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Tour Through the Eastern Counties of England Daniel Defoe


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The greatest defect of this beautiful town seems to be that, though it is very rich and increasing in wealth and trade, and consequently in people, there is not room to enlarge the town by building, which would be certainly done much more than it is, but that the river on the land side prescribes them, except at the north end without the gate; and even there the land is not very agreeable. But had they had a larger space within the gates there would before now have been many spacious streets of noble fine buildings erected, as we see is done in some other thriving towns in England, as at Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Frome, etc.

The quay and the harbour of this town during the fishing fair, as they call it, which is every Michaelmas, one sees the land covered with people, and the river with barques and boats, busy day and night landing and carrying of the herrings, which they catch here in such prodigious quantities, that it is incredible. I happened to be there during their fishing fair, when I told in one tide 110 barques and fishing vessels coming up the river all laden with herrings, and all taken the night before; and this was besides what was brought on shore on the Dean (that is the seaside of the town) by open boats, which they call cobles, and which often bring in two or three last of fish at a time. The barques often bring in ten last a piece.

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This fishing fair begins on Michaelmas Day, and lasts all the month of October, by which time the herrings draw off to sea, shoot their spawn, and are no more fit for the merchant's business - at least, not those that are taken thereabouts.

The quantity of herrings that are caught in this season are diversely accounted for. Some have said that the towns of Yarmouth and Lowestoft only have taken 40,000 last in a season. I will not venture to confirm that report; but this I have heard the merchants themselves say, viz., that they have cured - that is to say, hanged and dried in the smoke - 40,000 barrels of merchantable red herrings in one season, which is in itself (though far short of the other) yet a very considerable article; and it is to be added that this is besides all the herrings consumed in the country towns of both those populous counties for thirty miles from the sea, whither very great quantities are carried every tide during the whole season.

But this is only one branch of the great trade carried on in this town. Another part of this commerce is in the exporting these herrings after they are cured; and for this their merchants have a great trade to Genoa, Leghorn, Naples, Messina, and Venice; as also to Spain and Portugal, also exporting with their herring very great quantities of worsted stuffs, and stuffs made of silk and worsted, camblets, etc., the manufactures of the neighbouring city of Norwich and of the places adjacent.

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Tour Through the Eastern Counties of England
Daniel Defoe

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