Although you might not have been a North Seas dock worker or fisherman in Great Britain during the second half of the 19th century, there’s still a chance you know just how a good a newspaper full of fish ‘n chips are. Fish and chips originated in Great Britain due to an increase in trawl fishing in the North Sea and rapid growth from railways connecting port cities. It quickly became a staple of the working class, resulting in the first fish and chips shop opening in London and the United Kingdom, changing the appetite of the world.
What it really started with was the introduction of the potato to the United Kingdom, thanks to a man named Sir Walter Raleigh. The fried potato (or chips) was a quick and easy meal, which only got better when fried fish was introduced in London’s East End. To make it official, Charles Dickens referred to a “fried fish warehouse” in his novel, ‘Oliver Twist’ – ”Husky chips of potatoes, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.” So now once everyone was hooked, people realized that there was a market for this stuff.
In North England during the time (1863 to be exact), specifically in Mossely, near Oldham, Lancashire, a man known as “Mr. Lees” sold fish and chips from his shanty wooden hut. As product demand increased, he quickly turned that hut into a permanent business with the following sign in the window: “This is the first fish and chip shop in the world.” But some say that the first fish and chips shop originated in London by a man named Joseph Malin on Cleveland Street.
We’re not ones to argue though. The development of steam trawler boats meant fish from all over the North Atlantic, Iceland, and Greenland were now readily coming into the market. Fish and chips became such an essential part of “ordinary folk,” that one shop in Bradford was forced to hire a doorman to control the numbers in line. During the Second World War, fish and chips were among the few foods not to be rationed. There are currently around 8,500 fish and chip shops across the UK, which is roughly eight shops for every one McDonald’s.