Fish & Chip Shop and Rose Cottage, The Green
The Fish and Chip shop must be one of the most attractive chip shops in the country and many visitors go out of their way to visit it on the way to their holiday on the coast and enjoy fish and chips by the pond on the idyllic village green.
There is a date plate on the north gable end of the thatched building which unfortunately has been mostly painted out but appears to say 176? and under it are the initials STM. The building was re-thatched in 2021 and the plaque checked close-up but was still indistinct. If the date is 176? it would pre-date Faden’s map which is the earliest available for Martham. A copy of the map is shown below and the building can be made out by an optimist but is not totally clear.
The age of the cottage is also confirmed by a map published in a little book published by Robert Porter in 1830 entitled “The Strangers Guide Book for the Polite Village of Martham”. The book includes several maps of the village green area and the houses that surrounded it. The cottage is shown near the Back Lane pond on the map as illustrated below. Robert was the village schoolmaster at Martham and wrote most of his book whilst living at The Vicarage although he was never the vicar. You can read more about the book by clicking on the links in this paragraph.
These maps do not show the building as being directly beside Hemsby Road and it may be possible that the part that is the fish and chip shop today stood alone in those early days without the attached cottage. The present-day photograph at the top of this page shows a central gable end wall dividing them and two chimneys indicating that Rose Cottage was attached later. The 1842 Tithe Award map shows them both as a semi-detached pair – see below.
At the time of the 1841 census the cottage was occupied by James & Mary Manthorpe. He was a basketmaker and probably operated from the shop side of the building whilst they lived at what is today called Rose Cottage next door. James & Mary had moved to Black Street by 1851 and then to Caister by 1861 where he ran a successful basketmaking and mending business at Yarmouth Road employing three men and a boy.
In 1842 the cottage was owned by John Francis (1786 to1863) a solicitor at Lincoln’s Inn, London who acted for clients in Norfolk and it was still occupied by James Manthorpe, the basketmaker. It was described as a cottage and garden of 28 perches. John Francis did not live in Martham, he came from the farming and landowning Francis family and his brother George farmed at Grange Farm.
We now come to a long period of some 60 years from 1851 to 1911 when there are no identifiably records for the fish shop or Rose Cottage. No-one is listed as a fish merchant or fryer throughout this period. Fish and chips first appeared in the UK in the 1860s so it is possible that the fish and chip business had not started in Martham. If this is so we have to look for other trades but as the properties are not directly beside others there is no consistent walking order in census returns that helps identify either trades or people living in the vicinity over several years. If anyone can help with more information, please contact me. Indeed, it is not thought that it became a fish and chip shop until around 1915. The photograph below dates to this period and there is a sign above the door on the left but you cannot make out what is says. Business directories for this period do not mention a fish shop.
Harry Cobb lived and owned at what is today called Cobblers Cottage where he plied his trade as a leather worker supplying boots and shoes, but he also owned the Fish & Chip shop and the adjoining Rose Cottage which he bought in the early 1930’s. He bought them for his daughter Sophie and her husband Reuben Ward who had married in 1932. Reuben was a fisherman and Harry thought it may be safer if he had an occupation which was not at sea. Sophie and Reuben used to do the frying and run the business, but they all lived at Cobblers Cottage. In 1939 Rose Cottage was let to Beatrice Self (1888-1964) who lived there with her three sons and a daughter. Beatrice was a widow, her husband Frederick, a former bricklayer, having died in 1929. One of her sons was called Sidney (Siddie) who ran an ‘open all hours’ sweetshop from a small shed there until the 1950’s.
Harry Cobb died in January 1960 and actually left the Fish and Chip shop to his other daughter Olive (1917-2008) and Cobblers Cottage to Sophie and Reuben which had been their home throughout. Olive, meanwhile, had married James Ryan in 1941. By 1960 the chippy needed work doing to it which Olive could not afford so she sold it to the sitting tenants at the time who were John & Laura Smith.
John (known as Jack) Smith was born in 1912 in Hampshire and having married Martham girl Laura Jane Moll in 1935 had a small chippy in a wooden shed in Staithe Road in the 1950s before moving into the shop on The Green in around 1953. Apparently, they took the frying pans from one shop to the other when they moved.
Older generations remember the counter being across the whole front inside the shop facing the door with the preparation room to the rear where they had a hand operated chipper to cut buckets full of chips.
Jack & Laura eventually retired and sold the business to Sid & Daphne Seily in 1979 who traded successfully for 20 years until they too retired and the business passed into the hands of the present owners, the Taylors, in 1999.
My grateful thanks to Martha Baker, a descendant of the Cobbs, for help proving this page.