The sheer weight of curing fish could cause the outer walls of a fish stage to bulge outwards, or even collapse over time. This necessitated an architectural innovation called a side span. A side span is similar in function to a buttress on a stone building and consisted of a wooden exterior brace on the side of a stage. Regarding the stages of Tilting, Fogo Island, folklorist Gerald Pocius writes,
According to Dan Greene, many stages in the past had a "side span" for support. This brace kept the side of the stage from breaking out when a large amount of salted fish was stored inside. These were essentially timbers that spanned out past the normal plane of the flooring, and braced diagonally on the wallplate to counteract any pressure. According to Dan, the typical sixty foot stage had three of these spans on each side.
Above is a Tilting example, showing the side span on the Michael Greene Stage (photo credit: Heritage NL).
For more on side spans, read the full article in our November 2020 "Heritage Update" newsletter.