Goldcliff Fishery

Adrian Williams

Before we came it was owned by Burgess the fishmongers in Newport. And prior to that the owners were called Fennell and they were actually tenants to Eton College. My father and grandfather bought the fishery here in the mid-sixties. I used to come down with my mother because she was the one that used to come and collect the fish and get the fish to the station. We were living in Chepstow then and this was before the motorway was built, and we would have to come through all the lanes from Chepstow to Goldcliff. And then we’d get the fish in in the old Landrover, which was very unique; we were probably the only commercial fishery that went to work in a Landrover.

We had the Flood rank, the Ebb, and there was one called the Shrimp. We used to have the Shrimp which was only a small rank and it wasn’t worth really putting putchers in it because there were very few salmon in it. But years ago, they used to use it for kype fishing.

Wyndham would have his sort of living area in the day time and have like a day bed where he could have a snooze, then he’d have a coke fire, a fire which all the schools had them at the turn of the century, these pot stoves, and he had one of those to keep himself warm. He had asbestos fingers. He used to be able to lift the top of the coke fire with his fingers and then he’d be able to fill it with coke, not coal, coke, which is what they used at the steel works. And that used to get very hot, red hot sometimes.

We ‘inherited’ Wyndham Howells, it was more he was part of the furniture. He repaired the baskets, which was an important job. I suppose he would have been mid-sixties when we first took it over, so he’d been reasonably fit and able in those days, but as time went by we had to employ somebody else. I used to employ people, just local, whoever was available really. Towards the end of it I couldn’t get the locals to do it. I used to have to get people coming from Chepstow. I used to go to parts of Chepstow where I knew there were a few unemployed people and say, right, I need men for a day, two days’ work, and they’d all come down, a bit of cash in their hands.

[The salmon, when they were taken out of the putchers] would go into the fish house and in there, there would be a big fridge and a freezer making ice and what we call a bosh, which is a big sink, and we’d chuck the fish in the bosh, wash them all off, put them in the fridge, ice over them and then wait ‘til we got enough to take to market. In the early days they would go to Billingsgate, but that was very early days because the amount of fish that we used to catch, grew less and less and less, so in the early days I used to deal with a company called Bennet’s in Billingsgate, but when father took it over he used to deal with a different company. But I guess it probably became Bennet’s. And that was established in 1840 apparently and this is H Barber & Sons (looking at a receipt).

Wyndham Howells repairing putcher nets.