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A fishmonger in Pike Place Market on the waterfront of Seattle

A fishmonger (fishwife for women practitioners - "wife" in this case used in its archaic meaning of "woman") is someone who sells raw fish and seafood. Fishmongers can be wholesalers or retailers, and are trained at selecting and purchasing, handling, gutting, boning, filleting, displaying, merchandising and selling their product. In some countries modern supermarkets are replacing fishmongers who operate in shops or fish markets.

Worshipful Company of Fishmongers[edit]

A 16th-century fishmongers stall. Bartolomeo Passarotti

The fishmongers guild, one of the earliest guilds, was established in the City of London by a Royal Charter granted by Edward I shortly after he became king in 1272. Partnership with foreigners was forbidden and the sale of fish was tightly controlled to ensure freshness and restrain profit, which was limited to one penny in the shilling. Nevertheless, the guild grew rich and, after Edward's victory over the Scots, was able to make a great show, including one thousand mounted knights.[1]

During the reign of Edward II, the political power of the fishmongers waned and Parliament decreed that no fishmonger could become mayor of the city. This was soon rescinded though and their wealth increased further so that, during the reign of Edward III, the guild could provide £40 to the war against the French, this being a great sum at that time.[1]

The guild was then reformed by Great Charter as the Mystery of the Fishmongers of London. They were given a monopoly over the crying and selling of fish and they regulated the catching of fish in the Thames which teemed with fish such as salmon at that time.[1] The guild still continues today as one of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies.


The tools used by fishmongers include:[2]

  • pliers to pull out pinbones
  • a fish scaler to remove scales
  • a filleting knife to cut away the flesh from the bones
  • short strong knives for opening oysters and other shellfish
  • protective gloves
  • a curved knife for gutting and removing roe

Fishmongers in culture[edit]

In many countries, the fishwife was proverbial for her sharp tongue and outspoken speech. In Medieval France, the ones in Paris were known for their special privilege of being able to speak frankly to the King himself, when he ventured into the marketplace, and voice criticism without fear of punishment.

Molly Malone is a character from a popular Irish song about a young fishwife who tragically dies at a young age.

Charles Fort in his book Lo! compiles the story of the Mad Fishmonger or "St. Fishmonger", which later may or may not appear in the Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson. St. Fishmonger allegedly caused crabs and periwinkles to fall from the sky.

In the English translation of the Asterix series, the village fishmonger is called Unhygienix. In the film The Beach, the Island's chef has only fish as a source of meat, and is named Unhygienix in reference to the Asterix character.

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, some contend that the word fishmonger was a euphemism for a "fleshmonger," or pimp.[3][4][5]

Historic fishmongers[edit]


  1. ^ a b c John Timbs (1865), "Curiosities of the Fishmongers' Hall", Walks and talks about London, Lockwood 
  2. ^ "A few good tools", The Fishmonger's Apprentice, p. 19 
  3. ^ Steve Roth, Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country, 2009
  4. ^ Hamlet's Puns and Paradoxes, Click Notes
  5. ^ Shaaber MA (1971) "Polonius as Fishmonger" Shakespeare Quarterly, 22 (2).


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fishmonger — Please support Wikipedia.
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Wed, 17 Sep 2014 00:30:00 -0700

BIM's Young Fishmonger competition aims to recognise and reward young fishmongers and in doing so; raise the bar across the sector in terms of product knowledge and skills. Now in its second year, the competition is gaining profile and interest from ...


Fri, 05 Sep 2014 09:44:31 -0700

Lola Saunders, a 20-year-old fishmonger from South Shields is set to blow the judges away with her version of Adele's Make You Feel My Love. The bubbly Geordie lass tells the judges: "I work as a fishmonger," before adding that she really doesn't enjoy it.

Western Daily Press

Western Daily Press
Thu, 18 Sep 2014 01:14:53 -0700

Gordon Williams, known affectionately as Gordon the Fish, was the guest of honour at a surprise party held in his honour at the New Inn at Blagdon, in Somerset. Mr Williams, a mobile fishmonger, who lives in Nailsea, has retired after serving Blagdon ...


Tue, 09 Sep 2014 10:46:50 -0700

Sole singer Lola Saunders auditions for Saturday's X Factor in the hope she will be able to quit her job as a fishmonger and sing full-time. The 20-year-old from Newcastle, who performs a version of Make You Feel My Love, says her job is “not glamorous ...


Tue, 02 Sep 2014 07:01:41 -0700

For John Adams, chairman of Ashton's Fishmongers, this week's Nato Summit in Newport is an event of biblical proportions. His company, which has been in Cardiff since 1800, will be one of the retailers supplying the 5,000 strong security force drafted ...


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Wed, 20 Aug 2014 06:27:19 -0700

A Malaysian fishmonger could face the death penalty after being charged with murdering two British medical students in Borneo, according to local reports. Newcastle University students Neil Dalton and Aidan Brunger were stabbed to death in Kuching ...

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Tue, 19 Aug 2014 03:52:30 -0700

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Thu, 18 Sep 2014 08:45:00 -0700

But walking among the stalls of fresh salmon, oysters, and pale pink, toothpaste-like tubes of caviar at the Bergen fish market, I was just a little bit surprised to see slabs of whale lining the fishmonger's block. “Free Willy!” a charcutier crassly ...

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