The Blessing of the Fisheries

Blessing of the Fisheries is first mentioned in the records of St Peter’s during the early 1890’s, taking the form of a long procession of fishermen and women from the parish, servers, choirs and clergyfrom St Peter’s and other parishes, together with the Mayor of Folkestone and Civic Dignatories leading the bishop from the Church to the Stade either down North street and along Radnor Street or over Radnor Bridge and down Dover Street.

These days the Blessing of the Fisheries is held to coincide with Town Sunday on the last Sunday in June (when the new Mayor is proclaimed from the Churchyard Cross of the Church of St. Mary and St. Eanswythe), making a day of great Folkestone celebration! We are grateful for the support of Folkestone Town Council, of Shepway District Council, of the Cinque Port Mayors; of the Residents Association of St. Andrews, and to St. Peter’s and other local schools, for their enthusiastic support.

The schedule is Usually as Follows:

  • 2.45pm Assemble at St. Peter’s Church
  • 3 pm Procession from Church to Harbour
  • 3.15 pm Blessing of the Fisheries on Folkestone Stade
  • 3.45 pm Return Procession
  • 4.15 pm Refreshments

Blessing of the Fisheries 2020

The next Blessing of the Fisheries will be held on: Sunday 21st June 2020

Past Ceremonies

The Bishop blessed the fleet and the fisheries, and addressed the crowds. In times passed the fishing boats would be dressed by their owners and bunting put up the stade.

The ceremony ususally too place on the Sunday following the patronal Festival of St.Peter (29th June)but tides have to be taken into account.

Amongst those assisting with the event in the past were Father Methuen, vicar of Walsingham; Dom Gregory Dix, OSB and in 1991 Bishop Philip Ridsdale, retired Bishop of the Diocese of Boga-Zaire in Central Africa and great nephew of our first incumbent, Father Charles Joseph Ridsdale.

Blessing of the Fisheries Galleries from Recent Years

The Feast of Saint Rumbold

While ‘Saint Eanswythe’ is the Patron Saint of Folkestone, up to the 17th century the Patron Saint of ‘Fishermen of Folkestone’ was an infant saint from Anglo-Saxon times, St. Rumbold of Buckingham. Rumbold was an infant saint who lived for 3 days only, proclaiming the Gospel and providing miracles. Quite how he came to be associated with the fishermen of Folkestone remains a mystery. However, Edward Hasted recorded the following in his account of The Town and Parish of Folkestone:

“There was a singular custom used of long time by the fishermen of this place (Folkestone) :

They chose eight of the largest and best whitings out of every boat when they came home from that fishery, and sold them apart from the rest, and out of the money arising from them they made a feast, every Christmas-eve, which they called a rumbald.

The master of each boat provided this feast for his own company, so that there were as many different entertainments as there were boats.These whitings, which are of a very large size, and are sold all round the country as far as Canterbury, are called rumbald whitings.

This custom, which is now lest off, though many of the inhabitants still meet socially on a Christmas-eve, and call it rumbald night, might have been antiently instituted in honor of St. Rumbald, and the fish designed as an offering to him for his protection during the fishery”.

From Edward Hasted’s ‘The town and parish of Folkestone’, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (1799).

Our thanks to Christopher Conn, for these details. For further details on The Rumbold

The tradition died out through the 18th Century but is found reflected today in several aspects of Folkestone heritage. The Patron Saint of Folkestone, St. Eanswythe, is often portrayed with two ‘Rumbold’ or Folkestone Whiting (see in particular the Stained Glass window in St. Eanswythe’s Church). There is also a Church dedicated to St. Rumbold at Bonnington, above Romney Marsh.

And, of course, the long tradition of the Folkestone Fishermen seeking Divine protection for the Fishery became an important part of the tradition of the Blessing of the Fisheries, which is still celebrated every year.

The Feast of Saint Rumbold