The Oyster fishing families

The Oyster fishing families
Posted by Mary Contrary – 2008/08/11 10:03
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Can anyone list the original oyster fishing families. I mean those that formed the Free Fishers and Dredgers at the end of the eighteenth century? I believe there were half a dozen names. One was Johnson (my research interest). The others were what: Paysden, Gambrill, Rigden, Camburn, Foad?
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Re:The Oyster fishing families
Posted by Mary Contrary – 2008/08/11 19:38
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Actually, I think I’m getting Paysden and Putwain muddled up. The Putwains were, I think, one of the original families.
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Re:The Oyster fishing families
Posted by bittifolki – 2008/08/12 12:39
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Hi Mary my great grandfather was A.T Whorlow he was (along with his brothers) a Dredger.
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Re:The Oyster fishing families
Posted by Mary Contrary – 2008/08/12 16:54
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I read that it was only half a dozen families who formed the Free Fishers and Dredgers, but more families were allowed in in the mid nineteenth century, and I’ve also found a reference to a Richard Johnson being the first treasurer.

But, I’ve just had a look at the Kent Archive catalogue of Oyster Company papers on the internet and found many more
than 6 surnames. The earliest I could find were: Rowbotham, Ougham, Reeves, and Humphrey, who were the first
recorded foremen, and Rowden, the first recorded Water Bailiff. Other surnames in the records include Camburn,
Nicholls, Goldfinch, Shilling, Campbell, Rigden and Uden.

So far, I’ve only spent one day in the archives researching my oyster fishing ancestors. Since I live in Canada and only
visit the UK once a year, it is likely to be a while before I get the opportunity to visit again.
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Re:The Oyster fishing families
Posted by Grey Squirrel – 2009/01/18 20:47
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This is an interesting question.

I understand that the Whitstable Oyster Fishery was formally established by Act of Parliament in 1793 but the Company of Dredgers had been dredging for oysters for at least 300 years before then (and of course, there was also the neighbouring Seasalter Fishery, not to mention the Faversham and little Swalecliffe ones). Some of the old Whitstable families such as Kemp and Edenden were very probably involved in oysters from the C16th or C17th.

It is difficult to take Whitstable family history back reliably and confidently beyond the Victorian era, partly because of the loss of the 1841 census, and partly because not all expected events are recorded in the Whitstable and Seasalter C of E parish registers, or these registers do not give sufficient information to enable you to make other than educated guesses.
A few families would of course have been Non-Conformist (and perhaps registered their vital events in chapels in
Canterbury or Faversham) but I imagine that many of the nominally Anglican seafaring and fishing families did not
necessarily baptise their children — I doubt that they became especially religious until the mid-C19th at earliest.

The other thing I do not understand yet is what happened to the town during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It looks to me that this is when some of the families which we think of as being “old Whitstable” might have arrived in town — maybe from Canterbury or Faversham and the outlying villages. I guess that this is when the town’s centre of gravity shifted decisively from the Church Street area around All Saints to Whitstable Street, what we think of today as the town centre. Certainly, the further back beyond about 1820 you go, the more you encounter “unfamiliar” surnames.
By the way, Paysden is not an old Whitstable name — I believe they only arrived in town circa late 1850s / very early
1860s.
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Re:The Oyster fishing families
Posted by Brian Baker – 2009/01/18 22:29
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I agree with the dating of the arrival of the first of what become the established families. My Whitstable line, the Butchers appear to have arrived in the town around 1725, coming from Folkestone. A few more generations back to the mid 1500 sees the line in Canterbury. Most of the Butcher line we see in Whitstable during the 1700′s and 1800′s are from this line and the majority were involved in the oyster industry.

The Act of 1793 says that that oysters had been harvested by local men since ‘time immemorial’.
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Re:The Oyster fishing families
Posted by Mary Contrary – 2009/01/18 22:54
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Putting my (retired) lawyer’s hat on:

“Time Immemorial” is a legal term meaning before 1275 — the first year of the reign of Richard I. It means beyond legal
memory. If you can show that a custom has been treated as law since before 1275, then it is regarded as common law -
and enforceable.

The use of the term in the Act is meant to protect the Free Fisher’s customs. That was the issue in the 1860 court cases
(Free Fishers of Whitstable v. Gann etc) which were about whether the Company’s custom of collecting dues from boats
moored in the harbour was legally enforceable — as part of the Company’s customs since “time immemorial”.
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Re:The Oyster fishing families
Posted by Mary Contrary – 2009/01/18 23:06
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Another point that came up in Free Fishers v. Gann was that the fishery must predate Magna Carta. This is because
Magna Carta forbade the Crown from granting land below the high-tide mark. Therefore the land of the oyster fishery
must have been granted by the Crown to the Lord of the manor before Magna Carta (1215).
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Re:The Oyster fishing families
Posted by Jim Fish – 2009/05/07 11:50
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Hello, “bittifolki”. My great grandfather, who my 85 year-old Mother remembers as Albert Edward Whorlow (son of
a “George Whorlow”), was reported to her as being a Whitstable oysterman. I wonder if he and A.T. Whorlow might be
the same person (“Ted” being a diminuative of Edward) or a brother to your great grandfather. Any genealogical
information you would like to share on the Whorlow family would be greatly appreciated.

I’m in Canada, by the way. Mother was a “war bride” who married a Canadian soldier.
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