Colchester oyster fishery

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The town of Colchester in Essex owns all the oyster beds on the river Colne by virtue of a grant in the 12th century by Richard I. The start of the oyster season on 1 September is thus marked by the Mayor, Town Clerk, and other officials setting out by boat into Pyefleet Creek, to assert their ownership and officially start the season's dredging. The Town Clerk reads the proclamation (dated 1256) which states that the oyster beds have belonged to Colchester ‘from the time beyond which memory runneth not to the contrary’. The loyal toast is given in gin and gingerbread, and the Mayor pulls up, and eats, the first oyster. A few weeks later, about 20 October, they stage a great Oyster Feast in Colchester's Moot Hall, where about 400 people consume thousands of oysters.

Kightly, 1986: 82;Hole, 1975: 106–7;David Cannadine, ‘The Transformation of Civic Ritual in Modern Britain: The Colchester Oyster Feast’, Past and Present 94 (1982), 106–30.

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