Oral History: Ted Manning
I think fish, out of all products, is one of the most pungent and pervasive. I mean it gets everywhere. It gets absolutely everywhere. You can always smell the market, even when you're driving in to it. You would open the door up and you'd get this horrid brown slime over everything all where the bacteria has built up. And that would just be dribbling down the boxes and coming out on the floor. I miss Billingsgate Market ‘cos I miss the camaraderie and all the people there. I wouldn't say I miss the smell though...
Ted Manning is a man who knows all about fish. Especially how to tell if it is rotten or not, without even needing his sense of smell. Ted worked for Fishmongers Hall for over 22 years, including working at Billingsgate Market as a Fisheries Inspector from 1986.
He shares his first-hand experience of the scents, sights and stories of life working with the fisheries and at London’s historic fish market. He conjures up the unique atmosphere of Billingsgate Market across the 1980s and 1990s and reveals some trade tips and secrets too. Find out what ‘nutting’ and ‘bobbin’ are, how to tell if a fish is good or needs to be ‘condemned’ plus hear about some of the characters who worked at the market. Including advice on how to get rid of unwanted fishy scents and what ice actually smells of.
Ted Manning worked for the Fishmongers’ Company for 22 years in total, until he retired. From a background in the army, he entered the unique historic world of Fishmongers’ Company at the age of 27.
Barking was once famous for its fishing industries, providing fish to Billingsgate Market across the 19th century. The Barking Stink project includes fragrant fish and ice smells from this past industry, so we interviewed a contemporary Billingsgate fish professional to find out more about the smells of working there.