Oysters

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George Owen 1595

“Pennar Mowth is the creeke that cometh up to Pembroke town, this being the greatest and largest creeke in all Milford, it passeth up into the land 3 myles.

The Crowe is a hollow or shelf a pretty way within the entrance of Pennar Mouth and it is an oyster bed and on the Crowe groweth one of the best oysters of all Milford being a big and sweet oyster, the poore people thereabouts are greatly relieved by the oysters there, for upon lowe water the bed is drye and the people gather the oysters there without any dredge or other helpe of boate.”

Pembrokeshire Sea trading before 1900.  

OYSTERS were already an important export in 1600, travelling either overland or in "barkes to Bristowe" [Owen 1603].  A typical cargo of 20,000 went to Barnstaple in 1592-3.  The trade continued throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. 

In 1662 five shipments went to Ireland and in 1698 six to Bristol, five to London, one to Liverpool and one to Bridgewater. Oysters were included in a mixed cargo to Lisbon in 1713.  Milford Haven abounded in oysters in the 1740's and many were shipped to Holland and other places [Morris 1748].

In the early 19th century the oyster fisheries in Milford Haven were famous, especially those at Pennar Mouth [Cambrian Register 1818] and Llangwm [Fenton 1811]:  very large quantities were pickled and sent to Bristol.  Tenby also had an important fishery [Malkin 1807; Oldisworth 1810] and large numbers were exported "in the shell" or pickled in small jars.

From 1850 onwards the fisheries rapidly declined but a few oysters were still going to Bristol in 1866 [Sea Fisheries 1866].

Princes, Pigs and people of Tenby.

Oysters are one of Tenby's sadder stories. For years thousands and thousands of oysters were pickled in the town and shipped to ports in England and sometimes Ireland. The oyster beds lay in the bay between Castle hill and Monkstone Point and boats from all around joined in the plunder, The Corporation tried in vain to preserve the immature fish and finally the bed was dredged dry.

1674 December 16. Pembroke

John Powell to Mr Thomas Leman at Sir Robert Clayton and John Morris Esq.’s House in the Old Jury London.

I have written several times to yourself and Mr Brown but have not the happiness of a return from either.  The last I received was from Mr Brown intimating his taking out the fiat and that the patent was drawn, to which I wrote two letters to stop his proceeding therein.  I must confess you have reason to think me ungrateful to yourself and Mr Brown in not making some acknowledgement of your care or trouble for me, but will assure you it's only abstructed for defect of opportunity.  I have now some oysters and our country frieze for yourself and Mr Brown and as soon as convenience offers [they] shall be transmitted to you per way of Bristol.  Pray let me knew what charge you are at for me that it may be repayed you.  My service to Mr Brown with the like to yourself.   [National Library of Wales. MS 11016E].

(The fiat mentioned was of procuring the post of  "comptroller of the customs in the Port of Milford and members"; the patent was going to cost ś100.)

1719/20 March 3. [Penpedwast]

William Lloyd, Deputy Vice-Admiral for the County of Pembroke,

To the Water Bailiffs in the County, the Masters of Ships within the Harbours of Milford and, if occasion requires, to Hugh Fowler and William Bowen Esquires, Justices of the Peace.

Whereas complaint has been made to me by several of the principal gentry and other inhabitants within the said county that several foreign ships of great burden have lately with their crew not only fished and dredged for oysters upon the coasts of this county, but are now actually come within the harbour of Milford and up into the branches thereof, and don't only fish and dredge for the private use while in harbour but employ many other fishing boats to dredge for the said oysters, whereby to lade there several ships therewith and the same to export out of His Majesty's dominion,  to the great and unspeakable prejudice of his Majesty's subjects of this county, as well by the said foreigners engrossing into their ships and possession such immense quantities of oyster fish before the same are brought into a market to the benefit especially of the poor inhabitants of this county,  whereby the  price of this commodity is greatly enhanced and sometimes not to be had for money in the next adjoining markets to the said harbour, as by such extravagant fishing to take away and totally destroy all or most of the oyster beds within the said harbour and the rivers thereof, not only to the entire destruction of this beneficial produce and commodity to the people of this county in particular but to the general impoverishment of very many poor families of other counties that support wholly by carrying.....oysters  into  the more inland parts of his Majesty's own dominion .......[this practice is forbidden].                [Bronwydd. MS. 2147 02 1]

Tenby & Oysters

The Tenby oysters are of very large size, and are known all over South Wales, but they are by no means equal in quality to those of Milford.

[The Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales – Benj Heath Malkin 1804.]

Oysters        Western Telegraph - 25th 10 1990.

Carew Oysters

The oyster farm at Carew was started in 1980 to supplement the trade in native oysters that had been carried on from Milford for 300 years but has been declining this century. It is one of the biggest in the UK, producing one million oysters or 100 tonnes a year, half of which is sold as 50 gram seed to Germany and half as 110 gram table oysters in the UK.

Both letters extracted from Pembrokeshire life: 1572 – 1843.

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