The Fish House to the rear of 312-14 Whapload Road

Overview

Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1207049

Date first listed: 03-Oct-1977

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Sep-2018

Statutory Address: The Fish House and surface setts in the yard, to the rear of 312-14 Whapload Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR32 1UL

Map

Ordnance survey map of The Fish House to the rear of 312-14 Whapload Road
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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Location

Statutory Address: The Fish House and surface setts in the yard, to the rear of 312-14 Whapload Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR32 1UL

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Suffolk

District: Waveney (District Authority)

Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Grid Reference: TM5522794107

Summary

Former workshop and store, possibly associated with the repair and storage of fishing nets, rebuilt in 1676 with probable C16 origins.

Reasons for Designation

The Fish House, a former workshop and store rebuilt in 1676 with probable C16 origins, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* it is an early surviving and rare example of this type of fishing industry-related building;

* it retains a significant proportion of original fabric, including the timber mullioned windows, as well as later features such as the internal wall divisions which demonstrate a high level of craftsmanship in their neatly ordered construction;

* it retains a late-C19 setted surface to the adjacent yard formerly used for workshop processes;

* it has an interesting architectural distinction between the working and polite elevations indicating the building’s position in between the merchant’s houses along the High Street and the fishing activity along the shore;

* despite the unfortunate loss of the roof and south gable end due to bomb damage, it remains legible as a former workshop and store with rooms similar in size to the pens used to store fishing nets.

Historic interest:

* it is an important element in the Whapload Road area in which numerous (unlisted) historic buildings related to the fishing industry retain their characteristic form;

* it forms part of the area significant for its retention of historic industrial buildings and its preservation of the historic urban morphology of the beach area.

History

The name Lowestoft is Scandinavian in origin and may be translated as Hloover’s toft – the homestead of Hloover. The town relocated to the cliff-top from an earlier site, about a mile to the south-west, during the period 1300-1350, partly because of increasing maritime activity (especially herring-fishing) and the need it created to be closer to the sea, and partly because of the difficulty of accommodating an expanding population in-situ without building houses on valuable agricultural land. The area chosen for the new site was low-grade coastal heath, used mainly for the rough-grazing of livestock which became a more useful asset to the manorial lord as building-land. The main street is of sinuous alignment, following the natural curves of the cliff. The better-off members of the community lived along the High Street whilst the less affluent largely resided in a gridiron side-street area to the west. Lowestoft was thus a planned late medieval town.

The High Street was lined with burgage plots containing prosperous merchants’ houses for much of the medieval and early modern period, and the cliff-face was made usable by terracing. The cliff-top itself provided an area behind the houses for the storage of household goods and materials; and the first step down was multi-purpose, sometimes planted with fruit trees and used as an amenity area, but also functioning as a place for putting all kinds of household waste. The second and third stages down were mainly taken up with the buildings that serviced fishing and other maritime enterprise: curing-houses, net-stores, stables and the like. Access from the cliff-top to the sea was provided by footways known as scores (three of them widened for use by carts) – a word deriving from the Old Norse ‘skora’, meaning ‘to cut’ or ‘to incise’. These had originally started life as surface-water gullies down the soft face of the cliff – a natural process that lent itself to use as tracks.

The chief trade of Lowestoft and the source of its prosperity remained herring fishing until the C19. Then in 1827 the harbour was created, and in 1832 the navigation continued through to Oulton Broad, giving access to the River Waveney and Norwich. Samuel Morton Peto was brought in to construct the outer harbour, and he ensured the arrival of the railway in 1847 as well as developing the land south of the harbour as a seaside resort. The town was bombarded by the Germans in 1916 and suffered considerable damage from 178 enemy raids in the Second World War. Post-war reconstruction involved new roads being cut through the northern part of the town. In the later years of the C20 the fishing industry has almost completely declined.

The Fish House is a multi-phased structure which was rebuilt or re-fronted around 1676 as a workshop and store, possibly associated with the repair and storage of fishing nets. Its original, pre-1676 purpose is unknown. It formed the eastern part of a burgage plot, at the western end of which was a substantial house which fronted onto the High Street. The house was destroyed in the Second World War and subsequent landscaping work to the rear destroyed the outline of the burgage plot. To the east of the burgage plots between the town and the sea was an area of frequently flooded ground which was common land or manorial waste, called The Denes. This land was used from the late medieval period for fairs and a market. Curing sheds for the herring industry, sail making sheds, coopers’ workshops, and warehouses were developed along the eastern edges of the burgage plots where they met the waste by the C16. The urbanisation and industrialisation of the manorial waste ground led to a gradual exodus of wealthy families who lived on the High Street, domestic use being replaced by shipping offices, banks and other commercial uses.

The west elevation of the Fish House (now partly hidden by industrial units) was probably designed as a display façade as it terminated the gardens of the house to which it belonged, and was also highly visible from St Margaret’s Vicarage and its gardens to the immediate south. A plaque on the west elevation dated 1676 and inscribed with the initials WIM possibly refers to a member of the Munds family, wealthy merchants, brewers, and fishing boat owners, who are recorded as having a house at the northern end of the High Street in the later C17. It is possible that the date plaque commemorates the rebuilding of the structure rather than the date of its initial construction which may have been in the C16. The presence of dressed ashlar blocks in the lower courses of the building’s east elevation supports the theory that the 1676 date refers to a rebuilding, as does the fact that the upper section of the structure and internal walls are constructed in a style different to the lower external walls. Documentary evidence suggests that by the mid-C19 the building formed part of a rope works owned by the Francis family. A significant number of Lowestoft rope makers made fishing nets as well as ropes for rigging and mooring. The building continued to be owned by rope manufacturers until the 1960s.

As a working building, the Fish House has been altered and adapted over the years. The first-floor windows on the east elevation appear to date to the C19 and are of a type common to workshops and warehouses of the period. The openings were enlarged to cater for the new casements and originally had a line of security bars on their inner face. In the mid-C20 the south gable was rebuilt and the roof structure replaced, possibly as a result of blast damage during the Second World War. The ceiling height on the ground floor was raised in the mid- to late C20, and an additional floor inserted to create an attic. Openings have been created in the ground-floor dividing walls. The Fish House is currently (2018) being converted into residential use.

Details

Former workshop and store, possibly associated with the repair and storage of fishing nets, rebuilt in 1676 with probable C16 origins, and with mid-C20 repairs following bomb damage.

MATERIALS: washed cobbles, knapped flint, red clay bricks and some reused dressed ashlar stone with a roof covering of reused pantiles unlikely to pre-date the C19.

PLAN: the Fish House stands to the rear (west) of Whapload Road and forms the western side of a small enclosed yard with a setted surface. The northern elevation adjoins a long building orientated east-west that dates to the C20.

EXTERIOR: the Fish House is a two-storey, three-bay building with a pitched roof and parapets at the gables. The east elevation, which faces into the yard, is constructed of washed cobbles and brick and some irregularly sized stones which are likely to have been reused from another building. The eaves course is a mix of soft red clay brick interspersed with mid-C20 Fletton bricks. The upper two to three courses have been rebuilt, probably as a result of the roof being replaced. The three C17 ground-floor timber mullioned windows, which were originally unglazed, are placed on edge outwards in a diamond pattern, set beneath timber lintels. Two door openings between the first and second windows, and another between the second and third windows, have plank and batten doors. The surrounds to the window and door openings are mostly of soft red clay brick, with the heads having a shallow rise to the centre. At first-floor level, in the first bay the external taking-in door is of probable C19 date but was modified when the floor level was raised. This is reached by a timber platform. Two early to mid-C19 timber casement windows light the following two bays. The west elevation (which is largely obscured from view by late-C20 industrial units) demonstrates a high quality of construction. It has an ordered appearance with the cobbles being tightly set and a high number of brick headers being visible. A date stone, set within a well-constructed brick surround, records the date of 1676 and the initials WIM. The three first-floor windows have similar timber mullions to the east elevation but are set further back in the wall. The majority of the south elevation has been rebuilt with Fletton bricks in the second half of the C20 although the lower section retains the original masonry construction. The north gable end adjoins the adjacent building.

INTERIOR: none of the internal historic fixtures and fittings survives. The roof structure is of C20 date, as are the floor structures apart from the north room on the ground floor which retains part of a brick floor surface. There are three ground-floor rooms separated by walls which post-date the exterior walls. They are constructed to a high standard of flint pebbles and brick in a decorative style. The rooms are similar in size to the pens used to store fishing nets, and the large first-floor chamber may have been a net repair workshop. This may originally have been open to the roof.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the approach to the courtyard from Whapload Road and the southern half of the courtyard are paved with late-C19 setts.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 391367

Legacy System: LBS

Sources

Books and journals
Pevsner, Nikolaus, Radcliffe, Enid, The Buildings of England: Suffolk, (2002)
Other
Dr Paul Bradley and James Darwin, The Fish House: Historical Appraisal (April 2015)

End of official listing