History

J. Sykes & Sons is a family run business with over a century of experience.

The business began in Manchester by Joseph Sykes in 1862, trading in wet fish and Dutch Shrimp – a miracle to previous generations.

Originally fresh fish was merely obtainable at seaside ports, so to a city like Manchester, fish was only available if preserved by smoking or salting.

By the mid-19th century, with the development of Britain’s rail network and speed of international transport, vast quantities of ice could now be transferred from Canada. Fishmerchants, including J Sykes & Sons, could now buy ice from the ice salesman to store their fish. Fresh fish was now available to inland cities, an opportunity that Joe Sykes seized.

However, it was Ronald ‘Bill’ Sykes, Joe Sykes grandson, which took the company from the 19th century memory to the J Sykes & Sons wholesalers we know today. He joined the family business when he was just 15, in 1935. It only took him 3 years, to the age of 18, for him to take on the company as his own. Bill Sykes started the delivery service delivering to all fish fryers within a 10 mile radius.

Sykes was moving over 2000 boxes of 30 kilo plaice and hake and 10,000 units of 6 kilo boxes of white fish fillets every week. With the help of Martin (Sykes’ current chairman) and David Sykes, Bill relocated the company in 1974 to the new Smithfield market. Here, he changed the direction of the business, built the cold store and created the offices from where the business is run today. When he died in 1996 at the age of 75, he had over 60 years’ experience in the market trade, which he passed on to the next generation of Sykes & Sons.

As a result of Bill Sykes’s thorough planning and commitment along with the consistent improvement in quality of frozen at sea products, by the late 1990s, Sykes was the biggest importer in England of Icelandic-white fish and prawns. Since then, the company has continued to grow rapidly, now employing over 85 staff in management and support roles and a further 40 staff in the production facilities. Although now only 5% of the company’s business is conducted through the fish market, the Manchester Smithfield Market does, however, provide a base for the company’s cold stores, distribution and offices which conduct the business.

Today, the company is proud to supply over 500 Wholesale customers, key Multinational retailers and Food manufacturers.