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Heather & Richard Haward

A Short History of The Company Shed

Our Story

The Shed was originally built for the Tollesbury and Mersea Native Oyster Fishery Company in 19??, when it became law that all oysters had to be purified after a typhoid scare in other parts of the country. The Tollesbury and Mersea Fishery became one of the first companies to became a Limited company in 1876, and I believe it is one of only a few that are still in existence to this day; indeed they will celebrate 150 years of trading in 2026.

My husband, Richard Haward, purchased the building from the company in 19??, as it was no longer being used as a purification plant by them. After the last  of our brood started Mersea School, we opened up on a small scale selling shellfish from there.

Locally, the building was always known as the company shed, hence when I had to think of a trading name for it, I settled on The Company Shed, because that is what I had known it as all of my life.

The Birth of The Company Shed as we Know it Today

For the first two years, I only opened for the summer months on Saturdays and Sundays. My niece left school in 19?? and wanted to work for me, so I then opened up full time. I ran it very simply to start with, just a couple of chairs or so, but like the "magic porridge pot",  from the famous children's nursery rhyme, it just grew and grew!

We used to sell lots of local fish, and I took great pride in making the fish counter look abundant all the time. We also cooked LOTS of crabs and whelks, and a a storage tank for lobsters and crabs. The business became very successful, and put Mersea Island on the map, as it was the original shellfish eating place on the island.

I continued to run the Shed until ????, when our daughter, Caroline (Caz) took over the running of the business. I chose to step back but !found it hard, as it had played a large part in my life. Luckily, Caroline and myself managed to get over our differences of opinion eventually!

Over time, more and more people wanted to dine in, so we have changed a bit from those very early days. Caroline now does lots of tasty cooked things, like lobster soup, grilled oysters, chilli squid, cod goujons, pan fried bass and lots more besides, but we haven't gone down the typical fish and chip route.

The Shed has now been running for ?? years and as seen quite a lot of changes in that times, such as local boats having to adapt to fishing quotas, so we no longer have such a vast choice of wet fish to sell any more, plus several other places have opened along the Coast Road also selling seafood, which has caused us to have to deviate a bit more. However, we are still proud to sell oysters from our own layings in Salcot Creek and several other layings that we have managed to rent.

The pandemic knocked us all sideways for a while, but thanks to Caroline's business mindset, she managed to keep the business going by doing deliveries on the island and in the surrounding areas. It was such a nice feeling when we eventually opened up one again and carried on doing what we have always known.

My husband Richard, who sadly died last year, was a 7th generation Haward to have worked on this lovely island that I call home. Still there are four Hawards left to follow in our footsteps, our children, Bram, Caroline, Thomas and Joseph.

Heather Haward May 2024

Founder and Executive Director of the Company Shed and Richard Haward's Oysters

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