Herring Fishery at Great Yarmouth , Norfolk , England. The quayside with the steam drifters moored at the fish wharf and men unloading the fish. 1923. TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

By Mark McConville

 

INCREDIBLE images have recalled a time before EU fishing quotas when Britain’s fishing industry thrived as UK ladies rolled up their sleeves to sort and gut the catch of the day.

Herring Fishery at Great Yarmouth , Norfolk , England . Fisher girls gutting the herring . 1923.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

The stunning pictures from the 1920s, as revealed by the website Retronaut, show ‘Herring Girls’ gutting and processing the herring fish that had been caught.

Herring Fishery at Great Yarmouth , Norfolk , England. Fisher girls gutting the herring on the quayside. 10 October 1923.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

Other striking shots show men unloading their hauls from the steam drifters, fish being packed into salt barrels and the Herring Fishing fleet moored in harbour at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England.

Herring Fishery at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk , England. Fisher girl gutting the herring. 10 October 1923.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

Every year in the autumn vast shoals of herring came to feed about 30 miles off the coast of Britain at Great Yarmouth.  They sustained a thriving fishing industry, boats, processors and packers arrived to take advantage of this bounty.

Herring Fishery at Great Yarmouth , Norfolk , England. Fisher girls gutting and cleaning the herring on the quayside. 1923. TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

The herring were processed by ‘Herring Girls’.  Many of whom came from the highlands of Scotland and the Hebridean islands.  There was very little work there and the girls looked forward to the chance to earn some money and to travel.

Herring Fishery at Great Yarmouth , Norfolk , England . Fisher girls gutting and packing the herrings in salt barrels . 1923.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

They worked in teams of gutters and packers, who packed the gutted herring in barrels with salt to preserve them.

Herring Fishery at Great Yarmouth , Norfolk , England . A fisher girl packing the herrings in salt barrels . 1923.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

They lived on huts or had lodgings, often overcrowded.  The working day started early and it was a hard and sometimes dangerous occupation.  The girls had to bind their fingers to prevent them being cut by the very sharp knives they used.

The Herring Fishing fleet moored in harbour at Great Yarmouth , Norfolk , England 1923.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

Salt could get in a cut and make it very painful.  If a cut got infected it could mean time off work, sometimes the girl would have to go home.  It was before the era of antibiotics.

Herring Fishery at Great Yarmouth , Norfolk , England. The quayside with the steam drifters moored at the fish wharf and men waiting to unload the cargos. 1923.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

There were compensations in the friendships the girls made and the Saturday night dances when the boats were in the harbour and the crews ashore.

Herring Fishery at Great Yarmouth , Norfolk , England . Fisher girls gutting and packing the herrings in salt barrels. 1923.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

The industry struggled after World War One with the loss of European markets, later a change in consumer habits and over fishing contributed to its decline.  In the 1950s it effectively died out.

 

 

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