Date issued: 24 August 2020
The opening of the Colne Oyster Fisheries, one of Colchester’s oldest annual traditions, will break with convention on Friday 4 September 2020 and be held on dry land.
This year, as a result of the coronavirus and social distancing measures, the annual gin and gingerbread ceremony will be held at Cudmore Grove Country Park, East Mersea, within sight of Mersea Stone where the old Blockhouse ceremony traditionally took place to mark the opening of the Oyster Fishery.
Dating back to 1540, the traditional ceremony dictates the Mayor of Colchester, Colchester Borough Council’s Chief Executive and the Town Serjeant wear full regalia and play key roles in the ceremony. It is formally witnessed by several guests who, following the ceremony, will each be served several Colchester Native Oysters.
The Proclamation, an ancient tongue-twister, will be read by Chief Executive Adrian Pritchard to officially declare the fishery open for the season. The Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr Nick Cope and Mrs Elizabeth Cope, will then raise the loyal toast to The Queen, accompanied by drinking gin and eating gingerbread.
A letter sent to The Queen at Buckingham Palace, states: “According to ancient Custom and Charter dating back to Norman times, the Mayor and Councillors of the Colchester Borough Council will formally proclaim the Opening of the Colne Oyster Fishery for the coming season and will drink to your Majesty's long life and health and request respectfully to offer to your Majesty their expressions of dutiful loyalty and devotion.”
The Queen has already responded with thanks to the Mayor and councillors for their loyal greetings and sending warm good wishes for the Ceremony.
The Mayor of Colchester, Councillor Nick Cope, said: “The tradition of oysters and oyster fisheries in Colchester is nearly 2000 years old and I am delighted to be part of this year’s time-honoured ceremony. Although social distancing means we will not be able to take to open water, it will still be a wonderful occasion to celebrate and enjoy the start of this year’s oyster harvest.”
Guests arrive at the Country Park at 11.00am.
For more information on the Mayor and Town Hall heritage visit www.colchester.gov.uk/mayor