Fish from the Thames
Many Londoners would have shared the sentiments expressed by the poet of the 1500s who wrote ‘London thou art the fflour of Cities all/...Above alle Ryvers thy Ryver hast renown...’ The Thames and its tributaries were ‘full of fat and sweet salmons’ and eels for roasting and ‘divers fish of all sortes.’ The surviving menus for the City Livery Company dinners include a wide range of species such as: lampreys, smelt, cod, ling, dace, crab, oysters, tench, mullet, sole, bream, plaice, whiting, roach, haddock, flounders, shrimp and turbot. The accounts make a clear distinction between ‘green’ fresh and ‘olde’ or preserved fish; the latter usually powdered or salted. Marine mammals were also regarded as ‘fish’ and on one occasion ‘fresh sele’ (seal) was eaten by the Grocers’, who seem to have enjoyed a wider range of fish than many other companies in the period. Evidence for the consumption of cetaceans is rare in the Tudor period, but dolphin and porpoise bones have been recovered from several medieval domestic contexts in London.
G.Keevill, The Tower of London Moat: Archaeological Excavations 1995-9, Historic Royal Palaces Monograph No. 1, 2004