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The Oldest Fish Smokehouse In London Is Saved From Closure

14th February 2013 Paul Andrews

Prince Charles steps in to help save Walter Purkis & Sons when they were threatened with closure

The Purkis Family have been involved in supplying food to families in and around London for nearly two centuries. Members of the family have been Greengrocers, Butchers and Fishmongers over the years. Walter Purkis came into the Fish trade on leaving school over fourty-five years ago, when he found employment as a trainee fish salesman in the Old Billingsgate Market. 

The present business was founded in1973 by Walter when he bought his first shop at the Baker's Arms, Leyton in East London. Within a few years he added a second shop in Hoe Street, Walthamstow and then a third shop in Wood Street, Walthamstow.

The business continued to expand and in 1983 Walter purchased from the Green Family, his fourth shop at Crouch End, North London. This was followed by the purchase of the fifth shop on Muswell Hill Broadway in 1987.

As the patterns of trade altered in different areas it became necessary to dispose of the Leyton and Walthamstow Shops, leaving the Crouch End and Muswell Hill shops as the core business.

The two shops are now run by Walter in Muswell Hill and eldest son John at the Crouch End Shop. Together with Walter's wife Pamela who moves between shops helping were ever needed. Although Walter and Pamela's other three children have different careers you will often see them helping Dad and Mum when holiday times come around.

The business had recently been banned from smoking fish in their Crouch End shop following a single complaint from a local resident and the future of the shop, and the business was placed in jeopardy.  The local community came out in force to support the family business and a campaign was launched which even gained involvement from as far afield as New York!

A visit to the store from Kay Horne, a manager with Sainsburys and also someone working with The Princes Trust who got involved with the campaign, providing support and advice and a solution was developed that appeased the complainant and the business has been able to continue to smoke fish due to minimising the impact on the local community.

The smoke house is a crucial part of this family business as much of the smoked fish sold through the shops is smoked in the century old smoke house at the rear of the Crouch End Shop, with recipes that have been handed down through the family for at least six generations.  As well as the freshest of fish and the most succulent shellfish you can also find a large range of sauces, marinades, relishes and salsas to compliment you meals.

The end result is a positive outcome for a family business, good news for the local community and a success story for the local High Street with a shp remaining open at a time when others are facing the stark reality of closure.


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