The Fish Market

Here’s a little bit of history for you from the Centre’s archive… Manchester Craft & Design Centre is housed in the former Smithfield Retail Fish Market, and behind it stood the larger Wholesale Fish Market, which has now been converted to flats and bars. The building was founded in 1875 and functioned as the City’s retail fish market until the 1970’s when it struggled to compete with the high street and Manchester’s newly opened Arndale Centre. The market relocated to Openshaw where it still operates as The New Smithfield Market.

submitted by Jan Jones to the blog

When I was a little girl in the 1950′s my parents had a greengrocer’s shop in Middleton which also sold “wet fish”! During the school holidays my father used to take me with him sometimes when he went to the market at the start of the day. I remember having to get up very early and drive in our old van and trailer into Manchester to buy the fruit, veg and fish. I remember the fish market the most because of the smell but also because also because I would occasionally be given sweets or a threepenny bit by the nice stallholders. A big treat for me was to be allowed to stand in the trailer as my Dad drove round the block from the veg market to the fish market to collect his purchases!
Now I am still a regular visitor to the MCDC and the Northern Quarter generally – I love the fact that some bits of old Manchester are being put to such good use and not demolished.

Although the loud hustle and bustle of the old market may be a thing of the past (exhibition launches an exception!) the themes of abundance and exchange are still alive and well inside the Centre. There is a vast range of materials, processes and inspiration on offer and a invaluable chance to engage with both objects and maker. It is a platform to show and sell work, talk about creativity, develop and trade ideas. So whilst the old fish market moved on due to high street competition, what came next would be the complete antithesis of it – and long may it continue.


7 thoughts on “The Fish Market

  1. My grandma, Ellen Gibbons, worked at the fish market from some time in the thirties till it closed. Her office remains in the craft village. It was a hard life, working as a woman in a man’s world (and a very llittle woman at that – 5′ in her clogs). She said she had to tell the chap opposite that he’d feel the toe of her son’s boot if he carried on with language he wouldn’t use in front of his own mother or wife, and kept trying to take her customers.

      • I’m hoping to come down on the day with John, my uncle, who worked there with Grandma. I don’t know if he’s got any pictures, but maybe he will have. Shall we look for you?

      • It would be lovely to meet you and if you have any photos we’d love to see them too. The project runs until the end of June so there’s no hurry if they’re tucked away?

      • Dear Lucy. I see you have been talking to my nice Patricia Gibbons, how about talking to someone that knows the market seeing as it was my Mother that had the stalls there and I worked there for over 20 years, and took over when my Mam retired, can I tell you some tales about the fish market, I have some old photos somewhere I will dig them out. John ,Gibbons. Mr (gibbo )

      • Hi John,
        That would be wonderful, any tales of the fish market would be gratefully received. Can you make it to the launch on Saturday 28th? Otherwise it would be great to see you some other time over the next two months.

  2. My great-great-grandparents Michael and Alice Kirby had a stall on the retail fish market, which had been in the family since the 1870s. I believe it was in the ‘old’ part of the market hall, which has now been knocked down. I’d love to hear if anyone has any memories of them or their stall, or of the retail market generally.

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