There is one fish at Leeds Kirkgate Market that stands out from the rest. It’s unlike any other fish on the market – maybe even in the whole city.
Pike confit, which sits proudly on a fishmonger’s stall, is a very old specimen that has been turning heads for 140 years. It has become synonymous with TE Bethell Best Quality Fish and has been passed down from generation to generation of different owners.
But it has puzzled some children passing through the downtown market, who think the size of its tank is “cruel”. They also asked where the water is.
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The stall’s current owner, Suzanne Lemming, 57, loves the cheeky-looking pike, which has been preserved since 1882. Suzanne says the little rascal was caught in Stradsett Lake in Norfolk all those years ago.
Suzanne said: “It’s eye-catching, everyone who knows us knows this fish. People who recommend us to go, ‘girl in red [myself] and the pike in the “middle of the counter”.
“We never had a nickname for it. Children make the best comments. We had a little girl who said ‘That’s really cruel, that’s it’.
“I asked ‘Why is it cruel?’ She said ‘Because he can’t roll over in that little tank!’
“We had people, mostly children, also asking where the water was.”
Suzanne bought the stall in 2001 and first saw pike in the market when she started working there at the age of 18 for a Saturday job.
“I left school for a year to work at the market and I never went back,” says Suzanne. “Working with fish becomes a passion, everywhere I go now the first thing I do is buy from a fishmonger.”
Historically, fish taxidermy was done by skinning it, mounting it and then combing it. The methods have since changed as this method can lead to spoilage if the fish is stored in the wrong climate. The fish can also be hollowed out and injected with embalming fluid to preserve it. It is unclear which method was used for Suzanne’s Pike.
The origins of Leeds Kirkgate Market date back to 1822 as an open-air market in Briggate. Although it opened in its current form in 1981 after many years of construction.
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