Special status for world-famous Northumberland home of Craster Kippers
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Built in 1856, the smokehouse is a rare surviving remnant of the North East’s once thriving herring industry.
From the mid-19th to the early 20th century, there were herring yards in almost every coastal town and village, meeting the large demand for this low-cost staple food.
A small proportion of fresh fish was sold to local buyers in the daily fish markets but most of it was pickled or cured in smokehouses and then transported to other domestic and European markets.
There was a sharp decline of the herring business along the east coast in the 1920s and 1930s causing many firms to go bankrupt and the smokehouses to fall into disuse. Fresh fish such as cod and plaice were now cheaper due to railway transport and refrigeration, making smoked and pickled fish less appealing.
Craster has long been associated with the fishing and fish curing trade. In 1887, there were four fish curers in the village including William Archbold.
He employed James Robson, who later set up his own business, buying the smokehouse in 1906. The smokehouse has remained in the same family ever since and is currently run by Neil Robson, James’ great-grandson.
Trading as L Robson & Sons, it’s the only surviving fish curing business in the village and still produces Craster kippers the traditional way.
Herring are hung on tenter hooks and placed in the smokehouse for 16 hours where they are smoked by fires on the ground, fuelled by whitewood shavings and oak sawdust.
Neil said: “As the fourth-generation custodian of this business, I am delighted that the smokehouse has been granted listed status.
"This historic building enables us to continue to produce Craster Kippers in the same way as my great grandfather and subsequent generations, guaranteeing their quality for many years to come.”
Sarah Charlesworth, listing team leader for Historic England in the North, said: “Kippers are an integral part of Craster’s cultural identity and the smokehouse is a physical embodiment of the village’s special character, as well as a living monument to the North East’s historic fishing industry.”