BLESSING & RECLAIMING OF THE WATERS

Maintaining centuries of tradition in Brightlingsea, Essex

Join us in the ancient ceremony of beating of the boundaries of the Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea – the Blessing and Reclaiming of the Waters

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 moored at the Town Jetty.
This historic event lapsed in the 1950s but was revived in 2014 by the Cinque Port Deputy. Read on to discover more about this unique event.

After a church service 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 moored at the Town Jetty.
This historic event lapsed in the 1950s but was revived in 2014 by the Cinque Port Deputy. Read on to discover more about this unique event.

This year's event takes place on May 29, 2022

  • Shanties by the Motley Crew at the Hard from 11.00
  • Town Crier address at St James Church – 11.30
  • Procession sets off – 11.45
  • Procession arrives at the Hard – @11.50
  • Address, Service & Blessing of Boats – 12.00
  • Smacks set off from Town Jetty – 1.00
  • Smacks arrive back – 2.00-2.30

Proclaiming the event

The Town Crier rings his bell on St James' church steps in the High Street and proclaims the event. Then Brightlingsea's Cinque Port 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 Town Hard.


The Blessing of the Waters

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. More recently, Rt Rev Roger Morris has continued the Bishop of Colchester's connection.

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 Borefleet).

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'.

In recent years the flotilla of traditional craft has included the fishing smacks Pioneer CK18 (built 1864, restored 1998), My Alice CK348 (built 1907), Ellen CK222 (built 1900, restored 1991), Maria CK21 (built 1866 restored 2003), the bawley Blackbird and the sailing barges Edme and Dawn, dressed with flags and bunting have paraded along Brightlingsea Creek re-asserting Brightlingsea's historic rights to its own waters. Other boats, including locally-built rowing gigs, follow behind.

Discover more about the ancient tradition of the Blessing and Reclaiming of the waters in Brightlingsea

Roger Tabor, the chairman of the Blessing of the Waters committee, explains

The Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea
To find out more this ancient organisation, click the button below.
More information
Picture Credits
Thanks to Colm O'Laoi, Lynn Ballard, Terry Hamilton & Jon Sturdy for the use of images on this site.
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