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Pair of Smokehouses

A Grade II Listed Building in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.76 / 55°45'36"N

Longitude: -1.996 / 1°59'45"W

OS Eastings: 400346

OS Northings: 651850

OS Grid: NU003518

Mapcode National: GBR G1HV.N1

Mapcode Global: WH9YK.9HR4

Entry Name: Pair of Smokehouses

Listing Date: 17 March 2011

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1242923

English Heritage Legacy ID: 507247

Location: Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, TD15

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Berwick-upon-Tweed

Built-Up Area: Berwick-upon-Tweed

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Spittal St John the Evangelist

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle

Find accommodation in
Tweedmouth

Description

622/0/10084

Spittal
SANDSTELL ROAD
Pair of Smokehouses

17-MAR-11

II
A pair of smokehouses, likely to have been constructed as herring stores in the early-C19 and converted shortly after 1843.

MATERIALS:
The external walls are of coursed rubble sandstone construction with quoins, while the internal wall is of brick. The gabled roof is of pan tiles to the north face, corrugated sheeting to the south.

PLAN:
These buildings form part of a complex bounded to the south west by Dock Road, Sandstell Road to the south east and tracks to the north and north east. They are rectangular in plan with their principal elevation facing into the yard, accessed from the north. They are abutted by a single-storey structure to the east and a later, identical height former smokehouse to the west.

EXTERIOR:
These two smokehouses are of one build and quoined at either end. Together they form four bays, three of which are related to the eastern smokehouse which has three entrances with wooden doors and lintels; the outer two have quoined windows with sandstone lintels above. The western of the two smokehouses has one door and window matching those to the east. The two right hand entrances are quoined; the other two are unclear as the stonework has either been painted over or obscured by vegetation. The doors are likely to be of early-C20 date and will have acted as internal doors to the former shed which stood on this side of the range before the 1980s. The openings themselves appear to be original except for possibly the central opening to the eastern smokehouse; this does not appear to match the others in height, dressings or relationship to a window. There is also evidence of three window lintels at eaves height, matching the alignment of those to the south-facing elevation. A line of truncated corrugated iron set into the wall indicates the line of the former shed roof. The south facing Sandstell Road elevation is rendered; the only visible openings here are three blocked eaves windows. The north east gable end is visible above the single storey attached structure; this is blind, unrendered and retains its quoins.

INTERIOR:
The two smokehouses are divided by a brick wall, while a modern breezeblock wall has been inserted to divide the eastern smokehouse in two. The east section of this was inaccessible due to vegetation, although the level of survival is believed to match the remainder of the buildings. These retain their wooden frames with the majority of their side rails for resting the tenter sticks (where the fish were hung). There are two voids to the western smokehouse and two to the west section of the eastern smokehouse; that adjacent to the breezeblock wall may have been related to the first void in the blocked off section. The blocked windows to the south wall appear to retain their louvers to at least the accessible section of the eastern smokehouse.

HISTORY:
By the C18 and early C19 Britain had possibly the world's largest fishing industry around its coast. It became a major form of commerce in the north east as cities such as Newcastle and South Shields developed, with markets and small communities thriving as important centres for fishing and fish processing. The low cost of herring made it a staple source of food for the poor and the scale of operations to support this demand was large; during the C19 and early C20 herring yards were found in practically every town and village along the north east coast. In the Berwick area a small proportion of fresh fish was sold to local buyers in the daily fish markets while the remainder were pickled, or from the mid-C19 smoked, and transported to markets elsewhere.

The curing of herring was already undertaken on a large scale in Tweedmouth by the end of the C18, but during the C19 Spittal became the main centre of production. Parson's and White's Directory of 1827 states that there were six herring houses in Spittal for curing red and white herrings, whereas none are mentioned for Tweedmouth. It therefore appears the majority of the herring curing trade had migrated prior to this date. During the C19 many of the inhabitants of Spittal were employed in fish-curing yards preparing, pickling and smoking herring or as coopers for the export trade to Europe.

The Berwick Pier Railway map of 1824 shows the whole of the present site built up, situated about twenty metres or so from Spittal's former quay and jetty, and in the ownership or occupancy of Mr Boag. This is likely to be the Mr Boag of George Boag & Co., herring curers of Spittal as listed in the Pigot & Co. directory of 1822. George Boag continues to be listed as a herring curer and/or cooper in the Trade Directory entries for Spittal up until 1855, at which point he is replaced by Robert Boston, previously unmentioned, who appears to have taken over Mr Boag's interests between 1847 and 1855. It is likely these buildings were converted into smokehouses around the time Robert Boston took over the business, after the successful introduction of kippering to the herring curing market in 1843. Robert Boston's (known as Boston Brothers by the early C20) went on to become the largest fish processing establishment in Spittal, employing up to 100 workers at its peak. There was a sharp decline of the herring business along the east coast in the 1920s and 30s, causing the bankruptcy of many firms during this period. This included the Boston Brothers firm which fragmented and led to the three brothers continuing with their own individual companies; one of these, R. Boston & Sons, retained ownership of these buildings. The properties were rented to the Berwick Shellfish Company until the 1980s, after which point they were left empty and used for storage purposes only.

SOURCES:
The Berwick Directory (1806) 154, held at Berwick-upon-Tweed Record Office
Cowe, F.M., Berwick-upon-Tweed: A Short Historical Guide (1984) 54-56
Good's Directory (1806)
Hay, G.D., Stell, G.P., Monuments of Industry: an illustrated historical record (1986) 26-29
Kelly's Directory of Northumberland (1914), accessed 27-Jan-2010 via www.historicaldirectories.org
Menuge, A, Dewar, C Berwick-upon-Tweed: Three places, two nations, one town (2009) 58
Menuge, A & Withey, M, `Berwick-upon-Tweed, Tweedmouth and Spittal Rapid Character Assessment'. Architectural Investigation Division Report Series B/013/2005, unpublished, (2005), English Heritage, 61, 66-68
Parson's and White's Directory (1827) 345 & 494, held at Berwick-upon-Tweed Record Office
Pigot and Co.'s National Commercial Directory (1822) 575, held at Berwick-upon-Tweed Record Office
Pigot and Co.'s National Commercial Directory (1834) 572, held at Berwick-upon-Tweed Record Office
Pigot and Co.'s National Commercial Directory for 1828-9, accessed 27-Jan-2010 via www.historicaldirectories.org
Robson's Directory (1841) 40, held at Berwick-upon-Tweed Record Office
Slater's Royal National Commercial Directory of the Northern Counties Vol. 1: Durham, Northumberland and Yorkshire, accessed 27-Jan-2010 via www.historicaldirectories.org
Tyne & Wear Museums `The Fishing Industry and Fishing Communities of the North East'. Retrieved on 22-Sep-2009 from http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/fishtales/index.html
Universal British Directory (1792) 285, held at Berwick-upon-Tweed Record Office
White's Directory (1847) 725, held at Berwick-upon-Tweed Record Office
White, W, Eastern England from the Thames to the Humber, Volume 1 (1865) 144-147

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
This pair of smokehouses are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Date: these buildings were constructed in the early-C19 and through their early conversion to kipper smokehouses are good representations of influential mid-C19 developments in the fish curing trade
* Intactness: they retain their internal timber framework and the majority of their original openings, which for smokehouses of this early date especially is increasingly rare on a national basis
* Historic: the commercial scale of these smokehouses acts as a reminder of the once predominant herring yards of the north east coast, the surviving remnants of which indicate the commercial significance of this region's fishing industry within the national context

Reasons for Listing

This pair of smokehouses on Sandstell Road, Spittal, of early C19 origins, are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Date: these buildings were constructed in the early C19 and through their early conversion to kipper smokehouses are good representations of influential mid-C19 developments in the fish curing trade
* Intactness: they retain their internal timber framework and the majority of their original openings, which for smokehouses of this early date especially is increasingly rare on a national basis
* Historic: the commercial scale of these smokehouses acts as a reminder of the once predominant herring yards of the north east coast, the surviving remnants of which indicate the commercial significance of this region's fishing industry within the national context

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