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West Somerset Game and Fish Supply c 1910

West Somerset Game and Fish Supply c 1910 Taunton Somerset

This postcard is the latest addition to the archive. It came up on eBay, supposedly Taunton. The publisher was Montagu Cooper who had studios in Taunton, Wellington, Burnham, Chard and Lynton in Devon.

Really it could have been local to any of those places. Some Somerset directories can be found online and I managed to find the company in 1889 at 3, North St Taunton. That’s a date far too early for the postcard. After that searches gained nothing and another business was at 3, North St. in 1902.

On Facebook there is a group dedicated to memories and photos of Taunton, so I put the image on there hoping that it would be recognised. Happily it was, and a descandant of the shop owner supplied details and posted another image of the complete facade. Further directory listings only mentioned the name of Alfred Clode, a new owner and a different address from 3, North St. By 1902 the business had relocated to 17 East St.

Alfred Clode and his wife Elizabeth were essentially fishmongers operating a game and fish supply and oyster saloon. Alfred was born in 1862, one of ten children. I am pretty sure that is Alfred looking proprietal on the left. Alfred and Elizabeth had four children.

The ‘Oyster Saloon’ was interesting. Oyster consumption in Europe was confined to the wealthy until the mid-17th century, but by the 18th century even the poor were consuming them. Sources vary as to when the first oyster bar was created. One source claims that Sinclair’s, a pub in Manchester, was England’s oldest oyster saloon. It opened in 1738. London’s oldest oyster saloon opened in 1798. By 1850, nearly every major town in North America had an oyster bar, oyster cellar, oyster parlor, or oyster saloon—almost always located in the basement of the establishment (where keeping ice was easier). Oysters and bars often went hand-in-hand in the United States, because oysters were seen as a cheap food to serve alongside beer and liquor. In 1892 it was claimed that one billion oysters were sold in London. Clearly that consumption rate could not be sustainable so gradually the oyster craze in the UK and abroad slowly declined.

Today oysters are seen as a luxury. The rapid decline in natural oyster beds meant that some 90% of oysters consumed in the USA are now farmed. Oysters have been around for 145 million years. A point to consider when you next try a few. Are young people any happier or healthier today? I do sometimes wonder.

By Nick Chipchase

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