Postcards at the Chippy

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Just about any subject under the sun can be found on picture postcards, so it is no surprise to come across plenty of comic cards showing fish and chips. Real photo cards of shops selling them are pretty rare, though, and likely to sell for £30 upwards when discovered.  Perhaps they were not photographed very often as their frontages tended to be not that photogenic! The first shop selling fried fish is thought to have been in Soho in 1849, though a fried fish warehouse gets a mention in Oliver Twist in the 1830s. Chips, too, existed in the 19th century, and the marriage between them and fish probably took place in the 1880s, with Oldham and Bradford touted as possible pioneer locations. Certainly, there were plenty of these emporia in Edwardian times, and an estimated 26,000 in Britain by 1925. Postcard publishers latched onto the theme with comic cards and captions like ‘dining out’ and ‘living like lords’.  Fish and chips as a meal had obvious working class origins, and that is reflected in most comic postcards. The meal in a newspaper that turned people into lords and ladies for ten minutes was celebrated by many of the top cartoonists of the day, including Donald McGill. Chippies became most prevalent in the north of England, with the most famous, Harry Ramsden’s, opening in Guiseley in 1928. The original small hut that he used turned into an impressive restaurant, and the name is now carried by a countrywide chain. Guiseley was a handy location, served by trams from Leeds and Bradford, and on the edge of beautiful countryside favoured by day trippers. Harry himself, dressed in a wing collar, starched apron and straw boater, served visitors himself.  I’ve never seen a postcard of the place, though! Happily, there are enough other fish and chip related postcards to make a very interesting collecting theme.