Call for plaque to honour Great Yarmouth’s fish finger heritage

PUBLISHED: 09:39 01 January 2011

FEW could have predicted the phenomenal success of the fish finger when it first rolled off the production line of the old Birds Eye Factory in Great Yarmouth 55 years ago.

Now some locals are calling for the town’s status as the home of this culinary classic to be commemorated with a blue plaque, similar to the one pictured below, at the South Denes site.

An instant family favourite, the fish finger changed tea time forever, and has sold in billions in Britain alone since its launch in 1955. The Yarmouth factory may have long gone, but its enduring legacy to the eating habits of the nation lives on.

With chips and beans, in a sandwich or sautéed in butter, the popularity of the simple snack shows no sign of waning.

Local historical figures and events have been honoured with blue plaques throughout the borough, but the town’s association with this world-famous food has not been formally recognised.

Invented by American scientist and explorer Clarence Birdseye, the fish finger was officially launched on September 26, 1955, at a Brighton sales conference.

The product had been developed at the Yarmouth factory by a Mr HAJ Scott. They were almost called battered cod pieces, until female workers voted for the name fish finger.

The factory, which had opened 10 years earlier in 1945, was soon working overtime to manufacture the product. Within a decade of launching, it accounted for 10pc of British fish consumption.

Until the invention of fish fingers the most important fish for the food industry was herring, but the humble frozen sticks of cod quickly eclipsed the bloater.

The first fish fingers were made of herring and called the herring savoury, before being replaced with the cod-based product.

The doors closed at the Birds Eye Yarmouth factory in 1986 with production moving to Lowestoft. Today, despite Britons eating more than one million fish fingers every day, the product is no longer manufactured in the UK.

In another break with tradition, the much-loved character Captain Birds Eye was dropped from TV advertising campaigns to be replaced with Polar Bear, voiced by Hollywood actor by Willem Dafoe.

Blue plaques are placed to commemorate historical people and places by the Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeology Society.

President Andrew Fakes said: “I believe the fish finger was invented at the factory before the development block was built. It has certainly been a phoenomenally successful product.

“Before that the staple fish product was herring, which was difficult to eat and lots of children did not like it. In contrast, the fish finger was boneless and skinless.

“We are open to any suggestions for blue plaques and the fish finger is certainly worth considering.”

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