Romford Market trader Edward Fancourt - of Fancourt’s Fish - on hanging up his fish knives

Edward Fancourt on his stall

Edward Fancourt on his stall - Credit: Archant

Fishmonger Edward Fancourt was, by his own admission, “gutted” as he left his stall in Romford Market on Saturday.

Edward Fancourt hard at work on the stall

Edward Fancourt hard at work on the stall - Credit: Archant

That’s because, after 48 years selling his sole, chipper Edward is retiring – and Fancourt’s Fish will pass out of the hands of the family who gave it their name in 1935.

“Mainly I’ll miss the characters in the market,” the 64-year-old told the Romford Recorder. “They’re lovely people to work with, market traders. They’re honest.”

“I’ll miss the customers, too. It’ll take a hell of a lot of getting used to.”

One thing he probably won’t miss is the 3.45am start. A typical working day for Edward saw him up long before the dawn, leaving his home in Emerson Park for Billingsgate fish market to pick out the best of the day’s catch.

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He didn’t get the time back, though – on market days he’d be at work until 6pm.

It’s going that extra mile that Edward reckons stood the stall head and gills above the competition.

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“The volume of fish we sell now is really a tenth of what it was in the 1970s and 1980s,” he said.

“That’s mainly because the younger person doesn’t seem to buy fish any more and doesn’t seem to know how to cook it – they all buy this pre-packed stuff.

“But supermarkets won’t replace fish shops completely because fish has to be fresh every day.

“Supermarkets might get hundreds of people going in, but they don’t know who’s going to buy what like a specialist fishmonger does.”

Edward left school in the mid-1960s and went straight onto the stall with his father Charlie. Fancourt’s Fish surfaced in Romford in 1945, having been founded 10 years earlier in London’s East End.

In those days, Fancourt’s was a big operation – it even lent its name to an area of the market.

“Back in the late 1960s we rented a yard off the council to keep all our stuff in and we rented it out to other stall holders as well,” Edward explained.

Ten years after leaving school, the younger monger was in charge.

Since then, he’s soldiered on with varying numbers of staff, even running Fancourt’s single-handedly for the last two years.

And by his own admission it’s been a tough few months.

“This has probably been the harshest winter I’ve ever known in my years down there,” he said.

“But there’s still a living to be made and people shouldn’t get too down hearted.”

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