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Age-old ceremony to mark the annual opening of Colchester’s Oyster Fisheries

PUBLISHED: 19 August 2021


This year’s ceremonial opening of the Colne Oyster Fisheries – one of Colchester’s oldest and most celebrated traditions – takes place on Friday 3 September 2021.
 
The sailing barge The Thistle will set sail from Brightlingsea to Pyefleet Creek with civic dignitaries on board, including the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Colchester, the High Steward and representatives of the Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea.
 
The tradition, which dates to 1540, sees the Mayor, Colchester Borough Council’s Chief Executive and the Town Serjeant don full regalia to play key roles in a ceremony to mark the lifting of the first oysters of the season. It is formally witnessed by special guests, who then enjoy a three-course lunch, including oysters, on the boat.
 
The Proclamation, an ancient tongue-twister, will be read by Chief Executive Adrian Pritchard to officially declare the fisheries open for the season. The Mayor, Cllr Robert Davidson, will then raise the loyal toast to Her Majesty The Queen, which is accompanied by drinking gin and eating gingerbread.
 
Before the ceremony, a letter is sent to The Queen at Buckingham Palace, which 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 usually returns her thanks to the Mayor and councillors for their good wishes.
 
The Mayor of Colchester, Cllr Robert Davidson, said: “Unfortunately, social distancing meant last year’s ceremony couldn’t take place on open water, so I am delighted we will be able, once again, to enjoy the start of this year's oyster harvest on The Thistle barge. 
 
“Oysters were venerated by the Romans 2000 years ago and are a world-renowned and much-loved tradition for Colchester, providing a continuity with the past and an occasion to celebrate the rich and diverse history of our borough.
 
“I very much look forward, as Mayor, to taking part in this year’s ceremony.”
 
For more information on the Mayor and Town Hall heritage visit www.colchester.gov.uk/mayor

Image above shows the 2019 opening of the Oyster Fisheries, L-R: Chief Executive of Colchester Borough Council Adrian Pritchard; then Mayor Cllr Nick Cope; Town Serjeant Paul Lind.
 

Page last reviewed: 19 August 2021

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