THE opening of Colchester’s iconic oyster fisheries has been marked with one of the most historic and celebrated traditions in the town’s civic calendar.

Colchester Mayor Nick Cope, dressed in traditional robes and council regalia, officially marked the lifting of the first Mersea oysters of the season at the ceremony on Friday.

Following tradition, Mr Cope, who was joined on the expedition by Mayoress Elizabeth, helped to dredge the first oysters of 2019 from the fishery.

Deputy mayor Beverly Oxford, High Steward Bob Russell and a collection of other dignitaries joined the mayor on the Hydrogen sailing barge as it set sail from Brightlingsea.

The council’s chief executive Adrian Pritchard and Town Serjeant Paul Lund, who were also dressed in formal regalia, joined the mayor and helped him lead the ceremony.

Arriving at Pyecreek Fleet at noon on Friday, Mr Pritchard kicked off the event by reading the Proclamation, an ancient tongue-twister which officially declares the fishery open for the season.

Mr Cope then raised a toast the the Queen before partaking in the traditional gin and gingerbread accompaniment.

Before the ceremony, a letter was sent to Buckingham Palace stating: “According to ancient custom and charter dating back to Norman times, the mayor and councillors of the Colchester 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 replied with thanks to the mayor and councillors for their good wishes.

Revellers enjoyed a special lunch on board the barge, whilst also getting a chance to try the famous oysters themselves.

Representatives from the Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea including town mayor Peter Ball and mayoress Ann were also in attendance. 

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