329 Whapload Road
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Statutory Address:
- Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR23 1UL
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- Statutory Address:
- Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR23 1UL
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Waveney (District Authority)
- Non Civil Parish
- National Grid Reference:
Mid-C17 salt store, extended in the late C17 or early C18 as a fish smoke house.
Reasons for Designation
329 Whapload Road, a mid-C17 salt store, extended in the late C17 or early C18 as a fish smoke house, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* the salt store, which is integrated into the main structure but was clearly once distinct, is the earliest known purpose-built salt house or salt store in Lowestoft;
* it represents the most complete example yet identified of a pre-industrial Lowestoft Fish Office, preserving the remains of the internal fixtures which facilitated the production of smoked red herring, the mainstay of the Lowestoft fishing industry;
* the survival of the wooden racks (loves) attached to the brick partitions which extend to the apex of the roof is extremely rare and remains a legible example that can be clearly understood and directly compared to contemporary descriptions of pre-industrial smoke houses;
* after the 1860s when traditional Fish Offices were converted into large net stores and net repair lofts, no. 329 was adapted to include a net repair loft, becoming the sole surviving example of this kind of multi-functional, pre-industrial Fish Office. It is thus highly significant within the fragmentary physical remains of Lowestoft’s herring fishery.
• it is an important element in the Whapload Road area in which numerous historic buildings related to the fishing industry retain their characteristic form, together representing the national importance of this Lowestoft industry.
* it has strong group value with the Grade II-listed Old Fish House behind 312-314 Whapload Road, both of which were constructed by the Wilde family and have a similar use, date and design with an ornate western façade facing the High Street properties above.
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.
329 Whapload Road occupies a site which originally formed the eastern extension of the medieval burgage plots behind 2 High Street. For much of the C17 this was owned by the influential Wilde family who also acquired the malt house and fish house within the plot. These were damaged in the fire that swept through Lowestoft in 1645. An inventory taken at the time of Josiah Wilde’s death in 1656 records a salt house, indicating that he was quick to rebuild after the disastrous fire. It is highly likely that this salt store forms the western end of 329 Whapload Road which was originally a standalone structure onto which the rest of the building was added. Its construction matches that of the Grade II-listed Old Fish House to the rear of 312-314 Whapload Road, also believed to have been built as a salt store and associated with the Wilde family. When Josiah’s wife Elizabeth died in 1658 the property passed to their son Thomas Wilde who surrendered it to Thomas Wilde of Yarmouth in 1663. Thereafter, 2 High Street and the associated fishing buildings changed hands regularly, moving between the Wildes of Lowestoft, the Wildes of Yarmouth and the Mighells family before 1719 when Mary Hayward was bequeathed the property in her husband’s will. It is unclear when the main fish-smoking range of no. 329 was added to the salt store but is likely to have been in the late C17 or early C18, and may be the work of John Hayward who owned it from 1693 until his death in 1719. The long southern elevation looked onto a courtyard whilst the northern elevation marked the boundary of the plot.
In the Tithe Award of 1842 the property at no. 329 was described as a ‘Fish Office’, occupied by John Gall and owned by the Reverend Richard Aldous Arnold. At around that time a timber balcony along the western half of the southern elevation was added, and two ranges aligned north-south were added at the western end of the building, on the north and south sides. The southern range blocked off the external entrance to the salt store which probably resulted in the internal first-floor alterations to connect it with the rest of the building. The balcony and ranges have since been taken down. By 1892, the building was in the possession of Thomas Richards, a fish salesman who used it as a store, presumably indicating that internal changes had been made to the building and that fish smoking was no longer taking place within it. Around this time, ships’ timbers were reused to support the raising of the roof. In the Inland Revenue Valuation Survey of 1910/11, the building is described as ‘A brick and tile 2 storey net store’.
329 Whapload Road likely remained in use for the storage and preparation of nets throughout the first half of the C20 until the home herring fishing voyages ceased altogether in the mid-1960s. Since then the building has mainly been used to store items hired out to holiday makers until it became vacant in the early years of the C21.
Mid-C17 salt store, extended in the late C17 or early C18 as a fish smoke house.
MATERIALS: local red bricks and courses of washed cobbles or beach stone, rendered in a preservative coating of tar. Roof covering of unglazed clay pantiles.
PLAN: the building has a long, narrow rectangular plan aligned east-west at right angles to Whapload Road and is divided into three main parts. The small square section at the western end is the mid-C17 (originally free-standing) salt store, whilst the other two form the main late C17/ early C18 range. The central section is subdivided into three broadly equal square chambers formerly linked by openings in the brick partitions. The eastern section is a single space with a small compartment at the western end created by the insertion of a staircase.
EXTERIOR: the three-storey building has a steeply pitched roof and is divided into three sections. The salt store at the western end has thinner exterior walls than those of the main range, and the beach stone coursing is more regular. The blind gable end and south elevation of the salt store are both formed of decorative courses of red brick headers and triplets of beach stones set in a loose mortar. A lean-to corrugated iron shed has been built against the south elevation in which the door opening and (now blocked) mullion ventilator both appear to be in their original positions. Inserted courses of red bricks indicate that the roof has been raised.
The long central section has a slightly higher roofline which was either raised or substantially repaired in the C19. On the south elevation the lower half has been covered in thick cement render. This part of the building has been subject to numerous repairs or alterations, and the irregularly positioned apertures are currently boarded over. Above the ground-floor openings, a row of 17 sockets indicate the former location of a timber balcony, a common feature amongst the fishing buildings of the east coast where it provided space to hang nets to dry. A first-floor door on the far left of this central section indicates that access to the smokehouse was also gained via the balcony. To the right are two blocked openings which originated as mullioned ventilator openings, followed by a doorway and two large windows, all under segmental brick arches. Above, there is a row of three mullioned ventilators.
The eastern section of the building is constructed of irregular courses of red brick and beach stone cobbles which extend to the eaves, suggesting the proportions remain broadly as originally constructed. The south elevation appears to have once had doors at its western and eastern ends but C20 alterations have seen the former repurposed to access stairs to the first floor, and the latter infilled and replaced by a window. In between there are two ground-floor, diamond-profile mullioned ventilators which appear to be early C19 in date. At first-floor level, the windows are of varying sizes but all under flat brick arches. The two smaller windows to the left appear to date from the insertion of the staircase, whilst the two to the right have modern frames but their openings are C18. In between these is a large taking-in door with a hoist dating to the mid-C20.
The northern elevation formed the boundary wall of the site and as such has far fewer openings. In the central section there is only a pair of blocked ventilators beneath the eaves. This is replicated on the eastern section which is also lit at first-floor level by two casement windows with modern frames. Between these, a plain square brick chimney rises through the eaves. The east gable end has experienced the most alteration and appears to have been rebuilt. The present arrangement of three first-floor windows beneath flat rick arches and a taking-in door for the attic appears to date from the C19, although the window frame are modern replacements.
INTERIOR: the eastern section of the building is devoid of internal divisions on the ground floor. This, together with the unshuttered ventilators and cambered stone sett floor with drainage channel, suggests that it was a roaring or roasting house in which the herring were heaped upon the floor from the boats and covered in salt for five or six days before being washed and hung on wooden spits ready for smoking. The internal face of the northern wall, formed of irregular courses of brick and beach stone, is original, whilst the southern wall of brick is likely to be of early C19 date. The space is ceiled by the first-floor surface above, comprised of simple machine cut softwood joists and floorboards which are a more recent replacement.
The central section is divided into three equally sized, broadly square rooms. Originally an undivided space, the dividing walls which rise from the ground to the apex of the roof were inserted, most likely in the early C19, to create smaller compartments to give greater control over the smoking process. The smoke bays each have their own external access door and each interconnected with the neighbouring bays via doors in the partitions which have been filled in. The beach stones in the walls, the stone sett floors and elements of the timber frames which formed the first-floor surface are all smoke blackened, as the fires would have been set directly on the stone setts.
On the first and second floors of this central section, where the early C19 brick partition walls have not been obscured by later panelling, the timber racks or loves are visible where they have been integrated into the brick coursing to provide the end rack for each smoking compartment. Otherwise the loves have been removed as part of the reconfiguration from fish smoking to storage. Above the first-floor bays, a second floor has been partially inserted at a later date, comprised of a mixture of sawn softwood beams, reused telegraph poles and ex situ timbers. It retains a full floor above the eastern bay and a partially boarded floor above the central bay, but there is no floor above the western bay.
At second-floor level in the central section of the building, all three bays retain the racks or loves of the smoke house which survive in situ and largely complete. Each smoking love comprises three vertical struts – the central one intersecting with the apex of the roof – into which trenches have been cut to receive the horizontal members which have been pegged into place. In addition to providing the racks to hang the spits of each herring, the loves also act as roof trusses, thus being integral to the roof structure. There is evidence for the removal of the frames below the second storey in the cutting away of the vertical struts level with the wall plates. These have then been joined together by the lateral insertion of machine cut softwood beams.
The first floor of the eastern section of the building appears to have been a net store, although it has been much altered in the later C20 and little evidence remains of its former usage. A trapdoor in the ceiling above suggests that nets were repaired in the attic above and dropped down to be stored for future use. This trap door is the only means of access via a ladder. The four opposed pairs of arch shaped braces, mounted inverted, which connect the lateral beams of the attic floor with the brick work of the northern and southern walls, are most likely reused ships’ ‘knees’, the curved bracing timbers used in boat construction. The western section of the building is the originally free-standing salt store. The ground floor is an open space devoid of features with no evidence that it was formerly divided into bays. The ground floor is ceiled by a later softwood floor to the space above, the timber beams supported by timber bracing. On the first floor the partition between the salt store and the rest of the building is the original external wall constructed of brick and cobble stone. An opening has been punched through to connect the first-floor space to the rest of the building. In the south-western corner, the position of a lintel and jamb of a timber window indicates that the current floor surface is higher than its predecessor.
Books and journals
Bettley, J, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Suffolk: East, (2015)
Butcher, David, Medieval Lowestoft: The Origins and Growth of a Suffolk Coastal Community, (2016)
Butcher, David, Lowestoft, 1550-1750: Development and Change in a Suffolk Coastal Town, (2008)
Matthew Bristow, 311-333 Whapload Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk: Historic Area Assessment, Historic England Research Report Series no. 57-2019 (2019)
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
End of official listing