ID: ML2019_009_022 / Ron Green

TitlePaglesham Oysters. The Mersea connection.

The recent purchase of a postcard showing a view of the Paglesham Oyster pits c 1910 led me to look out the delightful little book Toasted Cheese and Cinders by Miss Sybil Brand. I was privileged to get to know this lovely old lady when she moved into Elmwood Drive and needed work done on her fireplace. She was the local historian of her day and often submitted articles to the local papers and magazines. In her book, she describes how in 1909 her father John Brand took up a job as foreman on the Oyster business at Paglesham. A house went with the job and so the family moved their home from Mersea - not by road but by water. She described how her father chartered the sixteen ton fishing smack TELEGRAPH for the move. With all the family belongings (except for the piano which went later on the deck of a smack under motor power), stowed down in the hold, a group of family and friends assembled on the causeway to wave them off, but the tide didn't reach the predicted height and TELEGRAPH didn't float. The family had to return home and spend another night on makeshift beds returning to the smack very early next morning to leave on the next tide with no one to wave them off. The journey under sail took most of the day, and by having reached Paglesham Hard, the furniture had to he humped up from the hold, loaded onto wagons, and jolted across a stubble field to the house.

Paglesham was a village with about 400 inhabitants, between the rivers Roach and Crouch. A few days later a Farthing family moved there from Mersea, also to work in the oyster business, and they became good friends in this isolated community. Sybil remembers occasional trips back to Mersea for holidays, sailing in one of the Mersea oyster smacks that worked at Paglesham for the week and returned home for the weekend. It was not always a smooth journey.

John Brand's previous job was poorly paid and the family had been struggling. The new job paid twice as much so the family were able to have a better standard of living and clear a small debt. The family lived at Paglesham for seven years.
I am wondering if the Paglesham postcard shows John Brand with two of his daughters.

The smack TELEGRAPH was built at Brightlingsea 1866 and in 1910 would have been owned by James Hempstead Junior. She was broken up in 1925.

Published in Mersea Life September 2019, local page 22.

More ...

The Farthing family - friends at Paglesham.
Stood at the back in the doorway is 'Boatman' Haward [ Heather Haward ]
From Toasted Cheese and Cinders by Sybil Brand.

AuthorRon Green
PublishedSeptember 2019
SourceMersea Museum