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Sea Fish and Shellfish

Barrels, Coopers and Crowns

The filled barrels were left to stand for several days while a chemical reaction took place between salt and juices that caused the fish to shrink.

After standing, the brine was poured off and the barrel was filled to the top with more fish. This “tiering” was carried out particularly neatly so that the fish would look good when the barrel was opened.

A Fishery Officer inspected each full barrel before the lid was fitted by a cooper. The barrel was then laid on its side, the bung removed and the barrel filled up with brine.

The lid was branded by the Fishery Officer to show the curer’s name and the quality of the herrings it contained. The barrels containing the best quality herrings were branded with a Crown symbol.

On 9th September 1896, 1,273 barrels of Crown-branded herrings were packed at Boston Brothers' Yard in Spittal, the largest number ever filled in one day in the Berwick area.

Extracts from contemporary newspapers relating to coopers and herring barrels in Victorian times