‘N’owt too fancy’: Fortune’s Kippers in Whitby maintain 150-year-old methods as traditional smokehouse marks landmark anniversary Yorkshire News

Fortune’s Kippers has been a mainstay in the North Yorkshire harbor for a century and a half, its customers pouring down the cobblestones of Henrietta Street to pick up wares that have become favorites even with the royal family.

The company celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, with the fifth generation of the founder’s family now at the helm.

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Not much has changed, says Barry Brown, as he looks out over the harbour, docks and North Sea beyond, which has become his “office” for the past 27 years.

Barry Brown left his job as a steel builder in the 1990s to join his brother, Derek, in the Fortune family business and continue what is now the last smokehouse of its kind in the city. Image: Charlotte Graham.

He quit his job as a steel fabricator in the 1990s to join his brother, Derek, in the business and continue what is now the last smokehouse of its kind in the city.

“The only thing that has changed is environmental health, but the way we smoke and process everything is the same,” he said.

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“All we know is that they won’t come out until we think they’re ready for sale.”

An old photograph shows Fortune’s workers preparing herring for smoking at Fortune’s Kippers in Whitby.

Three sets of fires burn in the smokehouse, and the fish takes between 18 and 22 hours to smoke before going on sale in the store next door. The fish are now caught in Iceland and Norway due to the Common Fisheries Policy’s ban on herring fishing in the North Sea in the 1970s.

In a recent addition to the business, Mr. Brown’s daughter, Beth, has opened an online store that posts kippers throughout the UK. One of the most recent recipients of a Fortune’s Kippers installment was Princess Anne. But there are no further plans for other new developments.

Brown said: “We couldn’t, we don’t have the facilities to do it and we don’t need to do it. It would become a different product. We are traditional, that is how we have been shown since we were children, it is simple and it works, but not too elegant”.

However, he added, it hasn’t been “simple” all along, as a fire at a busy bank holiday nearly wiped out the business and some unwelcome guests arrived after a spell of heavy rain.

Derek Brown brings finished kippers from the smokehouse to the store, tucked away on Henrietta Street. Image: Charlotte Graham.

Human bones were exposed in 2013 in the churchyard of St. Mary’s Church, which sits above Fortune’s Kippers and next to Whitby Abbey, after a landslide washed away part of the cliff.

The large landslide exposed ancient graves as the rock began to crumble. The church, founded around 1110, includes the graveyard that inspired a scene in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Mr Brown, who is also a volunteer station manager for the Whitby Lifeboat, said: “We had fires getting ready for bank holiday and I think someone opened the door to look while we were in the yard.

“There was a northeasterly wind and it set fire to the back of the smoke house. We know because it was a totally different color than it should be.

“Derek was standing at the top putting a hose down trying to put it out; he wasn’t getting anywhere, so we had to hire the professionals. We lost a lot of stock, but that’s one of those things, we could have lost it all. .

“That (the bones) was an episode. There is a pipe that was never reinstalled that draws water from the cemetery below where the graves were. Bits of bones were falling and all kinds.

“My grandfather used to say when we were children: ‘Never cover the pipes because you will have the precipice below’. He must have known.

IT WAS in 1872 that William Fortune founded what has become an institution in the seaside town of Whitby.

His son, Martin, worked at Fortune’s smokehouse and also organized donkey rides. In the late 1940s, Martin turned the firm over to his son, William, although the job was only seasonal.

He married Lacy Kelly and they had three children, William, known as Bill, Jean, and Brenda.

In the early 1970s, Bill took over with the help of his three nephews, Barry, Derek, and Alan. Both Barry and Derek became partners in the business.

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This notice was published: 2022-03-26 07:08:11

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