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THE HERRING FISHERY OF
take place. The ferry-boats are about to be
launched, and the sturdy beachmen, leaving the YARMOUTH.
watching-rooms, are wending their way across the On a fine, clear, bracing morning in the month of sands, each to his proper place. With the strength October, nothing can be more pleasant to a person in of an ox, each man bears his part, and the heavy robust health than to stroll down to the broad beach ferry-boat, quitting the beach, soon makes her way at Yarmouth, and witness the landing of the fish. through the surf, and, being pulled along-side the The visitor unacquainted with the town, when he fishing-lugger that has just arrived in the roadfirst reaches the jetty, perceives few indications stead, the first anxious inquiry is, “What fish have that mercantile transactions of any importance are you got?” It may be that few boats have come about to take place. He probably sees here and in, and that the catch is but short. A signal is there a few stragglers, indolently pacing up and telegraphed ashore, intelligible enough to those down indulging in familiar chat, while his olfactory who are in the secret, but of no import to the nerves will be regaled by fumes from what Cowper uninitiated. calls “the noxious weed," but which is too com- Our stranger now begins to think that at last monly regarded as redolent with fragrance by those something is about to take place, and is not in the who inhale it in the teeth of a north-easter. While least degree insensible to the fact that the wind has peering about in search of adventure, our visitor's made its way through his broad-cloth wrappers, attention is attracted by the anxious gaze of some which he finds by no means warm enough for the weather-beaten tar, whose spy-glass is in frequent climate, especially should he not happen to have requisition, sweeping the horizon. On the beach broken his morning's fast. His ear at length he may see here and there a heap of “swills," so catches the sound of a bell, which he had not before carelessly placed that they look as if they had been noticed, in obedience to which the stragglers are left there by the preceding tide. Presently he dis- all wending towards the spot thus indicated. A covers that the tall post, which only a few minutes quantity of wash-tubs, accompanied, too, by seveago looked like the dismantled spar of some sunken ral women, induces the gentleman to think that, vessel, has now the British flag flying from its top, instead of a fish sale, he is going to witness a grand and on inquiry he learns that it is hoisted for the washing fête, or perhaps it is about to be decided purpose of indicating that a sale of fish will shortly who shall be the queen of the suds. But while
wondering where all the warm water is to come of an old-fashioned yard-wand or candle-rod, quite from, and where the clothes are that are to be apart from each other. They are then hung bewashed, his dreams are suddenly dissipated by some tween small rafters called " loves,” which rise in half-dozen beachmen emptying into the tubs the tiers one above another, beginning at six or eight swills of fish they have just landed, and covering feet from the ground, up to near the roof, where them over.
the tiles are so laid as to insure ventilation. They At this juncture the salesman again pulls his are smoked from 12 to 36 hours, according to the bell, and having mounted upon a small projecting length of time they are required to keep. After this footboard or rostrum attached to the post, he begins they are taken down, packed in hampers or barrels, to harangue the bystanders on the scarcity and and sent to market for consumption. consequent value of the finny strangers who have More care, however, and longer time, are requirjust honoured them with a visit. They are all good ed for preparing fish for a foreign market. In this plump fresh fish, and he invites them to offer him case they are sometimes kept at sea for a week or à tempting bid. A momentary pause ensues, when more, being packed in salt. When brought ashore, some cadaverous outstander intimates that he they are laid upon the floor to the depth of about wouldn't mind giving him “six bob for a hun- two feet, where they remain about two days, and der."
then are put into baskets for the purpose of being Ah, well, bor, I shan't take that neither. Bid washed from the salt. After this they are suspendme ten bob, and I'll talk to you.”
ed for about a week, and exposed to the heat of A good-tempered-looking man, who seems to fires, when they are fit for packing into barrels, have held his tongue till he could hold it no longer, which generally contain about 1000 each. The now says, “Well come, Bill, I tell ye what I'll gi' principal places of export are Leghorn, Naples, and ye eight bob, only you must lend me your tub to the ports of the Mediterranean. take 'em home."
Curious mistakes are sometimes made by stran“Ah, well then, I shan't do that neither; I ha' gers respecting the herring fishery, and it is not lost so many o' my tubs, I don't mean to lend 'em unfrequently the case that inquisitive persons seekout any more at all; so you must just bring your ing information from men employed upon the beach, own swills and fetch 'em away if you buy em. are what the Norfolk people call " rigged," that is, But your price 'ont do. Who'll gi' me another they receive information which is intended to misbid?
lead. We have often heard of cockney fishers " Come, Bill, don't look so cross this cold morn- catching red herrings, but never remember but on ing, I'll gi' ye another trippuns" (three-pence). one occasion a verifioation of the jest. This par
* Thank ye: eight and three; who'll advance op donable error was made by a young gentleman, eight and three pp
who, seeing a fisherman land at the jetty, having The bid is given, and perhaps a further advance two or three red mullets, which very delicious fish is obtained. A few small dealers take a hundred, are occasionally caught off here, requested the or two, three, four, or five hundred each, with which attention of his mamma to the "" red herrings” they hurry away, to vend them fresh by retail, as the man had caught. far as a half-worn-out horse will carry them. The In catching the herrings the fishermen are often market price will then probably fall 3d. or 6d., and greatly annoyed by the dog-fish, which is destructhe remainder will be purchased for curing, either tive both to the nets and to the fish. The damage in the town or along the railway. An entirely new he does is chiefly by biting the herrings, which, trade has been opened since the introduction of when damaged by his shark-like teeth, are called this mode of travelling, large quantities now being “ croptions,” and also by biting the nets in the cured at Norwich, and some even in London, be- same manner. The company of the dog-fish, as sides other convenient places where fuel is procur- may well be imagined, is not courted in piscatory able at a trifling cost.
society: his exterior is not particularly repulsive, In the height of the season the boats, more but his manners are so decidedly bad, that at sea particularly the Yorkshire and west-country boats, or ashore he is a very robber and pirate, opcome into the harbour, where they have greater posing his teeth promptly to the hand of every facilities for landing, and considerably less labour man who encounters him. The treatment he rein carting. In that case the scene of activity is ceives when caught is most truly a barbarous one. transferred from the beach to the quay. The fish It not unfrequently happens that a lot of them is landed in swills; not unfrequently a score or so when taken are divested of their fins and thrown of Yarmouth carts, ready horsed, are in attendance; overboard alive. and the fish are sold by auction either by the quay- The herring, when fully cured, is generally exside, or the buyers follow the auctioneer to some cluded from the table of the epicure; but we reneighbouring house. The sale goes off very quickly, member a gentleman, as remarkable for his penuseldom lasting many minutes, and no sooner are rious habits as for his wealth, who on one occasion the fish disposed of than they are hurried off to so far overcame his parsimony as to invite a the offices to be cured.
wealthy merchant to dine with him ; he went, and This process, if the fish be intended for home to his disgust as well as surprise he found that the consumption, is rapid in all its stages. Large tubs miser had prepared for him,
as an especial treat, a filled with water are in readiness to wash them, as "red-herring dumpling." While the reader may soon as they are stripped of the salt and scales, smile at this, he will perhaps hardly be prepared to which are laid aside and sold for manure. Having learn that herring-pies were formerly a royal dish. passed through the hands of the “ washers," they The city of Norwich, in 1397, paid 9s. 1od. " for pass on to the "rivers," who take out the gills and making the king's herring-pies." That they were put them on “spits” or sticks about the thickness esteemed at court so lately as 1629 appears from a letter dated at Hampton Court, complaining that is everywhere the same fish, that it is migratory, the herrings were not of the first caught—that and that the variety of form, size, and condition they were not " baked in good and strong pastage, indicates but so many different stages in the as they ought to be, in order to endure the carriage growth of the same individual. Without attemptthe better"—that they put only four herrings into ing to decide a question about which much more a pie instead of five, and sent fewer pies than they may be said than can be fairly tested, we may just ought. The ancient fee-farm of the city of Nor- notice that the fishermen of Yarmouth profess to wich is 24 herring-pies, to be carried to court by be able to tell the locality from which the herrings the lord of the manor of Carleton, which were to be captured by them have come, by a mere inspection made secundem artem, well seasoned with half a of the fish, and that a distinction of species is pound of ginger, half a pound of pepper, a quarter discoverable at whatever period of the year the of a pound of cinnamon, one ounce of cloves, one examination is made. The herrings cavght in ounce of long pepper, half an ounce of grains of Boston-deeps, for instance, are smaller than those paradise, and half an ounce of galangals. These taken in any other locality along the coast, and are to be delivered at the king's house, wherever are never caught elsewhere, except when occasionhe be, in England; for which service the bearer ally, after a heavy storm, a few are found out at receives six white loaves, six dishes of meat out of sea. This class of herrings is only about half the the king's kitchen, one flagon of wine, one flagon size of those caught off Yarmouth, while the latter, of beer, one truss of hay, one bushel of oats, one again, are scarcely more than half the size of those packet of wax, and six tallow candles. The pies caught off Scotland. Another variety, too, have are now, or were till lately, sent up by the sheriff's for sixty years past, at the least, been invariably of Norwich, and placed on the royal table. found in one place, reaching from Smith's Knowle
The following whimsical incident, in which red to the Brown Bank, a distance of from eighteen to herrings and a celebrated Scottish author figured twenty miles, and are known in Yarmouth as rather prominently, and which some time since Brown-bankers; they are a small, plump fish, appeared in the pages of the “ New Monthly Maga- equal in flavour to the Yarmouth herrings, but zine," will be read with interest.
somewhat less marketable because of size, retain. “Scott had tasted at our house the Yarmouth ing, however, uniformly the same dimensions and bloaters,” says the writer, " then an article of less. quality throughout the season. From the above savoury notoriety than at present; allowed their facts, therefore, it is the opinion of several intel. superiority to the Finnan haddies,' and inquired ligent merchants that the fish usually lie at the where they were to be got. My mother, having bottom of the sea during the colder weather, and undertaken the commission, applied to our fish- come near the surface, and perhaps into shallower monger, Mr. B-n of Billingsgate, a most worthy water, to deposit their spawn. and matter-of-fact Triton, whom no one would have Such is the amazing fecundity of the herring, suspected of an addictation to poetry or romance. that it has been estimated, though we know not Hearing that the half-hundred small fishes were on what data, that were it allowed to multiply to be sent as far as Sussex-place, he rather shook unmolested, and its offspring to remain undimi. his head at the inconvenient distance. Rather nished for twenty-six years, the whole would conout of our beat, ma'am. There are plenty of places stitute a mass of life greater than the bulk of the where they can be got good.' 'I am sorry for earth. Some idea may be formed of their abundthat ; for I am afraid Sir Walter Scott will be ance from the fact that, in 1580, when Yarmouth disappointed, having learned that yours are the had 800 boats, no less than two thousand lasts, or best.' 'Sir Walter Scott, ma'am! Is Sir Walter 26,400,000 fish, were brought into it in one tide ; Scott in town? Tom, go and pick the very best and even so lately as the year 1842, during four half-hundred you can find in that fresh lot from days in November, about nine hundred lasts, Yarmouth. Well, ma'am, and how is he looking ? or nearly 12,000,000 of herrings, were brought Why, if you had told me they were for him, I ashore and sold upon the beach for upwards of would have sent them to Landsend or John 10,0001. o' Groat's House. Now mind, Tom, that the boy At what period the herring fishery first became starts directly; remember, 24, Sussex-place, and a source of extensive employment it would be no mistake about it.' This circumstance being difficult to determiné. The great probability is, recounted to Scott, he cordially exclaimed, 'Well that as early as the sixth or seventh century the now, this is something like real, tangible fame. I sands of Yarmouth, left dry by the sea retiring like this more than all the minauderies of the old from the eastern coast, became the resort of fisherFrench countesses, who used to bother me at Paris men, who, requiring a large extent of ground on with their extravagant compliments, and were only which to dry their nets, found here ample room, thinking, probably, of their own vanity all the with little fear of molestation, the sand being unwhile."
productive and incapable of being fertilized. At But familiar as is the herring to every civilized first they took up but a temporary residence, nation in Europe-we had almost said in the world dwelling in huts; and it has been conjectured, with -it has hitherto eluded all attempts to ascertain some degree of plausibility, that the origin of so much of its history as enables the naturalist to smoked herrings, now so delicious a relish, is determine with anything like certainty what is its traceable to the accidental smoking which some food, whether or not it migrates, and whether the received as they lay piled in the huts in question. several kinds of herrings taken by fishermen are That the herring trade ere long became one of varieties of the same species, or different species of importance may be inferred from the fact, that as the same family. It has, till within a very few early as the time of William Rufus, Herbert, years, been universally believed that the herring bishop of Norwich, erected a chapel at Yarmouth for the use of the fishermen resorting thither. rail, that a host of small dealers has sprung up, The earliest fishermen of whom any account is who purchase as few as even a quarter of last, preserved were the men of the Cinque Ports, who, which are very slightly cured and forwarded to prior to the time of Edward the Confessor (A.D. market for immediate consumption. 1042), and down to the year 1664, annually sent One great evil, we regret to say, has arisen from bailiffs to Yarmouth. In an inquisition bearing this system, namely, an immense amount of sabdate the 10th of Henry III (A.D. 1225), Yarmouth bath desecration. These small buyers, being for is described as having yearly, in September, " the the most part regardless of moral and religious worthiest fishery in Europe, which draweth great obligations, prefer having the fish brought in on côncourse of people
, and maketh the town rich all Sunday morning. In consequence of this practice, the year following." As early as 1345, the town as soon as the boats come up to the quay, the fish of Yarmouth had 250 fishing-boats; but even thus are sold by auction at a neighbouring publicearly did the spirit of monopoly interfere to cripple house, after which they are carted to the fish-house, and contract the trade; for we find that the 31st from whence, after being washed, hung, smoked, of Edward III, called “ The Statute of Herrings," "struck,” and packed, they are conveyed to the railprovided that no herrings could be bought or sold way ; thus employing all hands in every departin the sea, nor till the boats came into the haven ment in curing. All this business is usually transand the cable was drawn to land; nor were the acted between nine o'clock in the morning and six fishermen even then allowed to sell them, except in the evening, and is performed in order to secure to certain individuals called "hosts,” or hostelers. the Monday morning market in London. The price, too, was regulated. Under this statute, The regular fishery usually commences about great impositions subsequently came to be prac- the middle of September, and lasts to the end of tised, leading to the injury and decay of the trade. December. The larger boats fish between the St.
of the importance of the fisheries to the town, Nicholas gat- light and the ridge to Smith's at the close of the sixteenth century, some idea Knowl, beyond which the herrings are essentially may be drawn from the fact that they then gave different in size and form, while considerable quanemployment to the greater part of the population. tities are caught nearer land. The average catch is In addition to those directly employed in the about four thousand lasts, or 53,000,000 of fish. fishery, many hundreds were engaged as carpen- The herring fisherman's occupation, however, ters, shipwrights, rope-makers, hemp-dressers, is one of great uncertainty, sometimes amply twine-spinners, braiders, beetsters, coopers, brew- rewarding the labour bestowed, while not unfreers, bakers, washers, rivers, basket-makers, etc. quently it yields scarcely any fruits. The labour Large quantities of salt were made at Southtown, of a night, in a boat whose nets extended from a at works which were at one time the property of mile and a half to two miles, was on one occasion the celebrated Mrs. Bridget Bendish, the favourite rewarded by one solitary fish, while a merchant, grand-daughter of Oliver Cromwell; she herself having five or six boats, brought in twenty lasts, used to superintend the manufacture. Of her which sold for 6001. One boat not long since visits to Yarmouth there is yet extant many a captured eight lasts, or 105,600 fish, after being at story, showing her to be at once resolute, deter- sea only twenty-four hours. In 1844, one firm, mined, eccentric, and at the same time benevolent, with eight boats, averaged forty-one lasts a boat, kind, devout, and a general favourite with all who and the doles to the men amounted to 17001., knew her. Towards the close of her life she seems exclusive of victualling, stores, etc. The largest to have fallen into decayed circumstances, as she quantity of fish ever taken by one boat in one treated with the corporation to sink a suni of 2001. night, that we have met with, was by a Yarmouth for a small annuity during the lives of herself and boat off Scotland, in the beginning of October, her maiden daughter.
1789, which captured twenty-two lasts, or about In 1572, sir Henry Jerneghan made an unsuc. 290,400 fishes, the crew having been ten hours cessful attempt to break down the monopoly of hauling in their nets. the Yarmouth corporation, as did also the people of Gorleston, Gunton, Lowestoft, and Aldborough in 1578; but the severity of the plague in 1579 did for them what the law had failed to do, and
NARRATIVE OF AN ESCAPE FROM freedom was thus given to land and sell elsewhere. ST. BARTHOLOMEW MASSACRE. Since this period the trade has continued to in. The memorable morning of the 24th of Angust,
1572, had dawned upon Paris, when a maid serThere is at the present time a considerable num- vant, who had just returned from the city, rushed ber of vessels employed in the herring fishery be into the bedroom of her mistress—the youthful longing to Yarmouth and Lowestoft. Their ton- widow of a brave soldier-and in accents of terror nage is usually from forty-five to fifty tons, while made known to her that a general massacre of the a species of deck or half-deck boats, of twelve to Huguenots had commenced. The lady hastily fifteen tons, is also used for the home voyage. arose, exclaiming, “The will of God be done; let The cost of the former, including masts, spars, us look to Him for protection;" and having parnets, and outfit, is somewhere about 5001. In ad. tially dressed, she stepped hurriedly to the window. dition to these, vessels called “cobles come from The street was a troubled scene, for the whole pothe Yorkshire coast, being hired by the season, pulation was in commotion; and many companies and a number of west-country boats fish on their of soldiers were there, and all had white crosses own acconnt. Prior to the opening of the railway, in their hats. “I will send to my mother to learn the business was confined to a few capitalists, but what is going forwards," said she ; and accordingly such are the facilities for getting to market by a messenger was despatched for this purpose. The bishop of Senlis, who was the lady's uncle, directed to the house of a corn-merchant. Here she stayed her to remove her valuables, and promised to send five days. In this place of concealment a new trial some one to protect her ; but in the meanwhile he befel her, a cousin being employed to prevail upon was informed that his brother, M. Charles Cheva- her to go to mass. But, Charlotte, your brothers lier, lord of Eprunes, had fallen a victim, and he have gone,” said she; " and surely their example forgot his niece. Indeed, he was arrested himself; and your mother's advice should outweigh your but on making the sign of the cross he escaped. own opinion.” “I know, Marie, that it is my duty After waiting for about half an hour, and seeing to comply with my mother's wishes whenever I that the tumult was increasing, our heroine sent can; but in this case I cannot; my mind is made her daughter in the arms of a female servant to up, and, by the grace of God, I will never go to the house of a relative, and shortly afterwards she mass. “But, Charlotte, consider; your child reproceeded there herself. “Where is the cursed quires your care, and for its sake you might give Huguenot ?", shouted the foremost of a band of way in this trifling matter.” “Marie, do not tear the servants of the duke of Guise to the landlord my heart by speaking about my child. It is no of the lodgings which she had just quitted. “Yes," trifling matter; heaven and hell are not trifles; yelled another, " to-day we are weeding out the and I cannot comply.” Thus ended their converheretics; so be quick, for we have much to do!" sation on this subject. In this retreat, too, she After a fruitless search, they sent to the house of encountered a new danger; for beneath her was an the lady's mother, offering to preserve both the life apartment occupied by a Roman Catholic lady, so and property of her daughter for a hundred crowns that she dared not to walk about for fear of being -an offer which was, however, declined. The lodg. heard, nor could she light a candle. Her food was ings were pillaged. In her place of concealment brought in small quantities concealed under an this heroic woman remained till Tuesday, with more apron. Her mother sent to inform her that she than forty others, their protector sending for pro- should be compelled to return her daughter to her. visions to another part of the town, and her hus- " Then, with her in my arms, we will perish toband, M. de Pereure, remaining at the door of the gether!" was the heroic reply. house to say a passing word to the chief actors From this place of concealment she procured a iu the massacre who passed that way.
passage in a boat that was going to Sens. In it “A glorious festival this, M. de Perenre,” said she had as fellow-passengers two monks, a priest, a lord of the court, as he went by with a band of two merchants, and their wives. At Tournelles infuriated followers ; "how is it that you are not their passports were demanded, and she had none. helping to celevrate it?" “ Such zealous catho- " She is a Huguenot, and must be drowned !"lics as yourself, my lord, render my feeble service “Come out of the boat!"-were the sounds which unnecessary.” but M. de Pereure was suspected, greeted her ears. “ Take me to the house of M. and his house was ordered to be searched. This de Voysenon-he will answer for me," she replied ; order dispersed the concealed Huguenots ; our he- and accordingly two soldiers were despatched with roine was then placed in an empty loft with a female her to the house of the person she had named. attendant. “Mercy! for the love of God, mercy !" Fortunately, they remained below whilst she went shrieked a tender maiden from an adjoining street; up-stairs. " Ah, madame," exclaimed M. de and mingled with this piercing cry arose the con- Voysenon, “ have you come to take refuge under fused voices of men, women, and children, and the my roof? Hasten down, monsieur, I beseech brutal shoutings of their murderers. How harrow- you, and may God enable you to deliver me from ing were the feelings of that concealed mother, who the soldiers below, who suspect me of being a was now separated from her child, and was trem. Huguenot.” M. de Voysenon descended. “I as. bling lest she should fall into the hands of those sure you,” said he to the soldiers, “ that I have ruthless ruffians who were deluging the streets often seen this lady at the house of Madame with blood !
d'Eprunes, a good catholic.” “ That may be, monIt soon became necessary to seek another asylum, sieur, but it is the lady herself, and not Madame and our heroine went to the house of a blacksmith d'Eprunes, that we are inquiring about.” A rewho had married a maid-servant of her mother's, spectable woman who was passing, learning what in the hope that if the wife pitied, the husband was going forward, inquired what they wished to would not molest her. Here she spent a night. do with the lady. “By heaven!” they replied, “Come, madame, give up your cursed notions, and “this is a Huguenot, and must be drowned; for go to mass without any more ado," said the black- we see how terrified she is.” “You know me," smith, “But I cannot-I dare not.” “Oh, but a quickly answered the female; “I am no Huguenot; walk in the streets will convert you, madame, in I go every day to mass ; but I am so frightened, quick time.” “No; I have seen some of the that for these eight days past I have been in a dreadful sights, and I am unaltered; I must either fever.” "And I, yea, all of us, have been no escape or die, for I cannot recant." " What a little agitated,” replied one of the soldiers, with an stupid, pig-headed set of curs these Huguenots oath. They took her back to the boat, observing, are !” observed the man to his wife, as he turned “Had you been a man, you would not have esover several articles from a pile of booty plun. caped so easily.” At the time of this arrest the dered from the houses of the sufferers, which was lodging which she had quitted was ransacked, so lying on the floor.
that her escape was most providentially timed. On the following day she was conducted to the When they arrived at their place of sleeping, the house of M. Tambonneau, and concealed in his monks and the merchants chuckled over the masstudy. " Alas! madame,” said he, the day after sacre of the protestants. “What a happy riddance !" her arrival, “ a search is ordered, and you are not observed one of the monks; "the heretic Huguesafe here." Accordingly, at midnight she removed nots have received their death - blow at last.'