Telling the Tale by Joe Haward
"The fact that you can tell that tale, people think it's something really special." Richard Haward
When King George came to the throne in 1714 it is likely that a Haward was doing something with oysters in and around the creeks of Mersea Island in Essex.
William Haward Snr was certainly selling oysters out of Mersea to be relaid in Whitstable during the 1760's. As the Georgian era drew to a close in 1837 the Haward's were also sending oysters into London. By the end of the 19th Century The Tollesbury and Mersea Native Oyster Fishery were sending 100 tonnes of oysters into London and around Europe.
Richard, now in his mid-70's, remembers picking oysters as a child. "My first memory of oysters was walking out on the mud here and picking small ones up. I went with my Dad, from what age, I can't remember, but when I was 13 and you were allowed to work, I went with him on Saturday's and holidays."
Times were different then. "In those days you had to haul the dredges in by hand."
Richard was "proud to follow" in his father's footsteps, to carry on the trade that has been in the Haward family for generation after generation.
Richard still run's the business, but now it's Bram and Tom's turn to carry on the Haward name, two of Richard's sons. That's eight generations. It's a good job for Bram, who skippers the Haward boat, that the dredges aren't hand-pulled any longer.
With Bram and Tom both being Dad's themselves, there is every chance of the ninth generation.
Tom has said before that being a Haward means having fifty percent blood and fifty percent seawater flowing through your veins; working on the water is simply part of who the Hawards are.
To the Hawards, farming oysters is a passion, a commitment to a way of life where that passion, that story and legacy, is known through the very oysters that are sold.
Richard says that, "An oyster tastes of where it comes from. It's a product of the environment it grows in. And that environment here is, to me, the ideal environment for oysters to grow, and to fatten, and to make a very good oyster to eat."
Even the Romans loved Mersea oysters!
For the Hawards, their Mersea oysters are some of the best in the world because of where the grow, but also because of the knowledge that goes in to growing them, a knowledge that continues to be passed down through the generations.