Ancient ceremony to mark the annual opening of Colchester’s Oyster Fisheries

PUBLISHED: 24 August 2022

This year’s ceremonial opening of the Colne Oyster Fisheries – one of Colchester’s oldest and most celebrated traditions – takes to the waters off Mersea on Friday 2 September 2022.
The sailing barge The Hydrogen 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, the Town Serjeant and, this year, Colchester Borough Council’s Deputy Chief Executive 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 Deputy Chief Executive Dan Gascoyne to officially declare the fisheries open for the season. The Mayor, Cllr Tim Young, 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 HM The Queen, which states: “According to ancient Custom and Charter dating back to Norman times, the mayor and councillors of the Colchester City 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 Tim Young, said: “In a fast-paced world, it’s reassuring to think our renowned Colchester Native Oysters, so revered by the Romans 2,000 years ago, are able to provide a continuity with the past and an occasion to celebrate the rich and diverse history of our city.

“The Oyster Fisheries ceremony is an ancient and much-loved tradition for Colchester – a unique and wonderful event to celebrate and enjoy the start of the oyster harvest.
“I am very much looking forward, as Mayor, to taking part in this year’s ceremony.”
For more information on the Mayor and Town Hall heritage visit

Page last reviewed: 24 August 2022


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