The Blessing & Reclaiming of the Waters is the ancient ceremony of beating of the boundaries of the Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea.
After an address by the Town Crier in the town centre, a colourful robed procession heads for the town hard, where the Blessing of the Waters takes place aboard historic fishing smacks.
This historic event lapsed in the 1950s but was revived in 2014 by the Cinque Port Deputy.
Proclaiming the event
The Town Crier rings his bell on St James’ church steps in the High Street and proclaims the event. Then the Brightlingsea Deputy’s civic procession of robed mayors from Essex and the Cinque Ports in Kent, clergy and others follow the Band of Waits through the town to the hard.
The Blessing of the Waters
The first part of the Service of Blessing takes place at the top of the hard – its historic location. Then the procession moves on to the end of the Town Jetty so that the traditional oyster smacks, boats and the waters of Brightlingsea Creek can be blessed by the clergy.
The creek, the boats (and crews!) are generously sprinkled with blessed waters.
The Blessing has often been led by the Bishop of Colchester – as seen in this 1924 picture by Brightlingsea photographer Douglas Went – with the Cinque Port Deputy alongside.
The Reclaiming of the Waters
Long ago Colchester tried to claim the Creek, but Brightlingsea’s oystermen supported by the Lord Wardens of the Cinque Ports & Lords of Brightlingsea manor, kept our Creek the only independent fishery off the Colne. For the last 200 years co-operation has prevailed.
The Reclaiming of the Waters features a parade of heritage wooden vessels along Brightlingsea Creek, historically called Boreflee).
As the smacks and barges leave the jetty they do so to cheers, horns and noise – the traditional ‘din’!
The fleet then makes the short voyage to Bateman’s Tower at the mouth of the Creek (historically West Marsh Ness/West Ness) where the Waters are Blessed.
A traditional toast is made in beer of “Gang- ho!”, as a group in procession for Beating of the Bounds was ‘a-going’.
Reclaiming of the Waters gallery
Click to view larger images – pictures by Jon Sturdy