Thames Oysters
April 11, 2014 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Oysters were a common food stuff for the poor in victorian london. They grew in the thames and were so cheap that there were riots amongst the poor demanding to be fed something other than oyster or salmon. My question is, how far up the Thames will Oysters grow? I've heard anecdotes of oysters at Hampton Court palace? Can this be true?

This gets tricky to just google because of the ubiquitous travel card.

There is a second part to this question, and some more details.
I've been wondering about filter feeders to help clean up river pollution. Oysters suck up all the gunk, you might not be able to eat them, but the river will be cleaner.

Given that, what bivalves or filter feeders could be introduced to the tidal Thames? Native is obviously better.

Additionally, the bit I live on is flooded only a few hours twice a day to a depth of 2 metres, and dry the rest of the time. There are plenty of herons and so on, but what could live in the river and preferably filter clean it? (or otherwise look pretty)
Some kind of amphibious mussel?
posted by Just this guy, y'know to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you getting confused as you can find oyster shells all along the Thames foreshore? I'm not sure they were eating oysters caught in the Thames. I'm almost certain the Victorian oysters you find on the Thames foreshore were from sea fishing. This article says Roman ones were from the Thames estuary and implies further afield as well. You can tell Victorian oysters from earlier ones because they are much larger.

The Thames is much much cleaner than it was even 30 years ago. Eels are back, there are cormorants in central London, I've heard reports of salmon. I'm not an ecologist but I'm not sure filter feeders would make much difference. But they have planted reed beds along side the Millennium dome. And herons eat fresh water mussels and you'll often find their shells alongside riverbanks, discarded by herons.
posted by Helga-woo at 11:53 AM on April 11, 2014

And here is a source that says Victorian oyster were farmed along the channel coast. To help your googling try adding a time period eg "Tudor oyster consumption London"
posted by Helga-woo at 12:02 PM on April 11, 2014

Locally harvested and consumed oysters might have been the case 1,900 years earlier in Roman times:

"Oysters, now such a delicacy, were a common food. Oyster beds are known to have existed along the Thames Valley, in the Essex and north Kent areas. According to the Roman satirist, Juvenal, British oysters were known in Rome and must have been stored in brine in barrels for the long journey."

Source: Living in Roman London

Edit: Helga-woo beat me to it.
posted by Mister Bijou at 12:42 AM on April 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Postscript: my understanding is the Victorian London poor ate oysters that had been harvested downriver in the Thames Estuary.
posted by Mister Bijou at 12:43 AM on April 12, 2014

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