The various measures used at Whitstable for buying and selling brood and oysters are as follows : -A tub contains the same quantity as the old Winchester bushel preserved in the museum of that city-, which is 21 gallons 1 quart and 1/2 a pint. A wash is a quarter of the above quantity, that is, about 51 gallons, and is the measure by which the flatsmen sell their catches to the Company. The price per wash was recently reduced from 7s. to 5s. owing to the abundance of oysters caught on the flats, but it has again been raised to 7s.
|A peck =||a wash.|
|A nipperkin =||1/16 of a tub.|
|A bucket =||1/3 of a wash or 1/12 of a tub.|
A prickle, the measure indicated on the seal and trademark of the company, is roughly about 10 gallons or half a tub. This basket measure is made of cane. Professor Rogers states that " Fellows of Winchester" consumed large quantities of oysters by the pottle, a measure containing two quarts still used in the sale of vegetables and fruit in some parts of England. These Fellows were members of St. Mary's College, founded at Winchester by William of Wykeham in 1387, and now one of the chief public schools of England.
A tierce, known in the wine trade, contains 42 gallons, and a tub seems to contain what the half of that size of barrel would hold. The Winchester bushel is not the only measure of those early days which is still utilised by special trades, for, I am told, that wholesale chemists supply doctors with some drugs in bottles, that hold about two quarts and 1/5th of a pint, which they call a Winchester quart. This Winchester quart bears the same relation to the ordinary quart, as the Winchester bushel does to the ordinary bushel of eight gallons instituted in 1826.
The expression, fishing or oyster smack, may be regarded as a general description of the two classes of the decked sailing vessel employed in the fisheries. The vessel called at Whitstable a yawl is the most common, being a clinker-built boat, with overhanging counter, of from 10 to 25 tons burden. She is cutter-rigged, having a boomed mainsail, a topsail, foresail, and jib, though by rights yawl-rig is incomplete without a mizzen-mast and sail.
This is the class of vessel which the old smugglers used. The other and far less numerous class of boat is called a borley. She is chiefly distinguished from the yawl by her straight-cut stern like a rowing boat, and her boomless upright mainsail, which, though enabling her to sail nearer, offers less canvas area to the wind. Her burden is about fifteen tons. These borleys are often seen on the Thames, where they are chiefly used by shrimpers.
Whether floating at anchor in the bay, drifting along in a light wind with all sails set, or bustling along in a strong breeze with furled topsails, the picture these smacks make is always full of interest, though to the stranger their movements are very puzzling.
It is a pretty sight, and one I have often enjoyed from the windows of the old home at Herne Bay, to watch a fleet of fifty smacks under full sail, two or three miles out to sea, working up or down with the tide, the white or tan sails thrown up gracefully against a clear blue sky, to the accompaniment perhaps of distant and heavy booming of big guns at Shoeburyness.
It may be interesting to note, in passing reference to this town, that Mr. Cholmondeley Pennell, a great authority on salmon and trout fishing, who was Chairman for a short time of the Herne Bay Oyster Company, before it fell on evil days, is alive and well, and has apparently outlived most of those gentlemen who were then interested in it. He says he has none hut pleasant recollections of Herne Bay, and has never ceased to regret that the Company's early prosperity did not continue. The only friend in the neighbourhood at that time, whose name and personality he can recall, is young "Squire " Collard, of Eddington, whom lie remembers as a good sportsman and keen follower to hounds.
The smacks always work square with the tide, for to work against the tide in anything of a wind would, as the fishermen say, "swim the dredges" right off the ground. It is obvious, as these comparatively light dredges have to work with the tide, a steamboat that cannot travel broadside on like a smack under sail is of no use, an objection which does not arise in trawling for fish, a different and heavier description of net and tackle being employed, which renders following the tide unnecessary. In America some of the fishermen do dredge from steamers, but have to use heavy dredges, and in Connecticut it is asserted that these heavy dredges improve the oyster farms rather than injure them.
We cannot be sure when the present type of fishing smack came first to be used by the free dredgers and flatsmen, and the expression smack seems to have an equally obscure origin. Little change has probably been made for at least three centuries, though no doubt decked boats gradually took the place of earlier undecked sailing craft and open rowing boats, with or without lugsails.
The open rowing boat can even now be used, for recently I had the pleasure of assisting my nephew, Edward Maynard Collard, of Herne Bay, in dredging from one off the flats. He is an enthusiast on the subject, and full of information, owing to the keen interest which he takes in all appertaining to the Whitstable oyster and its culture.
|Intro.||Introduction, Cover and preface.|
|9-12||Seaside Towns - A First Glimpse of Whitstable.|
|12-18||"Please remember the Grotter" - The old Oyster Company headquarters.||18-22||Whitstable - Origin of name, Reculvers, Romans.|
|22-26||The Churches. Leland, Ireland, and Hasted. Kent and Essex Fisherman.|
|26-29||Manor and Hundred of Whitstable, Inrollment, Water Court, Free Dredgers and Apprentices.|
|29-33||The Act of 1896. Balance Sheet, 1901.|
|33-36||Smuggling, Copperas, Salt-pans, Roman Cement.|
|37-41||Flatsmen. What is an Oyster?|
|42-46||Opening Oysters. Oyster Spawn. The three ages of the Oyster.|
|46-49||Heavy fall of Spat.|
|50-55||Enemies of the Oyster. Oyster beehives. Wired fascines in Norway. Fattening Oysters.|
|Map||Map of coastline, with Whitstable area enlarged.|
|55-60||Fresh water. Typhoid scare. The Flats.|
|60-65||Foreign Brood Oysters. Poaching. The Company's Headquarters.|
|65-71||Oyster Measures. Oyster Smacks.|
|71-77||The Oyster Dredger.|
|78-85||Phenominal low tides. Weirs and tythes. Finds on the flats. An Oyster Mouse-trap.|
|85-End||Pearls. Prices of Oysters.|