Whitstable and the Oyster Festival
The town of Whitstable has been associated with oysters for hundreds of years, and its oyster festival is a festival in the full meaning of the word: both a celebration and a series of performances. Relying very much on custom and tradition, it has a spontaneity that is constantly evolving from year to year, yet still retaining its own individual character.
The roots of the festival go back much further than many would think: in Norman times, Whitstable was an established fishing port, and it was the custom then for fishers and dredgers to celebrate with an annual ceremony of thanksgiving. The exact form this ceremony would have originally taken is unknown, but it would have probably have
Being a practical,
Today’s oyster festival evolved with the revival of the local industry, which had been virtually wiped out in the 1920s by a combination of disease and overfishing, and is now an event to promote both the oyster industry and the town itself. Still traditionally starting in the weekend nearest to St James’ Day, the festival is now held over one weekend, with the opening parade on
HISTORY OF THE WHITSTABLE SEASIDE & OYSTERS
Around the mid-18th century, goods and passengers began to be transported by ship between London and Whitstable and a toll road was built to the cathedral city of Canterbury. These improvements in transport led to the town’s development as a seaside resort. The first advertisements for bathing machines at Whitstable appeared in 1768. In 1793 the rights to harvest the oyster beds were bought by the newly established Company of Free Fishers and Dredgers of Whitstable, the successor to the Whitstable Company of Dredgers.
Between roughly 1775 and
Built in 1890, when dredging for oysters was an important industry, the Whitstable Oyster Yawl ‘The Favourite’ can still be seen today, as it rests on Island Wall and commemorates the oyster fishing and shipbuilding industries that once thrived.
Extract taken from WhatsOn Whitstable