L. Robson & Sons Ltd. is a fourth generation family business specialising in the traditional method of oak smoking kippers and salmon.
Situated in Craster, a small fishing village on the Northumberland coast, the company still cures the fish in the original smokehouses which are over 130 years old.
In years gone by the herring were landed in the small harbour and taken directly to the curing sheds. Here the herring were sorted, some to be salted down in barrels for export to Europe and the remainder to be kippered. Over the years Craster kippers have earned an enviable reputation as one of the finest kippers in Britain. This reputation has been enhanced by its endorsement on numerous television programmes and the approval of many of the country’s top chefs.
Built in 1856 by the Craster family, “Robsons Smokehouse” is now the only smokehouse in Craster.
James William Robson moved to Craster around 1890, arriving in Craster from a herring yard in Newton. He later bought the smokehouse from the Craster family and the business was born in 1906.
From then “Robsons Smokehouse” passed through four generations and today is run by Neil Robson. His father Alan, still keeps a keen eye on the business and visits the smokehouse every day.
The traditional methods of smoking are still used today and the tradition has been passed on to yet another generation. Neil’s daughter, Olivia, is as passionate about the tradition as her father, grandfather and great grandfather before her.
A Quality Product
To produce a “quality” product the essential ingredient is a top quality raw material and this is one of the main reasons that Robson’s have earned their reputation. Only the plumpest herring with the correct oil content are used to produce Craster kippers. The actual process of changing these “silver darlings” to the renowned kipper sounds a simple enough method. First, the herring are split on a machine capable of splitting 500kg per hour, this replaces the numerous “herring girls” that used to split the herring by hand.
Modern splitting machine Then the herring are placed in a brine solution of plain salt and water for a predetermined length of time depending on their size and, lastly, they are hung on tenter hooks and placed in the cavernous smokehouses. Fires are placed under the rows of herring made of whitewood shavings and oak sawdust and these smoulder away for up to 16 hours before the kippers are ready.