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THE ESSEX STANDARD - Friday 18 January 1850 - “THE POOR OF ESSEX - The Morning Chronicle correspondent, or “commissioner,” during his recent visit to Essex, has collected a mass of somewhat miscellaneous, but, in many respects, important particulars as to the avocations and condition of the poor in various parts of the county - agricultural [farm labourers, straw plaiters], maritime [oyster and stone-dredgers], manufacturing [weavers, &c.]

We subjoin a few extracts to the principal subjects touched upon:-

OYSTER AND STONE-DREDGERS. Some portions of the population of Essex derive employment from oyster-dredging - the principal places where this occupation is carried on being Donyland, Rowhedge, Brightlingsea, Wivenhoe, and Colchester. About 160 boats are engaged in the oyster trade, and about 500 men. The persons so employed are mostly freemen of the river Colne, and they are allowed to dredge in the river for a certain quantity every morning - a portion of the proceeds being handed over to the widows of the freemen of Colchester and the other places where the trade is carried on. Another portion of the produce is set apart for the boat, and the remainder is divided among the men. In the oyster season, which lasts from August to April, their earnings will average about 12s. per week. At the close of the season the men usually start off with their boats to Guernsey, Jersey, and the Channel Islands to dredge for “spat” (which is the young oysters. When a sufficient quantity is obtained it is brought and deposited in beds in the river, where it remains for three or four years before the oysters are allowed to be dredged up, as it takes that period to allow the oyster to arrive at a proper size for the market. The small oyster known as the “native” is the sort indigenous to the river, being, as their name implies, “natives” of the river Colne.... [notes on Harwich stone dredgers]... Large quantities of wild-fowl are also shot by the poor people, which can be disposed of without difficulty in the market. There are also considerable numbers of salvors, or “salt wager men,” as they are called, whose employment it is to afford assistance to shipwrecked vessels; and since great numbers of wrecks are constantly taking place on the Gunfleet Sands, the amount of salvage which they obtain is frequently very considerable.”

THE ESSEX STANDARD - Friday 1 March 1850 - “COLCHESTER. TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, BY R.G. Craske, At the Ship Inn, East Donyland, on FRIDAY, the 8th day of March, 1850, at SIX o’clock in the Afternoon, ALL that good and well-found SCHOONER the “ARK,” of the Port of Colchester, of the burthen of 47 Tons, N.M., with her boat, stores, standing and running rigging complete, and now ready for sea.

She brings 72 Tons of Coals and draws but 7 feet water. She will be found in excellent condition, and presents a good opportunity for investment.

Two-thirds of the Purchase-money may remain on mortgage at £5 per cent, if required.

Further Particulars and Conditions may be obtained on application to F.G. Abell, Esq., Solicitor, Colchester; of the Auctioneer; and at the Place of Sale.”

THE ESSEX STANDARD - Friday 20 September 1850 - “SAILE THIS DAY. EAST DONYLAND. THE FAST-SAILING SMACK, called the “KATE,” of Colchester. TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, BY H.W. Taylor, At the Lion Inn, East Donyland, THIS DAY (FRIDAY), the 20th day of September, 1850, at Six o’clock in the Evening.

ALL those 32 64th PARTS or SHARES of and in all that Fast-sailing Smack, the “Kate,” of the Port of Colchester, of the burthen of 18 3,350-3,500 Tons; her Stores, Tackle, and Apparel, now ready for Sea.

Further particulars may be had of Mr. J.S. Barnes, Solicitor, or of the Auctioneer, both of Colchester.”

ALSO - “DAVID MARTIN v. PHILIP PARKER, Rowhedge.- Defendant, a mariner, was summoned for default upon a former judgment; and it being found upon investigation that he had earned recently as much as £9 in seven weeks, his Honour told the defendant that had he been made better acquainted with his means at the time of giving the judgment, he should probably have ordered him to pay much larger instalments; and, not having availed himself of the Court’s leniency, he had no alternative but to order his committal for 30 days.”

THE ESSEX STANDARD - 24 January 1851 - “THE SMACK “LUCY.” TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, BY W. K. Dawson, At the Ship Inn, at East Donyland, on MONDAY, the 27th of January, 1851, at Five o’clock in the Afternoon, by direction of the Mortgagee, under a Power of Sale, THE FAST-SAILING SMACK “LUCY,” of Colchester, of the burthen of 25 74-94 O.M. Tons, in good order and condition, with all her Stores complete, an Inventory of which will be produced at the Auction.

Particulars and Conditions of Sale may be had of Messrs. Keeling, Howard, and Inglis, Solicitors, and of the Auctioneer, Colchester.”

THE ESSEX STANDARD - 31 January 1851 - “COLCHESTER COUNTY COURT. Jan. 27.- “GEORGE COOK, Peldon, v. JAMES MOTHERSOLE, East Donyland.- Mr. Abell for plaintiff; Mr. Goody for defendant.- The plaintiff, who is only recently out of his apprenticeship with the defendant, a ship-owner at East Donyland, claimed £6. 8, £5. 10 of it being (at the rate of 5s. 6d. a quarter during his five years’ service) an allowance for washing, which the boy’s mother had done at home, and the remaining 18s. money deducted by his master as “muster roll money,” which deduction the Act of Parliament did not authorise.- Plaintiff stated that during the last week, since the summons had been served, his late master, the defendant, called at his mother’s house and asked for the book in which the money he (plaintiff) received was always entered, observing that he wanted to add up what he had had, and if there was any mistake he would rectify it; he then wrote in the book, and altered several of the figures; he (plaintiff) told him he had no right to alter the books, but he said he had nothing else to defend himself with, and he would also have to take the book away with him to shew his solicitor; he was about to take the books away, but he (plaintiff) would not let him do so; had frequently complained of his master deducting the “muster roll money” from his wages.- The plaintiff’s mother and a young woman, named Eliza Beard, who was present at the time, gave similar evidence as to the defendant having written in the book and altered some of the figures.- Mr. Mothersole, in his evidence, admitted having put down some additional figures for the purpose of adding up the amount plaintiff had received from him, but denied having altered any. He did not appear to be at all aware of the actual amount which had been stopped for “muster roll money;” but it was shewn in evidence that it was sometimes deducted by the captain of his vessel; and his Honour, after carefully looking into the matter, calculated that £1.4.9 had been kept back for that object, and gave judgment for that amount. The washing, he thought, could not at all events be claimed by the boy; but the action would more properly have been brought by his mother. In deciding the case his Honour sharply reproved the defendant for having written in the book at all, and the fact of his having done so necessarily brought an imputation upon him. He never before heard a boy give his evidence better than the plaintiff had done; and, from the hesitation defendant had shewn with respect to some parts of his statement, he should certainly sooner credit that of either the plaintiff or his mother than his.- Judgment for £1.4.8.”

THE ESSEX STANDARD - Friday 27 February 1852 “AFFECTING CASE OF DROWNING - A young sailor, named Blackwell, living at Rowhedge, was out fishing with his father, on Wednesday, the 18th inst., and, when in the act of taking in the sail, was blown overboard. His father threw out an oar, at which the poor fellow eagerly grappled, but was unable to retain his hold, and the distressed parent almost immediately witnessed the sad spectacle of his son’s untimely death.”

ALSO - “A SMACK LOST - On Thursday night last, as the smack Friends’ Good Will, of the Port of Colchester, Jeremiah Easter master, was in the Wallet, a few miles seaward of Brightlingsea, she was ran into by another smack, and almost immediately sank. The crew with difficulty escaped, losing all their apparel and the other contents of the vessel. No blame appears to be attributable to the running down smack, as the night was very dark, and there was a heavy sea out at the time of the accident.”


ESSEX HERALD – 10 February 1852 – “COLCHESTER CASTLE, Saturday, Feb. 7th. Thomas Cheek, sailor’s apprentice, was charged with absconding from the service of Mr. John Seaborn, master mariner, of Rowhedge. Mr. Philbrick appeared for defendant. Complainant unfolded a long catalogue of grievances, charging defendant with refusing to obey his lawful commands, using very abusive language towards him, selling his fish, and appropriating the money to his own private use besides refusing to go to sea any more, and absconding from the vessel. Mr. Philbrick, on the other hand, produced the evidence of several other mariners from Rowhedge which showed that on several occasions the boy had been subject to such cruelty from the hands of his master as fully to justify him from refusing to obey him. One witness stated that complainant was a taskmaster, who he once saw severely chastise the lad with the rope’s end, and then bucket him with water, which made the captain of another vessel ask complainant whether he intended to kill defendant, for he treated him worse than a brute. Complainant only wanted to sell his apprentice to another master, which was the way they did at Rowhedge. Mr. Ham, of Wivenhoe, said, he went to Rowhedge to make inquiries into the circumstances, and learned that the boy’s master had treated him very cruelly. The bench said, they considered the boy had no business to refuse to go to sea and abscond from his master’s vessel, because the latter refused to give him his freedom when he came out of his apprenticeship; if the lad had been subject to the species of cruelty which had been represented to them, of course there was no justification for such conduct, but then it was the boy’s place to have complained to them. In order to protect masters against their apprentices, and teach the latter their duty, they should make an example of him by sending him to prison for seven days’ hard labour. Defendant told the bench he never would serve complainant any more, and they might put him where they liked.”

THE ESSEX STANDARD - 28 May 1852 -“OYSTER FISHERY CONVENTION - On reference to our Parliamentary intelligence it will be seen that some questions were on Monday night put to the Government by Sir George Pechell in regard to the Channel fishery. The “Act of Convention” is a matter which may well engage the attention of the Legislature; and nowhere are its effects more ruinously felt than at Brightlingsea, Wivenhoe, East Donyland, Tollesbury, and other places on the coast of Essex. England used to enjoy the right of fishing in the Channel at all seasons of the year; and in the summer months, whilst our dredgermen had no other means of subsistence, they would maintain their families by working in the Channel; but in 1843 our Legislature, by a short-sighted policy, and by the employment of a Commission, which did not condescend to communicate or enquire of any of the companies or merchants in Essex, under the pretence of improving the cultivation of the oysters, entered into a convention with the French nation, which was subsequently confirmed by an Act prohibiting the taking of oysters, and imposing a heavy penalty for even having a dredge on board in the open Channel between the 30th of April and the 1st of September. Thus our maritime interests have been trifled with, and thousands of our dredgermen impoverished and beggared, although Providence has bountifully opened to them means of support. Here we have a bed of oysters seventy miles in length, and thirty in breadth, in an open channel, where alike English and French might work without even perceiving each other, much less coming into collision. The oysters are of good quality and command a large consumption, and, as they lay at a depth of twenty fathoms, the summer months are of the utmost importance.

Hitherto this iniquitous law has to some extent been relaxed, and the partial enforcement only attempted by the French authorities; but within the last few days English cutters and French cruisers have alike exerted their influence to drive our smacks from the Channel, so that about one hundred smacks belonging to Essex have been ordered home, on pain of confiscation of property and imprisonment of person. Some smacks have been taken to Havre to be dealt with at the mercy of the French authorities, and, after a detention for weeks, only liberated on payment of heavy fines, although the Act of Convention provides that offenders or their smacks shall not be detained in a foreign country beyond four days, and shall be sent to their own country for trial.

The question returns to this - what is to become of these vessels? What is to become of the dredgermen and their families from April to September? These are questions which may well engage the attention of our representatives, and through them our Government.. What has been hastily and bunglingly done must be undone. We are glad to find that our friends along the Colne are active with their memorials, and are again urging their cause upon the consideration of the Government. Our respected representative Major Beresford is alive to the great importance of the question, and has given, and promised still further to give, his powerful aid in favour of our oppressed and injured neighbours; and we hope that ere long we may have the pleasure to announce that something has been done to mitigate, if not entirely abolish, the grievance of which they so justly complain. In the meantime we urge upon all who can lend a helping hand to aid the cause, and relieve this important branch of our maritime interests from the blow which it must otherwise inevitably feel.”

THE ESSEX STANDARD - 4 March 1853 - “COLCHESTER TOWN COUCIL - ADMIRALTY COURT. On Monday the Town Council held their annual Admiralty Court for the purpose of granting dredging licences for the Colne Oyster Fishery... The minutes of the last meeting having been read, the Jury for managing the affairs of the Fishery Company for the year ensuing were elected by ballot as under:- ...Charles Heath and Robert Munson, Wivenhoe; Wm. Easter, sen., Samuel Willett, and Jeremiah Easter, East Donyland.... The following persons, having served their apprenticeship with licensed dredgermen, were admitted to the freedom of the river:- .... James Samuel knights and Wm. S. Easter, of East Donyland.... The parties recommended for the poor dredge were.- .... Wm. Aldridge, East Donyland.”

THE ESSEX STANDARD - 4 March 1857 - “THE LATE THOMAS AND WILLIAM COOK, OF ROWHEDGE. To the Editor of the Essex Standard. Sir.- I beg leave to avail myself of your kind offer to publish in your excellent journal a copy of the enclosed memorial on the behalf of this unfortunate family, which I have had the pleasure to privately circulate, and which has been responded to beyond my most sanguine expectations. Being anxious that all who are desirous to render assistance in this singularly trying case should have an opportunity of doing so, the publicity thereby obtained is the more acceptable; and in the name of the unfortunate sufferers I beg leave to tender you their sincere thanks.

I trust your readers will favour me with an active response to this appeal; and such as I may forget or omit to call upon, if they will oblige me by forwarding their subscriptions to my address, or to the office of the Essex Standard, I shall esteem it a great favour.

I beg to remain, Sir, yours very respectfully,


4, St. Botolph’s Street, Colchester, March 2nd, 1857.



This appeal is made on the behalf of Mary Cook and family, widow of the late William Cook; and Eliza Cook and family, widow of the late Thomas Cook;

The distressing circumstances attending whose death, together with the two sons of the former, viz., W. Cook, jun., and Tabor Cook, has plunged the unfortunate widows and families into the most unmitigated sorrow and distress.

The deceased were mariners of the village of Rowhedge, and sailed from that place a few months ago, and delivered a cargo of salmon at the port of Liverpool, and on their return were caught in a heavy gale upon the Irish coast, and the vessel and all hands on board perished in the sea.

The misery thereby entailed upon the unfortunate families must be too apparent to render a further detail of circumstances necessary, the object of the present application being merely to place the painful case under your notice, and to appeal to your sympathy on behalf of the unfortunate widows:- Mary Cook deprived of a beloved husband (to whom the smack and all on board belonged); two interesting and promising sons, aged respectively 16 and 18; and Eliza Cook an endeared and affectionate husband;

The former left with two children, and the latter with four, destitute and without the means of maintenance, upon the mercy of the world by one awful stroke, and without a moment’s warning.”

SUFFOLK AND ESSEX FREE PRESS – 10 March 1859 – “COLCHESTER – ADMIRALTY COURT.- On Monday the annual meeting of the Colchester Town Council was held at the Town Hall, for the purpose of transacting the municipal business, and granting licenses to dredgermen of the river Colne (Jeremiah Easter, of East Donyland, was elected to the Colne jury)…. The following young dredgermen, having been entitled to the freedom of the river by apprenticeship with licensed dredgermen, according to the rules, were duly admitted, viz., James Everett and William Pike Cheek, of East Donyland.- Applications of a similar nature by John Brown, late apprentice to Mr. Jeremiah Easter, and Thomas Allen, apprenticed to his grandfather (since deceased), were objected to by the Water Bailiff and Jury, and ultimately refused.”

THE ESSEX STANDARD - 19 August 1859 - “At the County Magistrates’ Clerk’s Office. on Monday (before H. Bacon, Esq.), Charles Scott and Henry Murrell were charged with deserting from the services of Mr. Harvey Carter, smack owner, of East Donyland, their master. The defendants are apprentices to the complainant, and had been allowed a holiday by their master; but instead of returning at the appointed time they absconded, and took harvest work at Peldon.- By the consent of their master they were discharged.”

ALSO - ASSAULTING AN APPRENTICE - James Cook, smack owner, East Donyland, was charged will ill-treating Isaac Eely, his apprentice. Mr. Goody appeared for the defendant. Complainant said on Sunday se’nnight, while sitting at dinner with his master and family, defendant said he would learn the complainant’s father to come there and kick up a row while he was away at sea, and struck complainant a back-handed blow across the face, knocking him off the chair. He then dragged him out of the house to a warehouse across the yard, and threatened to be his butcher. He had once before given him a black eye, and offered him 6d. not to tell anyone.- Cross-examined. Had not used threatening language to cause him to assault him.- Mr. Goody addressed the Bench for the defendant, and said on the defendant coming home on the day in question, he understood that complainant’s father had been there making a disturbance; he sent a message by the boy to his father, and on asking him if he had delivered it, the boy made no answer, and laughed in his face, and he was led out of the house but not ill-used.- John Harvey, an apprentice to the defendant, spoke to the conduct of the complainant as being generally very unruly, and denied that any assault was committed.- The Bench endeavoured to effect a reconciliation, but, failing, they ordered that the complainant’s indentures should be cancelled, and the costs to be paid by the defendant.”

THE ESSEX STANDARD - 19 October 1859 - “HARWICH - COLLISION AT SEA.- On the 11th inst. Her Majesty’s gunboat Magnet left this port  for Sheerness; while proceeding up the Swin she came into collision with the smack Snowdrop, of Colchester, and carried away the smack’s bulwark, part of her rigging, &c.”

THE ESSEX STANDARD - 21 December 1860 - “COUNTY MAGISTRATES’ SITTING - Dec.15.- Thomas Cross, a sea-faring lad, was charged with having absented himself from the service of Mr. Harvey Carter, smack-owner, to whom he was apprenticed, on the 2nd of December, at East Donyland.- Mr. H. Goody appeared for the complainant.- It appeared that the defendant was apprenticed to the complainant a short time since, and absconded on the day in question.- The defendant stated as his reasons for absconding that his master had not provided him with sufficient clothing; but it transpired that, although the complainant was not required by the deed of apprenticeship to do so, he had furnished him with a temporary suit of clothing preparatory to new ones being made for him.- The Bench sentenced him to 14 days’ hard labour.”


THE ESSEX STANDARD - 1 March 1861 - “THE ADMIRALTY COURT - NEW DREDGERMEN - The following were admitted to the freedom of the river by right of apprenticeship:- James Simons and John Walford, jun., of East Donyland.”

Click on image for slideshow of Colne Oyster Fishery photos
Sprats Coming Ashore At
Sprats coming ashore at Brightlingsea
Unloading Sprats From Fishing Boats Brig
Fishing Smacks Brightlingsea.jpg
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