A TOWN’S waters were officially blessed at a centuries-old event, celebrating Brightlingsea’s maritime heritage.

The town blessed and reclaimed the surrounding waters of Brightlingsea Creek, which involves the historic fishing fleet of smacks re-asserting rights to the waters, a privilege allowed to Cinque Ports.

The event began with the Brightlingsea’s Cinque Port Deputy’s colourful civic procession outside St James Church in the High Street.

The town crier made his announcements and then led by a band, Cinque Port Deputy of Brightlingsea Mike Holding, dignitaries, clergy and other VIPs set off on foot to the Hard.

Cinque Port chaplain,the Rev Canon Pauline Scott and the Bishop of Colchester, the Rt Rev Roger Morris led the service.

The Blessing of the Waters took place on the jetty hammerhead and on board the moored historic oyster smack, Pioneer.

Finally, dignitaries included the mayor and mayoress of Sandwich, another Cinque Port, boarded the smack flotilla before setting sail in procession on the water to just off Bateman’s Tower.

Organiser Roger Tabor said it was a beautiful day.

He said: “It’s one of the things that could have been lost but in the town we wanted to bring it back as it’s an important part of our maritime history.

“We had more smacks and heritage boats this year and they were all dressed up, it looked staggering.

“The Motley Crew provided everyone with a singing lead and they came out into the water on the smack Edme.”

Bishop Roger blessed the boats, water and crews with a mixture of Rosemary and Bay.

The crews then made a din, a loud noise made with foghorns to mark ownership of the waters.

There was also a gang hoe toast with sandwiches and beer.

The day was also an opportunity for young people to celebrate the town’s history, and brownies, guides and rainbows were in attendance.

Mayors from Kent, Colchester, Wivenhoe, Maldon and other coastal areas attended to join in the tradition.

The origins of the religious ceremony lie in a historic dispute of the local oystermen.

Those from Brightlingsea and Colchester used to argue over the position of West Ness near Bateman’s Tower.

While this is no longer an issue today, the colourful custom is kept alive as part of the town’s heritage.

Mr Tabor said the day started off with grey skies but quickly cleared and the sun lifted everyone’s spirits as they turned out for the procession.

Residents from Brightlingsea watched as the boats took to the water.