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Feature

The curious story of how fish and chips has its origins in Greater Manchester

Alex Watson

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A chip shop in Tommyfield Market, Oldham claims to be the first ever British chip shop.

According to the blue plaque outside the shop, this small chip shop in Oldham was home to the ‘first British fried chip’ in 1860. Now that’s a pretty bold statement to make about a component that became the nation’s favourite dish over 100 years later.

It’s pretty difficult to ascertain if it’s true or not, but there are plenty of facts that do indeed point us in that direction.

Photo by Meelan Bawjee on Unsplash

What is widely agreed, however, is where fried fish comes from – introduced to us Brits by Jewish refugees from Europe. 

While fleeing countries such as Portugal, Spain, Holland and Russia to avoid persecution, Jewish people came to Britain. They brought with them a whole host of culinary techniques and cuisines, including the humble fried fish. And almost all of them caught on pretty quickly.

Along with tradition, fish was to be fried in flour and oil on a Friday and consumed on the Sabbath, cold. 

The fish was sold on large trays hung around the necks of street sellers. And we know this to be true because even Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist (1839) references a ‘fried fish warehouse’. 

So, we’ve established that fried fish was a thing by the 1840s. But where do chips come into this?

Credit: Manchester Libraries Image Archive

What I think is important to do at this point, is to take a moment to appreciate the humble potato.

As soon as us Brits got our grubby little paws on the potato, we realised the wondrous things it could do and cooked it in what would have been a variety of creative ways back then – including boiling, mashing and putting them in a stew.

Since then, we’ve chipped them, crisped them, Hassleback-ed them, made tater hash, hash browns, wedges, Smiley Faces, potato cakes, the cheesy delights that are croquettes – the humble potato can even fashion as a kids painting stamp to name but a few uses.

That right there is the reason that my favourite food is always, and forever will be, the potato. And for all of you who say chicken – Nando’s chicken would be nothing without peri peri chips. 

Credit: D. McClure on Wikimedia Commons

But who was the first person to get creative and FRY the potato?

Well, this is where the blue plaque in Oldham comes in. Because it was in fact there that one dexterous Oldhamer put two and two together and got a handful of chips.

Or was it? It can never be easy, can it?!

I’m going to throw two more men into the deep fat fryer, Mr John Lees and Joseph Malin, who both put ‘First Fish & Chip Shop in the world’ to their name.

Credit: Jewish News

Mr Lees opened his wooden kiosk in Mossley, a rumour has it that he saw Tommyfield Market and rubbed his hands in glee about this fantastic new idea of putting FIRED chips with FRIED fish together in one neat newspaper-wrapped parcel.

Around about the same time, a Jewish immigrant called Joseph Malin opened his ‘very first ever’ fish and chip shop in London.

Alan & Viv's Chip Shop, Mossley, Whit Friday
Fish & chip shop, mossley, 2008 / Flickr

So, is Manchester the birthplace of fish and chips?

Well, I have no conclusive evidence to suggest otherwise. It is possible that Mr Lees pioneered the concept in the North, while Mr Malin did so in the south simultaneously and without either man knowing about the other. 

So let’s just grab it with both hands, claim it and add to our city’s long list of achievements and be done with it.

Feature

A look back at Manchester’s greatest nightclubs and venues

How many have you been to?

Proper Manchester

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21 Piccadilly Friends And Clubbers / Facebook

Over the years numerous iconic nightclubs, bars and pubs have disappeared from Manchester. Some of these venues have been legendary, others, well, were just a bit dodgy.

Either way, if you visited one it will have left a lasting impression – whether this is positive or negative is another question entirely.

With that in mind, what better time to take a little trip down memory lane and remember some of the forgotten clubs of our city. Enjoy…

Piccadilly 21s

Piccadilly 21s was a ‘90s party paradise located in Piccadilly Gardens. It had a reputation for being very loud, very messy and very sticky, with cheap drinks to boot – there were even chandeliers in the bogs.

Unfortunately it also had a reputation for being rough as owt, after it managed to attract gang members and other unsavoury clientele in the late ‘80s and 90s, and it eventually shut down in 2004.

These days it’s a Premier Inn and a Nando’s – so the floors are probably just as sticky to be fair.

Manchester Past

Rotters

Besides having a name which would prove a branding nightmare for modern PR-led venues, Rotters boasted some of the best parties in the city, after it took over the site from Romanoff’s.

Located at the top of Oxford Road, in the ‘70s and ‘80s Rotters was a hugely popular nightclub, especi

It was housed inside the old Gaumont Cinema, and sadly the whole building was demolished in 1990 and replaced by an NCP car park.

Pips

Pips, located behind the cathedral, was a popular nightclub in the ‘70s, and was frequented by local musical celebs like Joy Division, Ian Brown, Morrissey and Johnny Marr.

It boasted four different rooms playing a variety of music, including a Punk room, Soul room and the infamous Roxy room with a huge Brian Ferry painting on the wall.

Pips closed in the early ‘80s before becoming a club called Konspiracy – which closed not long after.

Manchester Libraries

The Plaza

The Plaza was one of the city’s most popular venues to dance to the likes of Sinatra and Elvis in the ‘60s, and was located on Oxford Street.

Owned by Jimmy Savile, the disgraced DJ pioneered lunchtime disco sessions for the city’s young workers, where you could grab a quick lunch and soft drink while having a dance.

It later turned into Tiffany’s in the ‘70s, complete with fake palm trees and loads of disco balls, before finally becoming Tropicana, which closed in the late ‘80s. It’s now a Pizza Express.

The Hacienda

We couldn’t do a list of iconic Mancunian nightclubs and not include what is arguably one of the most famous venues in the world.

Founded by Tony Wilson in 1982, the Hacienda managed to define a whole era in the city, putting ‘Madchester’ on the map. Acid House and rave culture was born here – as were New Order and the Happy Mondays.

The club closed in 1997 and was demolished 18 months later, with a block of nondescript red brick flats now on the site – called The Hacienda Apartments.

Mikey / Flickr

Jilly’s Rockworld

Jilly’s was a Manchester institution. Originally called Fagin’s, it opened in 1970 on Oxford Road before being renamed Jilly’s in 1983, eventually adding Rockworld to the end.

The alternative club was always packed full with a cross section of people with a passion for guitar music, including punks, skaters, goths, metalheads, and indie kids.

Underneath was another club called the Musicbox – previously Rafters – but sadly both venues shut their doors back in 2010.

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Feature

There’s a hidden tranquil waterfall located in the hills above Rochdale

This looks so peaceful!

Alex Watson

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@thesijones / Instagram & @lockdownwalks / Facebook

If you’re after some tranquillity in your life (let’s face it – we all are), this is the perfect escape and it’s not too far away from Manchester. 

Tucked away in the hills above Norden in Rochdale is a beautiful waterfall surrounded by luscious woodland, and its the perfect weekend walk.

Naden Valley is home to four huge reservoirs Naden Higher, Naden Middle, Naden Lower and Greenbooth, which all offer perfect exploring options and ample walking opportunities.  

lockdownwalks/Facebook

From the top of the valley you’ll find stunning views of Manchester city centre’s skyline towering over the hills in the distance. 

The trickling waterfall is in the southwestern corner of Greenbooth reservoir, and is actually heading towards the United Utilities-owned reservoir after running through a housing estate. 

There are clear circular footpaths around each reservoir that are perfect for a gentle stroll and are mostly accessible. 

There are several flights of stairs to reach the waterfall which is slightly off path and requires a bit of careful exploring. 

If waterfalls are your thing, you could also head to Rivington Pike’s forgotten Japanese Gardens just outside of Chorley. 

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Feature

These are the five best chippies in Greater Manchester, according to you lot

Thoughts?

Jamie Roberts

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Renfrew's Chippy / Facebook

When it comes to chippy teas in Greater Manchester, we take them extremely seriously.

They’re a local tradition, something not to be messed with, and everyone has their own favourite chippy – meaning a debate on where should get the coveted number one spot is guaranteed to get even the most placid Mancunian going.

Earlier in the year we asked you guys just that – where is the best chippy in Greater Manchester? – and we got quite a response.

Now as today, Friday September 4th, is officially National Fish and Chip Day, what better time to revisit your answers and help shine a light on the best chippies our region has to offer?

It's time to settle the debate once and for all 😬🍟

Posted by Proper Manchester on Sunday, 5 January 2020

Going through your  replies, we were able to determine the top five contenders, and here they are in no particular order.

Renfrew’s Chippy

First up we’ve got Renfrew’s Chippy in Denton, with Andy Manser declaring it the ‘best chippy in the UK’ in the comments (he wasn’t lying, Renfrew’s was actually voted ‘the best fish and chips in the UK’ recently). The online reviews are all very positive as well, with smooth 5 star reviews on both TripAdvisor and their Facebook page.

For more info, head over to their Facebook here and have a gander.

Sykes Fish and Chips / Facebook

Sykes Fish and Chips

Up next we’ve got Sykes Fish and Chips over in Pendlebury (some of you insisted it’s in Swinton, but that’s a debate for another time). There was a lot of support for Sykes, and the reviews on Facebook back it up, with Sam Burton dropping five stars and writing: “By far the best fish & chips I have had in a long while! Beautiful batter, the fish was absolutely delightful and the chips were fantastic. Nothing too greasy, and for the price was absolutely excellent! Will most definitely be coming back!!”

Can’t argue with that – head over to their Facebook here for more info.

Tony’s Chippy

Tony’s Chippy was a very popular choice, with comments mentioning it racking up a lot of likes. Now, there are two locations, with Tony operating chippies in Ancoats and up by the Etihad, and both seem to have a lot of fans. One reviewer on TripAdvisor gave the Ancoats branch five stars, writing: “I visited Manchester and had to try Tony’s chippy after hearing how nice the food is. I was not disappointed. The food was amazing, all freshly cooked and the fish are made to order, it was very busy which reflects how good it is. The price is standard and worth every penny. The staff were very friendly. I will visit this chippy again.”

You can find out more info here.

Armstrongs / Facebook

Armstrongs

Armstrongs in Prestwich was another winner according to you guys, and the Facebook page describes it as the ‘Home of the Jumbo Cod’ so it’s easy to see why. Besides massive fish, Armstrongs also has a lot of love online, with Julie Shaun writing on Facebook: “We have been going to Armstrong’s for around 15 years since we moved to Prestwich. The staff are so friendly and helpful and the shop is immaculate. The food is lovely, huge portions so can split between the kids. Definitely recommend and even if we didn’t live near the shop, we would travel a distance as the fish and chips cannot be beaten.”

Head over to the Facebook for more info and pictures of jumbo cods.

Olympus Fish & Chips

Finally we’ve got Olympus Fish & Chips, whose website describes it as ‘Bolton’s award winning restaurant’. One TripAdvisor reviewer didn’t hold back with the praise, writing: “50 of us, paid a visit to the Olympus Restaurant, from arriving to leaving, it was a real treat, each person ordered their own dish, which was quite varied, particularly when we have people with diet requirements, all the feedback was extremely good. Thoroughly enjoyable experience, and highly recommended, we also had background music from the grand piano to provide a lovely day, we will be back.”

You know the drill by now, head over to the Facebook page here if you want some more info.

Olympus Fish & Chips / Facebook

An honourable mention goes to the two different Kong’s in both Hyde and Flixton, with each of them getting quite a few mentions (making things especially confusing when trying to figure out the most popular places).

So there you have it, the top five best chippies in Greater Manchester according to you guys. What do you think? Are they worthy winners, or should somewhere else have made the list?

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