Fishermen of Crouch End

The appearance of vast shoals of freshwater herring in the Channel was to lead to a new era of prosperity for the community of Crouch End. At first the population fell into a great orgy of eating and drinking with even the youngest children chasing and catching the herring, or as the came to be known the "silver darlings", but after a few days problems began to appear. The fish proved to be highly intelligent, quickly learning to leap over or dive under nets, and this, combined with the hereditary reluctance of Crouch Enders to catch them led to a growing unease among the local populace.
The old Squire, Sir Ralph, had passed away quietly in his sleep at a great age, and the mantle of his responsibilities had passed to his half-brother Sir Simeon Llangthorne. The new Squire, with the memory of the recent riots fresh in his mind, decided that immediate action had to be taken. He called upon the lovely Sharon's brother Harold, then a young subaltern in the army engineering corps, to devise a solution to the problem and after a few weeks of studying the habits of the shoals, he conceived a plan which would not only save the fledgling fishing industry from premature demise, but return Crouch End to the apex of engineering development.
Harold had noticed that at the first sign of a fishing net, rod, or even the sound of a fisherman's booted step the shoal would, as one, retreat to one of the great locks, where they would hide in the murky depths until one of scouts they sent out reported - by what means Harold could never discover - that the coast was clear. He started the construction of huge iron gates covered with fine mesh, and when they were completed he installed them at a point in the Channel just upstream of the first lock, at what is now Turnpike Lane. The gates were mounted on sliding gimbals and raised clear of the water by two steam engines, and when a shoal had ventured upstream to feed or spawn the gates were released, crashing into the Channel and fulfilling the dual purpose of not only trapping the fish, but stunning them to such an extent that even the Crouch End fishermen had little difficulty in catching them.
As well as being extremely efficient, the gates were also a great wonder to all who saw them and soon not only locals, but people from all over London would come to see the gates being closed, and as fame of the spectacle spread even further afield, the area became known as Herring Gate, soon corrupted to Harringey.
With the arrival of the herring, a new chapter of prosperity opened for the people of Crouch End. With their traditional zeal and enthusiasm they designed and built new factories and warehouses for smoking, salting, and bottling herrings, and soon the reputation of the delicacy spread throughout Britain. The industry progressed steadily for several years until the innovation in pickling technology, which was to make the name of Crouch End famous once again throughout the world, was discovered.
It was a humble fisherman called Sliding Jake who first stumbled upon the mysterious formula. It was Jake's habit to visit the local tavern for a flagon of the Bishop's ale on his way home with his catch. On this fateful night, however, Barney the landlord had just cracked open a kilderkin of Old Walter's, a fearsome brew noted both for the adverse effect on the imbiber's balance and the vehemence of the ensuing hangover. On leaving the hostelry he eventually found his way home, but instead of going into his kitchen and popping the fish into the cooking pot, he staggered into his boat shed and dropped his catch into a vat of the acid he used to remove barnacles from the bottom of his longboat. He awoke the next morning in the corner of the shed and, his mind still befuddled by Old Walter's revenge, he went to what he thought was his cooking pot for his morning repast. As soon as the first piece of herring had passed his lips his head miraculously cleared, and he immediately knew he had made a momentous discovery. The acid had completely dissolved the bones of the fish, which in their turn had neutralized the acid, leaving the flesh sweet and tender with a peculiar salty taste and undoubted medicinal properties. He conveyed his findings to the Squire, and from this inauspicious beginning the great Crouch End pickling industry began.
Sir Simeon quickly realised the potential of the discovery, and installed Jake as the first Head Foreman-pickler in Crouch End. Within a year the largest pickling works in the world had been constructed on top of the Muswell Hills where the ruins of the old courthouse had been. The surrounding area thronged with factories manufacturing acid, glass jars and fermenting vats, and once again the great ships plied the Channel, taking Crouch End Herrings - now delicately flavoured with native herbs found only in the wilder reaches of the Muswell Hills - to all parts of the known world.
The area once more became a centre for cosmopolitan trade, and the streets and taverns teemed with Captains and crews of all races and religions. Strange tongues were heard in all corners of the borough, some even stranger after a few flagons the Bishops, but even these years, the most prosperous in all its annals, Crouch End was not free from tragedy. In the spring of 1801, a great storm developed in the Bay of Biscay. Moving swiftly northwards, it increased rapidly in ferocity, driving all before it. It struck the South Coast of England with such force, that many of populace - taken without warning or premonition - lost their lives, and a great damage was done to both ships and buildings.
The denizens of Crouch End were not, however, taken completely by surprise. A few weeks earlier a group of Travelling People had set up their camp on a traditional site at the foot of the Muswell Hills, as they and their forefathers had done every Spring for centuries. Although they now wandered the length and breadth of Britain following a traditional route from fair to fair, an old legend spoke of this place as their ancestral home, and the locals always looked forward to their arrival as a sign that Winter was gone, and Summer was not far away. Among the many arcane skills practised by the Travellers was that of Pessomancy, or the foretelling of the future by casting a set of ancient fish bones which had been handed down through the families for generations. It was by this method that one of their number, whose name was not recorded, divined the nature and timing of the storm and conveyed his fears to the Harbourmaster, Rafael Rowley.
Although a relatively young man for such an important post, Rowley's family had lived in Crouch End for many years, and he had heard - and believed - numerous stories about the prophesies of the travellers. He therefore took the warning seriously, and had the Town Crier broadcast a general alert to the population. Soon all the dwellings, factories and warehouses were secured and shuttered, and local ships were tied up with many ropes, and weighed down with bags of sand.
The Captains of the three sea-going cargo ships which were in the Channel at that time refused to heed the warnings of the Harbourmaster. They preferred, as they said, "to trust in their own knowledge and experience of the signs of the weather than the ramblings of heathens", an error which was to lead to their demise. The storm crossed the River Thames at the exact moment of the highest neap tide of the year, causing a great bore of water many feet high to be pushed by the wind along the Channel at a frightening speed. Harbourmaster Rowley had ordered all the lock gates to be opened to prevent damage, and the masters of the ships, seeing the advantage of both a high tide and a clear run through the Channel, set sail together. They had only sailed for a few minutes when they were hit, first by the tidal wave, then by the storm, and destroyed so completely that the only recognisable debris found after the wind had subsided were the compasses of the three ships. These were taken to the tavern which stood alongside the Channel, mounted side by side on a piece of driftwood recovered from the wreckage, and inscribed with a warning to all seafarers. The tavern became known as "The Three Compasses" and although the original mascot was lost when a new building was erection the site, it still bears the name today.