Oldest Family Firms In Essex

Haward’s Oysters, Mersea Island

The Haward family began cultivating oysters in the 18th century and are believed to be the oldest oyster farmers in the world and one of the oldest family businesses in Essex today.

Now run by the eighth generation, the business is thriving under the direction of Tom Haward.  Initially renting the oysterbeds from the Lord of the Manor, the Haward’s have since taken ownership of 15 acres on Mersea Island, Essex. The oystermen and women now walk across the same mud that Tom’s fifth Great Grandfather did.

When first generation oysterman, William Senior, started farming oysters, he would have been cultivating the Colchester native oyster and they would have been sent into London via boat. The Packing Shed on Mersea
Island was originally where all of the oysters were graded and packed before being shipped, hence the name of the building.

Now, the rock oyster makes up around 95% of the business simply because they can be sold all year round and the mortality rate is significantly lower than that of the native oyster. Richard Haward’s Oysters has a stall in Borough Market that started off with a table and umbrella on Fridays and Saturdays in the early 2000s, and is now one of the busiest stalls there.

The business sells oysters and clams to various wholesalers and restaurants up and down the country and also has an online shop.

Tom Haward, an eighth generation oysterman adds that “something to be particularly proud of is that, not only have we managed to survive, as a business, through the impact of Covid and Brexit on our export market, but we are the busiest we have ever been. A big part to that is how much we appreciate that our business is only as good as the people around us and we have a wonderful team who help us to thrive.”

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