Early 19th Century
The development of deep sea trawling and the emergence of sailing trawlers, commonly known as smacks.
Stephen Roach’s son Richard Roach was born. Richard was born into a fishing family with his father a deep sea fisherman.
Much of the railway network was created, providing the means of transporting fish swiftly and cheaply to inland markets. This spurs a massive growth of Hull and Grimsby. In 1840 not more than a dozen small fishing vessels worked out of the Humber but by the later 1870’s more than a thousand smacks sailed out of the estuary and the two ports. The Port of Hull, Grimsby and Yarmouth lay claim to being the biggest fishing ports in the world.
Roach Brothers as we know it today was formed. Richard Roach sailed round from Barking to the Port of Hull and set up in business as a fish dealer with a shop at 63 West Street, Hull.
Saw the development of the boxing fleet system at Hull and Grimsby. Richard saw the opportunity to capitalise on the new system for transporting fish back to port whilst retaining the smacks out at sea to continue fishing.
Richard was by now a fishing smacks owner. One of his first vessels was called Motto which he purchased for £650.
Richard had a son called John William.
During this period Richard amassed a fleet of more than 18 fishing smacks, some of which were more than 70ft in length.
John William joined his father in the family business primarily as a fish dealer as this period was experiencing the demise of the sailing fishing smacks fleets. They also developed the business to include game and poultry. In the same year Bernard Roach was born.
Richard died in 1897 at a time when steam trawlers had emerged to replace the traditional sail. In fact by 1903 the thousand fishing smacks working out of the Humber had all but gone. This brought about a major restructuring of the industry. Before his death Richard pulled out of trawler ownership and sold off his smacks.
Richard left 6 sons (Harry, Joseph, John William, Walter, Albert and Charles) all of whom were by this stage fish dealers in their own right. Although all brothers were in the trade it is clear that not all of them saw eye-to-eye!
Following the death of their father, Joseph and John William joined forces and opened their first unit at Corporation Fields, Hull. The business mainly focused on rabbits and game with shellfish taking priority in the summer months.
John William had a son called Leslie Roach.
Joseph died with no sons to take his place in the business.
John William signs a new 50 year lease at Corporation Fields.
John William (pictured) and Harold Percy joined forces to become the next generation of Roach Bros.
By 1914 Britain has the largest and most advanced fishing industry the world has ever seen. Fish landed at the Humber ports is sold at fishmongers in towns and cities across England and beyond. Hull’s Hessle Road district has probably the largest smokehouse capacity in England.
The Great War. Nearly 3000 trawlers and drifters from all UK fishing ports were requisitioned by the Admiralty and armed to fight. The remainder were required to continue fishing to maintain the nation’s food supply. Altogether over 500 trawlers were lost on Admiralty service or whilst fishing during the war. A large number of people from the Hull fish trade joined either the Navy or the Army during the conflict and many lost their lives.
Leslie joins the family business straight from school at 16 years old having been educated at Hymers College.
Harold Percy died with his son Percy having joined the business in 1924.
Albert Roach died with no family having joined the business.
Leslie had his first son Paul Roach.
John William died and the ownership of the business was now in the hands of Percy, Leslie (pictured) and Bernard.
Paul joined the family business after 2 years conscription in Egypt. Paul was more than familiar with the fishing trade having worked on trawlers after leaving Hymers College at the age of 15. This must have been quite the culture shock!
The business had been focused on rabbits and game during the past few decades with shellfish taking priority during the summer months. However with the outbreak of myxomatosis, the rabbit trade was effectively killed off overnight. The Roach Bros went back to their roots and began concentrating on shellfish, in particularly crabs. This proved to be a very shrewd move!
Paul Roach had his first son Adrian Paul Roach.
Paul left Roach Bros after only 4 years working in the family business, as quote, “his family members would not pay him a proper wage!” Some things don’t change!!
The 50 year lease at Corporation Fields expired and the land was redeveloped for Northern Foods Head Office (now the site is home to the St Stephens Shopping Centre).
Roach Bros purchased a freehold property at 54—56 Manchester Street, Hull. This was formerly two terraced houses with back brick chimney holes for smoking.
In the same year Paul had his second son Robert Leslie Roach.
The business expanded during these years by concentrating on crabs purchased from Scotland, Northumberland, Whitby, Scarborough and Bridlington which were boiled and packed ready for distribution.
In 1966 Paul rejoined the family business at its new premises in Manchester Street after a 10 year absence.
Adrian joined the family business after training as an accountant at one of the city’s accountancy practices.
Manchester Street was compulsorily purchased by the council.
Percy and Bernard both left the business and Robert joined.
Leslie Roach died early in the New Year. On 3rd February Roach Bros moved into a new 6,000 sq ft purpose built factory at Havelock Street, Hull costing £40,000 to build. The business purchased the freehold title from the council in the same year. Leslie never saw the business move into its new premises which it is still in today (albeit after several major extensions and refurbishments!) despite the major significance he made to the procurement of Havelock Street.
The business at this time was 100% crabs and the new generation could see that so much of the firm’s resources were being wasted. In the winter months the lack of crabs meant the factory remained idle. Adrian and Robert, with guidance from their father Paul, introduced a complete new range of fish to keep the factory occupied. This included smoked mackerel cutlets and fillets, Scotch and Canadian boneless kippers, Dutch roll-mops and scampi. The smoked fish at that time was smoked by a local curer who packed into Roach Bros fish boxes. By the end of 1982 the business employed 20 staff.
As this new division of the business started expanding, the business purchased its first 5 stone kiln for smoking. Roach Bros has produced smoked mackerel and herring ever since!
After only 1 year of smoking, the business saw the growth potential in the market and had essentially outgrown the 5 stone kiln. They invested in two AFOS kilns which would open the doors to much greater sales opportunities.
Adrian’s son Marcus Adrian Paul Roach was born (on the same day as his father’s birthday, 21st June).
During the same year the business started supplying WM Morrison who at that point was a Northern retailer with 25 stores. We supplied them on a daily basis with Hot Smoked Mackerel and Kippers.
WM Morrisons joined an impressive customer list at that time including Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s amongst a few taking Hot Smoked Mackerel and kippers for their wet fish counters. With hundreds of other wholesalers and retailers around the country served on a daily basis.
Roach Bros (Curers) Ltd was formed. The business had previously been a partnership, but as the business was now flourishing, limited liability protection was advised.
This period saw significant growth for the national retailers with significant store openings. Many of whom simply outgrew Roach Bros. The introduction of technical departments and competitive pricing brought about new challenges for the business. Nevertheless throughout this period we developed a very close relationship with WM Morrisons, which prompted the first major factory extension doubling the capacity of the factory to 12,000 sq ft.
Paul retired and left the business in the hands of Adrian and Robert. The first order of business was to sponsor the local rugby team, Hull Ionians RUFC!
The requirement for segregation between raw and cooked product meant further major renovation work to the entire interior of the factory with new dedicated Wet Side, Low Risk and High Risk departments.
The German retailer, Aldi started listing our Hot Smoked Mackerel Fillets. Their 44 stores were predominately based in the South of England.
Saw the introduction of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety and Roach Bros are proud to have worked to these high standards every year since.
Roach Bros were awarded the first Seafish Quality Processor Award (higher Level).
WM Morrisons takeover of Safeway created the UK's fourth largest supermarket with the enlarged group operating over 550 stores. We supplied every store every day.
Built an extension to the offices effectively doubling the size of the canteen and office facilities and provided increased production space in the Low Risk department.
Adrian Roach spent 15 days on a trawler in Iceland. A taste of his father’s and ancestors’ experiences at sea!
Centenary Club formed. John Townend retired as a Conservative MP and organised an annual dinner for all businesses over 100 years old in the Hull and East Riding area. A total of 16 businesses attended.
Started supplying Aldi Ireland.
6th generation Roach, Marcus joined the business after qualifying as a Chartered Surveyor and becoming a member of the RICS.
A further major extension to the Wet Side is completed adding a further 1,200 sq ft, making space for a new defrosting unit.
A representative of Roach Bros was invited to meet Princess Anne in recognition of their support and work with The Sailors Children’s Society over many years.