Revealing the stories behind historic buildings rebuilt in new locations. A fully working coal-fired Edwardian fish and chip shop has been reconstructed at Beamish Museum.
Browse content similar to Episode 2. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Every year, countless thousands of ordinary buildings are demolished,
smashed down to make way for the new.
For many, this fate is unavoidable.
But some are so special they are saved, carefully taken down
piece by piece, stored away until a new home for them can be found.
They can be lovingly and painstakingly rebuilt.
These are not grand buildings
but always exceptional pieces of architecture.
But preserved within the fabric are extraordinary stories.
Stories about who we are as a nation and what we have achieved.
About the materials and techniques that we use.
It's not as easy as it looks.
And why we build the way we do.
It feels like you're making it the way it should be made.
In this series, I'm going to uncover the hidden history
behind these seemingly humble buildings
to reveal that it's not just the houses of the great and rich
that have remarkable stories to tell.
My grandfather was probably
-the first airman to die in the First World War.
I'll be seeing how these huge, incredibly complex jigsaw puzzles
that were once buildings are actually put back together again.
I'm here at Beamish, the living museum of the north-east of England,
at the beginning of an exciting and intriguing build.
One that promises to tell the story of our national dish.
Down below me in the reconstructed old colliery town,
they've begun work on an Edwardian coal-fired fish and chip shop
where it's hoped they'll soon be serving our nation's favourite,
cooked exactly the same way as it was 100 years ago.
And I'm going to explore the surprising origins
of this seemingly thoroughly British dish and I hope in the process
to discover where and when the momentous marriage
of chips and fried and battered fish actually took place.
The museum covers a vast 300 acre site and is dedicated to preserving
examples of everyday life in north-east England.
Normally, here at Beamish, it's the building like this schoolhouse
that is saved and preserved in the museum
and the interiors are pieced together to fit the building.
But in this case,
it's the interior they are desperate to save
and they need to create a building around it to house it.
The challenge for Jim Reece, the project's mastermind,
is to create a building that feels genuinely old.
What's the thinking that's gone on in the design process?
I think there are two Victorian...Edwardian
chip ranges left in the world and we've got one of them.
So that's one of the key points to start with.
The other is that 30 years ago, we collected all these wonderful tiles
and so we've got to get a building
where we can put them in and make it make sense historically.
So here we've got, if you like,
the typical late-Victorian industrial unit.
There's an office and a stables
and here our guy has invested all his savings in this chip range
and he takes this building and puts his chip range in
and it starts to make money and in 1910, he achieves his ambition,
which is a sit-in restaurant, and then they called them saloons.
Even our nearby town had two fish and chip saloons by about 1905.
Where does the kind of authenticity come from?
You could happily beam this down in any pit village around County Durham
and it wouldn't even notice.
We've got colliery bricks, chimney pots from the local fire clay works.
It's got to be the real stuff of history.
Jim's plans are certainly ambitious and he seems very, very confident
but I have a couple of concerns.
The first is that he's trying to create this hybrid building,
a jigsaw puzzle of pieces taken from here, there and everywhere.
Bringing those together and making it feel right,
to fit in with all these authentic buildings, is going to be tough.
The second is he's trying to work with Edwardian coal-fired ranges,
and make that into a modern restaurant
with all the health and hygiene standards that go with that,
producing hundreds of meals a day.
I think that's going to be very, very hard
and I just hope that he hasn't underestimated
the scale of the challenge.
And the first challenge
is to build walls that look authentically Victorian
using a combination of reclaimed and modern materials.
While work gets under way, I've headed to the museum's archives,
hoping to discover something
about the origins of the fish and chip shop.
Early fish fryers had a terrible evil reputation.
The great Henry Mayhew, social observer, social reformer,
had this to say in 1861,
"The fried fish sellers live in some out-of-the-way alleys.
"For even amongst the poorest class, there are great objections
"to their being fellow lodgers on account of the odour of the frying.
"A gin-drinking neighbourhood, one coster said, suits best,
"for people haven't their smell so correct there."
Of course, if you remember, a few years earlier,
Charles Dickens writing Oliver Twist had the frightful Fagin
living in an area of fried fish warehouses.
There's a good reason Dickens had Fagin, a Jewish character,
living amongst the fish fryers.
Because the earliest reference to fried, battered fish I can uncover
comes from the 1830s, where it is called "fried fish Jewish style".
In the Jewish communities of Victorian east London,
off cuts of any available fish were battered, fried
and then hawked on the streets as a cheap, cold snack.
Baked potatoes were also sold, but no chips.
The earliest chip shops sprang up
around the cotton mills of Lancashire in the 1860s,
using the readily available cotton seed oil
to fry potatoes in what was called the French method.
It's not known for certain when Jewish fish first joined French
chips but by the 1870s, thoroughly British fish and chips
were spreading like wildfire
through the country's working-class communities.
The museum's director, Richard Evans,
has been researching these first fish and chip shops.
It was actually a really important source of income
for people and often people who were down on their luck,
they needed a second source of income.
Perhaps the main breadwinner had been hurt in an industrial accident
so they might have been serving fish and chips
from a house like this, frying in the back,
serving from the front, in the heart of the community.
So you could plant a load of spuds in your front garden,
-get yourself a fryer and start your own fish and chip shop.
There was very little legislation in the early years
and quite a lot of fires and accidents,
I should think, around it. But it was a real centre for the community.
A family or a pitman might eat from a fish and chip shop
three or four times a week.
These thousands of front room enterprises in the backstreets
could be revoltingly squalid establishments,
as another book in the archives reveals.
Here we see an account written by a chap called Sir Shirley Murphy.
Obviously a bit of a stickler for health.
He says, "The conditions under which fish are cleansed and stored are,
"as a rule, most unsatisfactory.
"Numerous instances have been found where floors and walls were fouled
"with decomposing fish, slime and excremental matter."
Going out to the chippie in the 1900s was obviously,
you were really rather taking your life in your hands!
I just hope they're not planning to replicate those hygiene standards
in our backstreet fish and chip shop.
Work on the walls is already well underway,
so I head over to offer a helping hand to Kenny, the bricklayer.
-Where do you want them?
-Drop them on top of them, Charlie.
I'm glad to see you working
with these nice modern, lightweight bricks!
No, there's nothing light about these bricks!
There's no holes in these, like the modern day bricks.
A little bit longer, a little bit wider, little bit deeper.
You seem to be doing a very nice job here.
-Shall I muck it up a bit and have a go?
-You can have a go, Charlie. Yes.
I can't say I'm a great bricklayer but...
-I am not sure I'm very good at this, Kenny.
-That's all right.
-Is that all right?
-Yeah. Just tap it out. That's it.
-You're happy for me to put some of these bricks up?
Everyone's going to think you built this.
It doesn't matter. You carry on.
When I get this back filled, nobody will ever know.
-This is going underground? That's why you're letting me do it?
-So these are colliery bricks, are they?
They were made at the old collieries
and all the local mines used to put in,
like you can see there, Howden. That would come from the Howden mine.
Amazing. I had no idea collieries made bricks.
This is one of my favourite ones. It's not that I love them bricks,
but that's the only one I've seen with love in it.
That's a very well made brick, though, isn't it?
-It's a much better made brick than this? Decorative, with moulding.
Within the Durham area alone, more than 50 colliery brickworks
produced the millions of bricks that were required to feed
the building boom of the Industrial Revolution.
Colliery towns of the north-east, such as Tantobie,
possess a distinct architectural charm and quality
that's due largely to geology.
When coal was sourced in an area like this,
workers' housing was needed rapidly and in large quantities.
The solution was rather brilliant.
The shafts were sunk, searching for the coal seam.
In the process, the overburden of clay that had to be removed
to reach the coal was brought to the surface
and used to provide cheap and readily available building material.
Colliery towns can possess a great visual uniformity
because the houses tend to be built at the same time
to more or less standard designs and all using the same colliery bricks.
But the bricks can possess
beautiful, subtle variations of colour and tone,
depending on the mineral content of local clay.
The incredible variety of colliery bricks are on display
in one of the tram stops at Beamish.
That is absolutely magnificent!
-It's wonderful, isn't it?
-It is. It's beautiful.
-It is beautiful.
Incredible colour scheme, isn't it? Just like subtle variations.
All the different clays.
From this one here that's incredibly white,
to these dark, dark bricks down here.
You can see the different names, the different ages,
sometimes the same name going from a crude impression
like the F&L up there,
F&L even cruder.
Ferens & Love in that lovely accurate brick.
It was sort of an ego thing, "Not only are you working in my pit,
"I'm building your houses,
"but my name is inside all of the bricks that built it.
-Nebuchadnezzar did it, I think.
-It has a history, doesn't it?
I think he did it in Babylon.
That's exactly the kind of vernacular detail and character
that everyone thought industrialisation was killing off
but here it was, so local!
Here we've got a fantastic fish brick.
When we were building this wall,
an old lady came up to Kenny the bricklayer, and said,
"When we were little, we used to have these bricks with fish in."
So he rummaged about and sure enough, there's the fish brick.
And he said, "Do you remember these?" She said, "Yes, pet.
"We used to get lead, heat it up,
"pour this into the brick using it as a mould and make these little
"silver fish that they would wear as necklaces and so on."
And that really made that old lady's day.
She hadn't seen that fish brick for years. And there it is.
Wonderful. Such an amazing collection.
After three months' hard work,
Kenny's brickwork is high enough for the windows to be fitted.
This main section of the building will house the shop and kitchens.
A wing for the restaurant will be built later using corrugated iron.
Like the other Victorian materials, the windows have been reclaimed
from various demolitions and now all these elements must somehow
be pieced together seamlessly.
Inside the authentic colliery brickwork,
Kenny's building a second skin of breeze blocks,
allowing modern cavity insulation to be added.
I've headed across the road from the build
to one of the reconstructed miners' cottages
to partake in some traditional chip chopping
with Professor John Walton, who has written a history of fish and chips.
When do you think was the first time that fish and chips,
fish battered or fried, came together as a dish
and sold in a fish and chip shop?
There is no hard evidence for this
because nobody knew at the time it was going to be important.
There are various claimants from the 1860s in Lancashire,
the West Riding of Yorkshire, Mossley and Oldham.
What's now Greater Manchester, mainly.
There was a boom in the Edwardian era around about 1900.
Tell me about that.
-Really, fish and chips takes off from the 1870s onwards.
It's a mixture, I think,
of rising working-class living standards creating the demand,
partly because of falling food prices and the supply...
-..expanding rapidly because of the development of steam trawlers
and refrigeration techniques and of course railways,
to bring the fish quickly to inland consumers.
So it's an almost perfect storm of supply meeting demand
and churning things up.
The astonishing proliferation of fish and chip shops in the 1870s
generated a whole new industry supplying them with cooking ranges.
The early fryers simply used clothes washing cauldrons,
but soon companies were producing purpose-built ranges.
They became evermore elaborate and ornate
and by the turn of the century,
they were mechanical marvels of true beauty.
Only three Edwardian ranges survive. Beamish has one of them.
John Walton has gone to admire it with Richard Evans,
the museum director.
Yes. Not necessarily from Newcastle, of course.
It could have been from almost anywhere
where there was a range-making firm.
Every industrial town by the early 20th century
had its range-making firm.
It's one step up from the late-19th century basic ranges.
You've got the tiles, you've got this wonderful decoration.
In fact, in a lot of cases, I think these would be custom made
to the designs the individual fryers wanted.
-That is wonderful, isn't it?
These were the tubs in which the fish and the chips would be fried.
That's the thing, is it?
-There are tubs in here.
-Yes. You'd get a fire under each tub.
You've got to this equipment whereby you can regulate the air that comes through.
And of course getting the right temperature and sustaining it,
that was the art, wasn't it? That affected the flavour.
You had to do that by eye and by experience.
I think in these days of high technology, coming back to life,
it's really exciting, isn't it? It is splendid, isn't it?
'The question now is can we actually get it working?'
The boom in trade at the turn of the 20th century
produced another great leap forward in fish and chip technology.
The mobile takeaway.
Thousands of these horse-drawn coal-fired carts
once plied their trade across Britain but now, only one remains.
It worked the streets of Spennymoor for 50 years
right up until 1972,
when it was saved from a scrap heap by Beamish Museum.
They are now going to fully restore it,
to live next door to the Edwardian chip shop.
-Is this it, here?
-That's it. That was it.
So you're seriously telling me that this was a fish and chip van?
Because to me it looks like something you would find gently rotting
by the side of a field somewhere.
I suspect that's where they had it from in the first place.
-It looks like an old farm cart they've acquired.
-This is completely charred.
The actual oven itself was so heavy that over the years,
it's physically twisted these two pieces of timber holding it.
-What did that look like?
-Would you like to see the original? That's it.
-These were not in this condition when we found them.
-These are the originals?
-They're the originals.
They've come up beautifully, haven't they?
-How does this thing work?
-You have four separate coke fires.
They're all vented up through the same central chimney.
-So that would have gone up...
..through the top of the van and the smoke...
Well, most of it would go up the chimney.
-Because I mean, you've only got that.
-Yes. They don't fit.
There is a huge gap there so surely,
most of the smoke is just going to come straight up into your face.
-It's very basic, isn't it?
What's your vision for this restoration?
It my personal dream to take this back to Spennymoor
with a horse on the front, smoke coming up through the chimney
and actually being able to serve fish cake and chips again.
Well, there's a lot of work to do. HE LAUGHS
And with so much to do, I lend a hand.
There we go. Beautiful.
You really see the shape, don't you?
The cart's frame was so badly deteriorated, it's being replaced.
But much of the cart is remaining,
including the kitchen cupboards, made from old floorboards.
Bingo! Like a glove. Perfect.
So how did this bit of the operation work?
Well, standing either side of me were two coke scuttles,
quite a bit of coke actually survived,
so did the original shovel.
You would get the coke in there.
You would lift your very, very heavy cast iron pan
with boiling dripping in it.
That's actually a bit of a struggle for you, isn't it,
-without any dripping in it?
And I'm only reaching the near one. How did you get that one?
And then without spilling any, you put it back down again.
And how did you not sort of cook your arm reaching to this one
and then even more so, what did that one do?
Yes, indeed. Certainly at some point they didn't get it right
because there's evidence there's been at least one serious fire here.
That piece of wood down there really clearly shows
what happens when you get it wrong.
That's been really charred.
-It's just carbon.
-Properly burnt, isn't it?
It's kind of mental, isn't it?
And you're serious that you want to get it up and running for one cook?
We do, yes. Yes. You've got to do, haven't you?
It's November, six months into the build.
The walls of the Edwardian fish and chip shop are almost complete
and work is about to begin on the roof.
The size of the building is now becoming apparent
and this is certainly no Victorian front room enterprise.
That's because the early 1900s he saw a concerted effort
by the fish fryers to escape their reputation
as a scourge of the backstreets,
producing food fit only for the lowest classes.
This is a fascinating book.
It says here, "Why on earth should a fish shop be a dark, dismal place,
"enough to give one a fit of the blues on entry?
"The walls," the author says,
"Should be painted from floor to ceiling an electric green."
"All surfaces must be tiled
"in accordance with the strictest standards of hygiene."
This passage is from a book called The Fish Fryer And His Trade
and the author is a fellow who calls himself Chat Chip. Fascinating.
We know Chat Chip was in fact a man called William Loftus from Sheffield
who was a union man
but, branded as an agitator, he couldn't get work
so he became a fish fryer
and made it his life's campaign to elevate the fish and chip shop
and to elevate the status of the humble fish fryer.
It's intended that our establishment
should be one to make Chat Chip proud,
so colourful, hygienic tiling is crucial.
And fortunately, we have just the thing for the job.
Well, this is a fantastic hoard that the museum collected
from a fish and chip shop in Berwick.
It's a really rare find, actually. These tiles, which are from Glasgow,
from J Duncan, it's that period of history
when Glasgow was producing tremendous decorative art.
Mackintosh and others.
So Charlie here is putting it all back together.
This is the one we're working on. This lighthouse.
-I see. So you've got a bit here.
-It's like a big jigsaw puzzle.
-And a bit here.
-That's right. The beacon.
It's lovely, isn't it? It's beautiful.
Before the precious tiles can be re-used,
the old concrete adhesive needs to be removed
and they allow me to work on one.
First I have to slice the concrete into little columns,
which then need to be very cautiously chipped away.
Be very careful with these, Charlie.
The body of the tile is very low fired, it's very fragile.
Right, so the cement's really hard...
The cement's hard and the tile's soft. Yeah.
A task like this really brings home to me the staggering effort
and attention to detail that goes into preserving
and restoring our building heritage.
It takes me over an hour to finish just one tile,
and there are over 1,000 tiles to clean.
-You've done well.
-There she is.
I've got these tiles here which are totally smashed up.
I want you to remake that tile completely.
But to complete this whole panel,
we'll actually need three decent tiles.
I want this corner piece replaced and this one here, look,
has been smashed and stuck together in the past.
That would complete that panel cos it's a lovely panel.
-Do you think you can do that?
It certainly isn't something I can do on my own
so I head to Craven Dunhill in Ironbridge,
the last tile factory in the country still making tube lined tiles.
Walking through the factory
is like being in an Edwardian industrial backstreet,
just the sort of area that would have been home to our fish and chip shop.
Chief designer Robin Brindley is going to help me make
the replacement tiles that we need.
We can take the tube lining bag
and that's filled with a liquid clay slip.
-It's literally just brown clay?
-Very heavily watered down?
It is called slip trailing basically because you are just trailing slip.
-It's like cake icing?
-That's correct, yes.
-I'm sure that you will pick it up very quickly.
You are filling me with confidence. OK.
Ta-da! The big moment.
The design has been traced onto a tile
and all I have to do is follow the lines.
I'm not looking forward to this. OK.
-You really, you have to give it a bit of a squeeze.
-Yeah. Now it's flowing too much.
You're squeezing too hard.
Tube lined tiles were the creme de la creme of shop fittings
and were 30 times more expensive than standard glazed tiles.
The technique produces a raised design which more effectively
caught the light in poorly-gas-lit shops.
I think rather than fish dinner, it's more like a dog's dinner.
-What we need to do is introduce some colours.
If you apply it around the edge first. That's correct.
That makes it easier to fill in.
-OK? You covered it over, that's the main thing.
-That's the main thing.
Let's think positive.
The tube lining allows deep pools of glaze to be applied,
producing the most vibrant colours possible in ceramics.
That to me looks pretty poor.
I mean, how does that turn into these beautiful tiles?
-What's the next thing that happens?
-Once it's been fired,
all those gorgeous colours will actually come through in the firing.
-So at the end, it will look completely different.
One down, two to go.
The Victorian obsession for walls of tiles in their shops
reflected new scientific discoveries about the nature of hygiene.
The concept there was a connection between cleanliness and health
was well established by the 1860s.
So the shop-going public wanted,
when they went to food shops, to see the shops looking sparklingly clean,
walls of tiles had to be scrubbed, washed down.
No places for germs to lurk.
This became particularly important for fish fryers.
Their business was still under a cloud so, by 1900,
when they were still regarded really as a smelly backstreet enterprise,
they embraced fully the technology of tile-clad interiors
to make their emporiums sparkle with health and cleanliness.
The obsession for tiles extended rather predictably
to public conveniences.
Here we see a wonderful practical and handsome example
of a wash-down tiled wall.
It's January, eight months into the build and, despite a bitter winter,
the traditionally made roof of the main chip shop is almost finished.
The corrugated ironclad extension has also shot up.
Designed by Jim to look like a later addition,
it will house the restaurant
and give the impression the building has evolved over years.
Fish and chip restaurants, known as saloons,
began to appear in Edwardian times.
They were the first restaurants within reach of the working classes.
Soon, fish and chip palaces followed.
Most famously, Harry Ramsden's in West Yorkshire.
With their oak panelling and wall-to-wall carpets,
they allowed workers to escape the harsh realities
of their normal lives, if only for a few hours.
Our saloon is far humbler.
In the story Jim's invented for the building,
it's a low-cost later addition,
thrown up using cheap corrugated iron cladding.
I'm not sure many people would say this,
but I absolutely love corrugated iron.
It is the most incredible building material.
While today, it is very everyday and very commonplace,
when it was patented in 1829,
it must have seemed like it was from a very bright future indeed.
It is the most perfectly functional material.
It's very light, very easy to transform.
It can be bent, rolled, formed.
It's incredibly versatile,
so you can sling it over any simple, lightweight timber or steel frame.
Anything, in fact - make it waterproof.
Because of these characteristics of lightness and ease of transportation,
millions of kit houses were manufactured
and sent right across the world,
from gold prospectors in California,
all over Australia, Africa.
In fact, there's almost nowhere in the world
that hasn't been revolutionised by crinkly tin.
The building may be nearing completion,
but Richard has some bad news about the interior restoration.
I'm afraid we've had a bit of a problem with the early range.
What? It's broken?
It's broken, it was adapted later in its life for gas,
and because it's such a rare surviving example from the turn of the 20th century,
we can't really bring ourselves to damage it.
I see. To make it functional would mean damaging the artefact.
So what are you going to do? Abandon the fish and chip shop?
Well, ideally, we'd like to use an Edwardian range.
We do have one from a slightly later period,
a '20s range, that we've collected.
-Would you like me to show you that?
Oh dear! It's in a bit of a sorry state, isn't it? The top's missing.
You're happy to restore this one? This is not that historic.
It is much less rare. This 1920s' range here, we can adapt.
We can get it up in working order.
-You're looking slightly doubtful.
-It looks like a lot of work.
Is it really a viable option, getting this thing up and running?
I certainly hope so. Although it's looking a bit sorry,
the fire bricks will be renewed,
the tiling will be restored and, where possible, re-used.
So it won't be entirely replaced.
Fortunately, the fish and chip cart restoration
hasn't suffered any major issues and the bodywork is now complete.
Before the stove is finally fitted,
the team decides a test firing would be prudent.
But a few tweaks may be needed
before the stove is lit inside the cart.
Nine months into the build,
the exterior of both the fish and chip shop
and saloon extension are complete.
We're now weatherproof. The weather can throw anything at us.
Now, we've to do ranges, tiles, counters, get it going.
But we're just running now.
But there are some really nice little features.
Obviously, all the windows are different.
-That's on purpose.
To show that evolution, you've got the sash window
with its thought-out, quasi-scientific airflow -
open the top, open the bottom - of the Victorians.
And you are heading towards...
It's the first glimpse of the hideous 1970s' picture window
with a top light opening bit.
It's cheap, it's quick, you just whack it together.
Tell me about the windows on the corrugated tin shed. What are they?
The corrugated iron extension, it fascinates me,
because those buildings are disappearing so fast.
These tin sheds have been village halls, they've been chapels,
they've been labour halls, they've been British kitchens.
They've been all those things and in a way,
they're an ominous precursor to the massive building
of soldiers' huts in the First War.
The army hut came out of this sort of instant building.
By the start of the First World War,
fish and chips had become a vital source of nutrition
for the working people of Britain.
Take Bradford, for example.
In 1917, it had 303 fish and chip shops,
selling 900,000 meals per week.
That's two and a half portions per week
for every man, woman and child living in the city.
Fish and chips were deemed to be
such a crucial source of nutrition for the war workers,
that government never rationed fish or potatoes.
There was even a move to exempt fish fryers from the call-up.
So after years of shame and infamy,
the fish fryers had come to be celebrated as national saviours.
Work has now begun on the interior
and the painstakingly restored tiles are being fitted.
But they're still missing the three broken ones.
I have brought some of the tiles.
This is what we were...
That's the one that was very badly damaged. The sort of seascape one.
This was our totally had it, end of the boat.
Obviously, there is a complete missing one.
-It's a moment of revelation.
I went and tried to make a replacement one for this.
I have to say, it wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be.
Are you breaking us in gently?
You've got the shape!
Look at it. It's dreadful!
The guy helping me realised it was so rubbish that, bless him,
he had to go and do it properly.
That's a bit more like it!
So you can all relax. That's that one. The colour is perfect.
-Then this is the missing tile.
-Oh, right. The bottom of the boat.
Look at that. That's fantastic!
Charlie is a skilful guy. He couldn't do it.
These people were brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
They were at the top of their game. They were famous across the country.
So...a good try,
but we'll use this one!
-Is this the hard bit?
-This is the messy bit.
-So what? Just stick it on?
-Stick it on.
Just twist and make sure it beds.
That's not going to fall off, is it?
I'll keep a hold while you get the other ones.
-We don't want to break any.
-I really don't want to break any!
So in the space there.
This is the missing one. This is the panel...
The one we've never seen.
The one we've never seen.
That...is your panel.
It's absolutely fantastic. It is a perfect match.
It's really, really good.
It's only when you see these tiles restored and back on the wall,
that you actually get a real sense of how powerful and evocative they are.
And how bright and fresh those colours must have seemed
to someone who's spent a day in the darkness of the mine.
Imagine coming out of there, being filthy, washing yourself off,
coming up and getting a lovely, hot fish supper,
sitting down, looking at these evocative scenes,
and for just a while, sort of being transported to a distant place.
The 1920s' range has now been restored to full working order
and it's being installed.
OK, Charlie. This is our latest discovery. What do you think?
That's beautiful. It's in amazing condition, isn't it?
-That would have been where the fire was.
-There's the fire down there.
We haven't currently got the pans in but we've got the pans.
-So you've got the original pans?
-The original pans.
They were preserved because they were soaked in fat, funnily enough!
It is very beautiful. It is really quite small though, isn't it?
I think of a fish shop today, you'll have like a whole counter thing.
-This is not going to have that big a capacity, is it?
It is a problem.
It's sweet, it's beautiful, but there's two little pans,
two little fires and the capacity is not huge.
The good thing is, we've found something else
that will at least speed up our chip production.
-Come and have a look.
That's a state-of-the-art chip chipper.
-This engine is a 1909 gas engine.
If you look in the books and catalogues
how to do a chip shop in the Edwardian period,
this is the exact model that was being recommended
to the up-and-coming chip shop owner just before the First War.
How does it work?
The gas comes in into the cylinder,
it's driving a little belt.
The belt's driving a little chain.
Inside here, the little teeth are going round
and if you want to pop a potato down there...
-The big hole. It's a big potato.
And then push it down with your hygienic pusher
and out should come your chips.
Look at that!
-Not bad, eh?
-So you're going to use this, are you, in the shop?
This is a test.
It'll be clean and spotless and we'll have a hygienic plunger.
It is fantastic! Absolutely fantastic!
Although marvellous, the gas chipper alone
isn't going to solve the chip shop's capacity problem.
But I've discovered that in nearby Winlaton Mill,
there's another old, traditionally coal-fired range
that may offer a solution.
-Nice to see you.
-Very nice to meet you.
Gosh! What a wonderful range.
Yes. It is well preserved, really.
-But the obvious point is, you aren't frying tonight. Why is that?
The reason is because in 2007, our mother died,
and she left instructions that
that had to be the end of the business
but she really just thought that it was time
for us to have early retirement and enjoy life.
It's incredible to meet someone
who has actually toiled with, for years, a coal-fired range.
Can you show me how it works?
-What we used to do, was put some newspaper in first.
-In the morning?
Put some newspaper in
and then you'd put some sticks on and set it alight.
Once the sticks got alight, you started putting your coal on.
So you've got fish there, chips in that. And that's a backup?
Yes. That's just a backup, that one.
It's amazing to think that for over 70 years,
this room was at the heart of the local community.
People coming here to meet, to feed, to chat.
It is very haunting, really.
Grandchildren of people that used to come to the shop years ago
were coming in near the end of the business.
So there's been generations served at this counter.
It is really thrilling to be here and to meet you
and to see this wonderful, wonderful machine.
-Yes, it's survived.
-Thank you very much.
Since you're not frying, I think I'll pop down to the local pub.
-Maybe I'll see you down there!
Although the Davy brothers' range is 1930s rather than Edwardian,
it has the capacity Beamish desperately needs.
So it decided to add it to the fish and chip shop,
meaning that one of the few remaining coal-fired ranges
left in the country will not only be saved from the scrapheap,
but will be fully restored and soon frying once again.
It is an emotional day already.
It's one of those days we'll never forget.
It's been amazing that we were found, so to speak,
and it's been able to find a good home and will be well cared for.
It's there for posterity.
It's taken nine months
of painstaking work to restore the fish and chip cart
and after 40 years collecting dust at Beamish,
it is finally ready for its triumphal homecoming
here to the streets of Spennymoor.
What's going to be fascinating to see
is if anyone can remember the once famous Berriman fish and chip cart.
I think this is your fault because you were the one who suggested
bringing it back here and cooking some chips.
-How does it feel?
-It's brilliant. I've waited a long time for this.
The pleasure of restoration for me
is to make something live again and breathe again.
I think we better get out of the way!
It's funny because I thought that people might not remember,
but everyone seems to remember.
-It was the main thing in Spennymoor.
Everybody was to come out of the pub
to get themselves a bag of chips or a fishcake.
-And good chips?
-They were beautiful.
-So are you ready to go?
-I think so.
-Go on then. Let's see how it works.
Let's be brave.
Brave or foolhardy!
-Is it going?
-Yes, it's going.
-There's a bit of a breeze on, isn't there?
It's drawing really strong.
While we wait for the beef dripping to heat up,
the son of one of the brothers who owned the cart
comes to pay us a visit.
-You must be Mr Berriman?
-Hello. Pleased to meet you. Charlie.
I've brought these Tilley lamps
that have been in the garage for 35 years or more.
So these lit the van, did they?
They lit the van when it got dark on a night.
-It's a proper Tilley lamp as well, isn't it?
-So where do they go?
-Actually up on those hooks on the back.
Do you want to stick that up there?
One of the hooks has gone missing, so we'll just put that there.
-They're back home.
-They're back home, where they belong.
After half an hour, the first batch of chips for 40 years
can be fried up for the people of Spennymoor.
There we go.
No. Don't grab them!
How good are they?
-Yeah, they're lovely. 1 out of 10!
-11 out of 10?
11 out of 10 for the chips.
Even the mayor turns up for a bag of chips.
-No salt, just vinegar.
-There you go. I hope you like them.
-Thank you. They look nice.
Go on, have a try and see what you think.
Was the Berriman van an iconic part of the community?
There's no doubt about that whatsoever.
Anybody that came into the town,
whether it be from Spennymoor or the surrounding area,
they always made, on a night, for the chips at that van.
And what's this here?
That's the Berriman's chip van done by Mr George Teasdale.
-So you took this photo?
-In the '60s.
-Do you remember taking it?
I suppose it was a while ago.
It was a while ago.
-But you remember the van?
-Yes. It was in the High Street
opposite the Waterloo pub, which isn't there any more.
In the 1900s, there were about five chip vans in Spennymoor.
-That's an amazing document.
So obviously a really important part of the local community.
It's the final push to put the finishing touches on the fish and chip shop
before it's handed over to the team who will run it.
Moment of truth.
The Davy brothers' 1930s' range has been rejuvenated
and is being installed.
Jim has also managed to source another authentic Edwardian gem.
I never thought I'd need to explain but that's a toilet cistern.
Cisterns have gone lower down the wall.
In the old days, when people had hearty and thick diets,
the water needed a bit of acceleration from on high.
So you pulled the chain and it came roaring down with a wonderful noise.
This cistern is rather good
because it's a typical working-class housing cistern.
It's wood, lined with lead.
The toilet itself might look well worn but it's actually
what they euphemistically call 'new old stock'.
It is extremely old but it's never been used. It's never seen action.
It is a race species of toilet
known from workhouses and poor people's outside toilets,
that was entirely made of salt glaze,
rather than white, expensive glaze.
I don't think I've ever seen one in use,
but we're going to see one in use.
The ranges can now be connected to the flue
and the team has assembled for the crucial smoke test.
If it doesn't go right, everybody's going to be looking at me.
But there are some bushes behind.
I will just disappear quietly into the bushes!
It'll be fine.
It should fire up.
-No. I am staring at that...
He'll come running out the door!
There she blows.
-There we go.
-Look at that.
-Goodness me, that's a lot of smoke.
-Watch him come out, coughing!
It's a highly accelerated Kenny flue system!
It's more or less turbo charged!
Three days later, the building work is complete.
and the fish and chip shop can be furnished and spruced up
in preparation for the grand opening, giving Dan and me
our first opportunity to see it in all its glory.
There's the bunting, all getting ready for the opening day.
-Absolutely. Shall we go in and have a look?
-In you go.
-Check this out! Look at it!
-This is the 1910 range over there.
-Yes. Edwardian range.
-It looks sensational now.
Look at the way the tiles have come up. It's stunning.
That is too precious an historic object to function.
That really is a museum display.
-And this wonderful thing here.
-A manual chipper.
-You put a potato here and I see, yes, indeed.
Complete with comedy spring noise!
Next on the tour, the palatial main kitchen.
-Good Lord! This is absolutely staggering.
Look at the tiles. They're absolutely beautiful.
The idea that everything is tiled, helps reflect the light,
because you'd have had gas lights and very dim levels of light.
The highly reflective surfaces would have just punched the light levels up.
And with the tube lining, the raised delineation of it catches the light
and reinforces the vibrant, vivid, very clear defined colour fields.
And you imagine a slightly flickering gas flame,
how it would almost be like a living thing.
-And the escapism.
-It's like gin palaces, isn't it,
sparkling with gasoliers and cut glass.
This was an escape from your humble home or down the pit
and you see this escapist fantasy world, don't you?
The 1920s' range may look similar to the Edwardian range,
but as it's less rare, it's been possible to restore it
to full working order.
Very practical, yet also ornamental.
A wonderful marriage of art and industry and utilitarian.
I love the little scene here. This view of a Highland loch, I suppose.
Really for the benefit of the fish fryer, standing here.
Just to give him a little bit of escape.
And the Davy brothers' range
will supply the capacity needed on busy days.
I last saw this when it was utterly abandoned in its old home.
Doesn't that take you back to childhood? Do you know what I mean?
It's just all of that sort of scooping, and salt flying around
and vinegar everywhere. It's fantastic!
The dining saloon is far more modestly furnished
with reclaimed timber and exposed brickwork.
Less is more.
Keeping it simple makes it so much more authentic
and evocative, doesn't it?
And Jim's obsessive attention to detail is exemplified
by the authentically woebegone toilet.
-And of course, it works.
-It does, absolutely.
-There we go.
So now, finally, the time has arrived for the first fry up.
And who better to show us the ropes than the Davy brothers?
-There's the range.
-What do you think?
What do you think of that?
-Does that take you back a few years?
Are you all right, Ramsay?
-And this is our counter and the chipper.
-Who used to light it?
Right, Ramsay, you and I are going to light it.
Ramsay's technique is watched closely by Denise,
who will be running the chip shop.
I seize the opportunity to get my hands on that chipper.
So do you want to be the first to use it?
You've to keep the potato that way up. That's it.
I'm going to keep my hands reasonably well away.
Then straight down.
-Then, remember to move my fingers.
-That should be OK now.
-Do you wish to do another?
-That's not a bad potato.
-It's a great potato.
Doing them that way means you get a nice, long potato.
The other way, short and fat, no good.
I'm going to experiment the other way. Of course, I'm being very slow.
Dan, where are the chips? We need the chips pretty soon.
Good heavens! Patience!
But I shall take the challenge. Let's speed up the operation.
I might get a finger in with the chips!
-Good Lord, Charlie! A pinafore!
-It's the only apron we've got.
Here are the chips anyway. I will stand back.
-So I'm allowed to put these in, am I?
-Yes, put them in. Just be gentle.
-Don't throw them in.
-I will just tip it.
-There we go.
-Oh my God!
-There we are.
-Give them a stir.
-They are definitely cooking, aren't they?
-They definitely are.
-Well, we've done it.
-We have a coal-fired fish and chip shop. Well done, everyone!
Well done, Ramsay.
-It's a wonderful noise, isn't it?
-There it is.
With the fish and chip shop fully operational,
it can now be officially opened to the public.
Thank you for coming and welcome to a very exciting event today,
the opening of Beamish's very own fried fish shop.
Special thanks to this very finely dressed man to my left here, Jim,
whose brainchild this is,
whose head this building literally popped out of
and is in front of you here today, so special thanks to Jim.
I would also like to make a special mention to the Davy brothers,
who had a coal-fired range working in Tyneside until very recently
and were kind enough to let us have it here for the fried fish shop at Beamish.
To mark the event, I would like to ask the Davy brothers to cut the ribbon.
-Come on in. In you go. In you go. After you, Charlie.
-Thank you very much.
The honour of being served the very first portion
goes to Kenny the bricklayer.
Congratulations. Well done, Kenny.
-Would you like some salt?
Next time, we'll have to open a brewery!
The public are next in line.
They're cooked in proper dripping.
-It's far better.
-Better than oil and all these newfangled concoctions.
They're just as good as what we used to have 40 or 50 years ago, when we were kids.
It feels very good to see that finally open. Very good indeed.
It's the smell, the taste, the sight.
It isn't walking around,
looking at the world's oldest chip range in a glass case.
All of us are used to fish ranges smelling of fish and chips,
which is not odd until you see one that doesn't.
But to go in there and it's hot and it smells right
and people are laughing and joking, that's great.
I think everyone associated with this build ended up very proud indeed.
Because they started from scratch, it's been an enormous challenge
to bring together the ranges, the colliery bricks,
the windows and to create a coherent building that feels right.
I think Jim and his team have more than achieved that
because they've created a building that clearly
and quietly tells the story of the incredible rise of fish and chips.
That's an important story because of the fundamental role
that fish and chips played in working communities across Britain.
I think, at last, I understand how this humble food
has become of such national importance.
Fish and chips is of course very nourishing, tasty
and has always been relatively cheap.
But more important, it represents a fusion of cultures.
A fusion of the Jewish emigre culture of East London
with the working class communities of the North.
It represents, in a particular way, a portrait of Britain.
And isn't it wonderful the way fish and chips started
as a rather dubious, backstreet industry
and then blossomed to occupy splendid,
palatial emporia like this.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Dan Cruickshank and Charlie Luxton uncover the incredible hidden stories behind historic buildings as they are dismantled brick by brick, and meticulously resurrected in new locations.
Every year thousands of ordinary buildings are demolished, smashed down to make way for the new, but some are so special they are snatched from the bulldozers and carefully dismantled. When a new home can be found for them, they are lovingly and painstakingly rebuilt. These are not grand edifices, but everyday buildings that give an extraordinary insight into the lives of the people who lived and worked in them. Deep within their fabric are preserved astonishing stories about how we lived and worked.
Architectural designer Charlie Luxton explores how these vast and hugely complex jigsaw puzzles are pieced back together, trying his hand at the array of ancient crafts required. Meanwhile, architectural historian Dan Cruickshank investigates the building's history, proving that even seemingly humble buildings have incredible stories to tell.
This episode follows the construction of a fully working coal-fired Edwardian fish and chip shop at Beamish Museum. Charlie helps with the refurbishment of one of the world's oldest surviving frying ranges, and gets a horse-drawn fish and chip cart back on the road. Meanwhile, Dan discovers the surprising origins of our national dish and explores its rise from squalid back-street outlets to grand fish and chip palaces.