Campaigners in Reading are divided over how to preserve the history of ‘Smelly Alley’ after a fishmonger closed its doors this week.

A petition has been set up calling on the council to officially name Union Street as ‘Smelly Alley’, but heritage campaigners have slammed the idea as ‘daft’.

Union Street has been known locally as ‘Smelly Alley’ for many years, due to the historic presence of butchers, grocers and fishmongers.

Frost’s fishmongers, also known as The Smelly Alley Fish Company, is the last of the fragrant traditional shops on the street. It will close its doors today (Tuesday, July 9) after more than a hundred years in the town.

Petitioner Martin Millmore said renaming the street would ‘show how proud we are of our town and it’s quirky past’.

Reading Civic Society (RCS) chair Richard Bennett said: “What a daft idea. Union Street it has been throughout history, since at least 1793, and Union Street it should stay.

“It is also not easy to change the names of streets. There are, frankly, greater priorities for the council.”

Instead, Mr Bennett has suggested a blue plaque could be installed to mark the departure of the last traditional trader, which could give info on the source of the name.

He said this would cost about £800 in total based on what it cost RCS and the Dusseldorf Assocation to erect the Phoebe Cusden plaque in Castle Street two years ago.

RCS may consider proposing the plaque for Smelly Alley but would need to raise funds to do so and it would take ‘significant time to get it done’.

READ MORE: Reading town centre fish mongers in Smelly Alley closes its doors

Mr Millmore's petition calls for the street’s ‘novelty and uniqueness’ to be preserved.

He said: “If you asked a Reading resident to go to Union Street, they would be unlikely to know where you mean, but Smelly Alley is instantly recognisable.

“With the closing of the fragrant shops comes the very real risk of losing the name.

“Let’s keep some of Reading’s history. Some of its humour and uniqueness.

“Let’s officially rename Union Street to Smelly Alley to show how proud we are of our town and it’s quirky past.”

Blogger Edible Reading said: “This would be a lovely tribute to a vanishing part of Reading. Well worth signing and sharing far and wide.”

Kevin Little, owner of the departing Frost’s Fishmongers, called changing the street name ‘a dead duck’.

He said: “We tried years ago. We tried to get a plaque but we couldn’t get the shops to agree. We tried to get signage.”

Mr Little said he thought the street was named ‘Union Street’ because it linked Friar Street and Broad Street Mall and said a historian once showed him a map which showed that ‘Smelly Alley’ originates as far back as the 1500s.

Evelyn Williams, Reading Conservation Area Advisory Committee chair, said she believes Smelly Alley is named after the sewer or drain which previously ran down the middle of it, while usage continued due to the ‘smelly’ fresh food shops.

She said she is happy with the name Union Street, which may reference a nearby workhouse, and said a petition would likely not succeed because of the administrative difficulty of officially renaming streets.

An inscription on the street reads ‘Union Street 1793’, which suggests it has been the name for more than 200 years.