Oyster holdfast

This is a black metal holdfast, it consists of a rigid bar anchored to a wooden frame. At one end off the bar there is a wide mouthed bowl full of sharp pointed metal teeth. At the other end of the bar there is a spring operated lever, with the words "Oyster Holdfast, Bowlings Pat. Ltd, London" branded on it. This lever has a metal handle under which are more metal teeth. The idea being to put the oyster in the bowl and then push the lever down to hold the oyster fast between the metal teeth. Approximate date 1930.
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This slightly sinister looking object has a slightly sinister purpose - if you're an oyster, that is. Oyster holdfasts were invented to assist with opening oysters, as well as preventing accidents amongst those doing the opening. They were invented in the 1890s, with this example likely to have been made in the 1930s. Raw oysters are a delicious delicacy whose taste can take some getting used to, and an important part of enjoying these molluscs is firstly getting their flesh out of their shells! Oyster openers would have placed whole oysters in the spiked bowl of the holdfast, and then pressed down on the lever to keep the oyster in place. This held the oyster in place while the would-be eater got stuck in to levering off the upper shell. This would help to prevent the opener slipping with an oyster knife and opening a wound rather than the shell! In New Zealand, oysters have been commercially harvested since the 1800s, and during the 1800s in New York, professional oyster shuckers could remove up to 1000 oysters from their shells in an hour.
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