largest fish and chip shop in the world, seating 250 people.Harry Ramsden's Famous Fish and Chip Restaurant, GuiseleyCredit: geograph.org.uk

More to offer

As the decades rolled by, different batters for the fish began to emerge. Simple flour and water is the traditional batter but now there are milk or beer batters, which are liquid substitutes for the water usually used. The alcohol is cooked off so little remains when it gets to the table! There is far more variety of fish available too, such as pollock or coley, plaice or skate although cod and haddock are still popular. It makes ordering fish and chips just a little more complicated but no less enjoyable and may be a cheaper alternative!  And, of course, there is always the accompaniment of mushy peas but, again, baked beans may be your preference. 

More Recent Events and Announcements

At the end oHarry Ramsden's Famous Fish and Chip Restaurant, Guiseley(83528)Credit: geograph.org.ukf 2011, news was released that the original Harry Ramsden's would close as it was not a sound profit making outlet. The news was met with great sadness as Harry Ramsden's Fish and Chips hold a place in the heart of many Britons.

However, an announcement has just been made that a buyer has been found. Wetherby Whaler Group, a family owned business have bought Harry Ramsden's and will spend £500,000 to restore it to its former glory days. The famous chandeliers will be updated and the original hut will remain as a reminder that Harry Ramsden's is a significant Yorkshire landmark. It will be Whaler's flagship restaurant.

It is scheduled to be completed by Summer 2012.

So, when you next visit the fish n’ chip shop just ponder awhile and remember, your descendants may have done something similar a century and a half ago! Not much changes really, only the cost!