Scribbles in the Sky

Our own little piece of London history
The original Appleyard family business


According to the following piece retrieved from the St. James's Review of July 1898 (see original below), the fish, game and poultry business of my great-grandfather John Flather Appleyard was in terms of turnover the largest of its kind in London at the end of the nineteenth century. This unedited article provides some fascinating insights into the language usage and social attitudes of the time.

Since there appears to be no other record of this notable character out there on the Web, I am dedicating this page to his memory. If anyone among my readers is in possession of any information that might cast further light on J.F. Appleyard, his parents or his siblings, please don't hesitate to contact me.


Extract from the London St. James’s Review of July 1898...


Doctors disagree as to the precise value of fish as food for man. There are many physicians of eminence who maintain that man, and especially the working species of the human being, cannot live and thrive on fish alone, whilst others go to the opposite extreme by citing instances amongst the hardy Scottish fisherfolk who know not what the taste of “butcher’s meat” is like from one year’s end to the other, but grow strong mainly on a diet of the “denizens of the deep,” and also quote the well-known fact that in Portugal and other sea-girt countries, the humbler peasantry live principally on fish and fruit, and, as a rule, are healthier and hardier than their meat-consuming brethren. However the case may be, there is a consensus of medical and general opinion that fish forms a very valuable and nutritious kind of diet, is easily digestible and assimilable by weak and infirm individuals, and, as a corrective to the overfeeding propensities of the day, are to be strongly commended as the pièce de résistance once or even twice a week. Doubtless fish on Fridays and fast days was originally prescribed by the priests of old, in their capacity as the people’s physicians, purely on hygienic grounds, and subsequently, by way of enforcement, for the good of the masses, as an article of religious belief.


In a vast city like London, competition in the ...[illegible] ... is so keen that only those can develop the business successfully who are thoroughly intimate with its conduct; whilst in capital and in credit the chief fishmongers have too much at stake to run the risks that would attend the sale of stale or unsound fish. Moreover, the demand being brisk in the shops of those who have a high character to maintain, the goods are so rapidly disposed of as to forbid the possibility of much being left on hand, and in the case of Mr. Appleyard, such remainder is practically given away to poor people, who besiege his various depôts at the close of the day. The housekeeper can thus rely upon such fishmongers implicitly, and it becomes our pleasant duty in the present brief essay to give a retrospective review of the rise and progress of the largest and most reputed house of the kind in the kingdom*, for the special benefit of our readers in the Metropolis.

Mr. John F. Appleyard is the successor to a business which was founded at 110A, Waterloo Road, S.E., as far back as the year 1863, by his father, and he is now ably assisted in its direction by his son. That the development of the undertaking has been steadily progressive is evidenced by the fact that, from time to time, branch establishments have been opened in various parts of the town and its suburbs, the principal of which are at 77, Bishop’s Road, Bayswater, W., opened in 1882; 3, Wetherby Terrace, South Kensington, S.W., 1884 ... [Wetherby has been misspelt 'Weatherby' in the original article reproduced below.] ... ; 82, Westow Hill, Upper Norwood, 1887; 257, Finchley Road, South Hampstead, N.W., 1890; 5, Upper Belsize Terrace, 1896; while the chief offices are situated at 34, York Road, Waterloo Station, S.E. At each of these places a well-organised business is ably maintained in the distribution of fish of every esteemed variety, game, poultry and ice. As illustrative of the valuable nature of these business establishments, it may be mentioned that about two years back, when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Railway extension brought their line to St. John’s Wood, Mr. Appleyard received compensation in the sum of no less than £7,500 for the lease and disturbance of his original premises at 181, Finchley Road, N.W.

3 Wetherby Terrace, South Kensington
John F. Appleyard's shop at 3 Wetherby Terrace (South Kensington, London SW5) was opened in 1884

The salient features of Mr. Appleyard’s vast connection are that he maintains an enormous stock of every fish, wet and dry, from the best sources of supply, one leading point being to meet all calls, even if a loss is entailed thereby, the choicest fish often costing more upon the open market sales than they fetch when retailed. The stock is thus always kept equal to the demands of patrons, and a point of commercial honour satisfied. The fish, game and poultry are not supplied hap-hazard, but are carefully chosen, neatly trimmed, filleted, gutted, cleansed, trussed, shaped, &c., according to individual needs or fashionable requirements, and are despatched to all parts as soon as ordered, there being frequent daily deliveries to all parts of the city and suburbs, promptitude and punctuality in the delivery of all orders, however small or extensive they may be, being secured at all costs.

Mr. Appleyard has buyers in attendance at Shadwell and Billingsgate, and keeps in constant touch with the fishery centres of Grimsby, North Shields and Penzance, also deriving supplies of the finest shell-fish from the Orkney Islands, dry fish from “Aberdeen-awa,” Loch Fyne herrings from Glasgow, and so on and so forth, his resources being such that many local fishmongers apply to him for stock in time of need, well knowing his ability to supply whatever they require, even if the commodity sought is rare and unprocurable elsewhere; but his principal business is to cater for an essentially high-class family and hotel connection, as far as possible on the ready-money system, whereby he is enabled to avoid inflated prices, and to supply goods of the primest quality and in the finest condition at the lowest prices consistent with the fluctuations of the market.

Over one hundred salesmen, clerks, operatives, and others, exclusive of quite an army of boys, find constant employment at Mr. Appleyard’s various depôts, while the delivery service consists of a contingent of about forty horses, and a large number of carts, vans, &c. The greatest goodwill exists between Mr. Appleyard, his confrères in the trade, and staff of workers, some of whom have been in his employment for fifteen to twenty-five years, one and all working for him with a willingness and ardour that can only be fostered by liberality and kindly treatment.

* As regards total turnover, our enquiries show that Mr. Appleyard stands as the largest retail fish and poultry
  merchant in the Metropolis.

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Scans of the original publication

Article "About Fish, Fur and Feather", page 1

Article "About Fish, Fur and Feather", page 2

Article "About Fish, Fur and Feather", page 3