Grimsby merchant revives old smokehouses

TEN traditional Grimsby smokehouses which have been dormant for almost 30 years have been brought back to life.
The fish merchant behind the project is Lee Williams, owner of B&L Filleting, who has a real passion for smoked fish.
He acquired the contract filleting business with his late father Kenny 17 years ago, but the original smokehouses, which were installed in the 1920s, were still there – bricked up and out of action.
It was Kenny, who died a few weeks ago aged 72, who told his son at the time: ‘Get those working again.’
They had once belonged to fish merchant John Proctor who is said to have produced some of the finest kippers and smoked haddock in the country. (His other claim to fame is that his horse Sheila’s Cottage won the Grand National back in 1948.)
Williams has invested heavily in B&L Filleting over the past few years, but the smokehouse project is clearly his pride and joy. The smokehouses are fitted with smart, shiny steel doors engineered locally by Bacon’s.
‘I believe what we have here are some of the finest traditional smokehouses in the country. Traditionally smoked fish is so much better than the kiln variety, both in taste and quality. In fact, traditional is making a real comeback while kilned smoked is in decline.
‘What excites me is the fantastic heritage in this building. I believe there is a massive market out there for our type of smoked fish.’
He has dedicated the business to the memory of his late father, and plans to produce high end smoked haddock and cod loins for the restaurant and wholesale markets.
‘Kippers are making a comeback and we also intend to start smoking herrings.’
The 10 kilns are capable of producing two and a half tonnes of smoked fish a day.
Williams, who employs 15 people in total, has taken on four new staff for the project, which is led by Stephen Matthews, who has considerable business in the craft.
To make room for the venture, the white fish filleting has been moved to the next door premises of Goodwin’s, which Williams recently acquired.
The development is the second milestone in the relatively short time this company has been growing. Last year B&L Filleting achieved the Marine Stewardship Council chain of custody certification, a segregation standard that tracks the full supply chain from fishing vessel or fish farm to final sale.
Williams said the MSC award was designed to raise standards and he was proud to be part of it.
Along with his father, his great mentor was the late Tommy Rudland, for many years one of Grimsby’s leading fish merchants.
‘He was a great teacher. He insisted that every box of fish leaving his business should be perfectly packed and in perfect condition. I learned so much from Tommy.’