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Stepping Back In Time

The Haward family have been cultivating oysters for eight generations in and around the creeks of Mersea Island, Essex. We have documented records of William Haward Snr. sending oysters to Kent, via London, in 1769. The very ground that William Haward Snr. walked on to collect oysters in 1769 is the same ground that Tom Haward now walks and collects oysters from in 2023.


It is a remarkable legacy, and even more remarkable when we reflect on what the UK looked like in 1769, and how much has changed since then.


On the 6th May, 2023, the country witnessed the coronation of King Charles III, a King who has himself said how impressed he is with the oysters the Haward family continues to cultivate today. In 1769, when William Haward Snr. was hand-picking oysters from the creeks around Mersea, it was George III who sat on the throne, himself someone who regularly ate oysters, and would become the third longest reigning monarch in British history.


1769 was also the year that the Oxford Edition of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible was published. This version was commissioned to iron out printing mistakes, update spellings, and make the English more accessible to the reader. And it is this version that was used in the coronation of King Charles III in 2023.


George III had a keen interest in farming and agriculture, as well as mathematics and science. He had built The King’s Observatory so that he could observe the 1769 transit of Venus, when the planet moved across the face of the sun, and thus became visible from earth.


James Cook set out upon his ship, HM Bark Endeavour, on 13th April, 1769, for his first voyage, arriving in Tahiti so that he too could observe the transit of Venus, providing valuable information in the ongoing pursuit of astronomical knowledge. Today the Hubble telescope captures images of galaxies and the universe that James Cook and William Haward could never have imagined as they sailed beneath the night sky.


In 1769 the Industrial Revolution was emerging, with advances in steam technology in that very year that would pave the way for a significant shift and transition in the way Britain worked and traded around the world. And these technological advances have radically transformed the way all of us work, including how we operate and run as a business cultivating oysters. William Haward Snr. would probably look at our depuration tanks, where we purify all the oysters we sell, with wonder. He would no doubt think that our till and computer systems at Borough Market were some kind of magic! And yet, today, we continue to hand pick our oysters from the mud, just as he did, continuing the legacy and methods he began all those years ago.


On 19th November, 1769, Blackfriars Bridge opened to traffic, which is just over a mile away from where Borough Market now trades, having moved to its new location in 1756, where it remains to this day. Borough Market has a long history, and the Haward family are proud to sell our oysters today at this iconic site. Our history of selling oysters into London goes back to William Haward Snr., with records of how many bags of oysters he would sail down the Thames into the city.


For well over 250 years oysters have been at the very heart of the Haward family. The UK has transitioned and changed in a variety of ways during the course of this time, the world we live in now like an alien planet from that which William Haward Snr. knew and experienced. Yet, despite this, there is the consistency of our oyster cultivating legacy.


The tide has ebbed and flowed across our oyster layings every day since William first walked upon that same mud we now walk on. Our oysters grow and thrive in their surroundings, feeding off the richness of the marshland, just as they did when George III was on the throne. And the Hawards continue to put all their passion, knowledge, and expertise into producing remarkable oysters for people to enjoy up and down the UK. In a world of transition and change, where very little seems consistent and stable, maybe there is comfort in knowing that Tom Haward is reaching down into the mud and picking up an oyster in the same place that William Haward Snr. did all those years before? Perhaps it is a way of reaching down into history, connecting us with it, helping us to learn from it, develop, grow, and reminding us that there is always much to remember and be thankful for.

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