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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 This was soon rescinded though and their wealth increased further so that, during the reign of Edward III, the guild could provide £40 to the war against the French, this being a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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864 news items

Daily Caller

Daily Caller
Thu, 23 Oct 2014 05:56:30 -0700

A Brooklyn fish dealer was sentenced to four months in prison Wednesday for his part in a conspiracy to steal nearly 250,000 pounds of fluke from the federal government, the Justice Department announced. It all started in 2009, when the dealer, Alan ...

Leicester Mercury

Leicester Mercury
Sun, 19 Oct 2014 05:06:37 -0700

X Factor contestant Lola Saunders wowed the judges on last night's show - with Louis Walsh and Simon Cowell agreeing that she could be the “dark horse” of the competition. The 20-year-old fishmonger, whose family lives in Leicestershire, sang Imagine ...

John O'Groat Journal

John O'Groat Journal
Wed, 22 Oct 2014 06:41:15 -0700

POLICE are seeking to track down two men suspected of being connected to a break-in at the Blackstairs Fish Shop in Wick. The incident took place at 8.45 last night (Tuesday) when the premises on Lower Dunbar Street was raided and items removed.

Sunderland Echo

Sunderland Echo
Fri, 26 Sep 2014 15:52:30 -0700

Millions of viewers saw the East Boldon hopeful, who works at Whitburn fishmonger's Latimer's, selected by Geordie star Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, who is looking after the girls' category in this year's show. The 20-year-old joins Lauren Platt ...

Sunderland Echo

Sunderland Echo
Fri, 03 Oct 2014 21:52:30 -0700

Fishmonger Lola sings for her supper on X Factor. Lola Saunders during the six-chair challenge stage for the ITV1 talent show, The X Factor. Photo credit: SYCO/THAMES TV/PA Wire. Published on the 04 October 2014 06:00. Published 04/10/2014 06:00.
Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:09:10 -0700

The North East celebrated on Sunday as 20 year East Boldon fishmonger Lola Saunders made it through the first elimination and here are some top tunas we think she could batter the competition with for the 1980s themed second live show on Saturday. 1.
Wed, 15 Oct 2014 07:15:00 -0700

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Southport Visiter

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Thu, 09 Oct 2014 01:00:51 -0700

John Wakefield's fish van was stolen in Formby, driven at speed through Southport and later abandoned in Banks. The fishmonger put a pic of his van on Facebook, prompting a Banks resident to phone him when she spotted it parked outside her house.

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