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Harwich ( ) is a town in Essex, England and one of the Haven ports, located on the coast with the North Seamarker to the east. It is in the Tendring district. Nearby places include Felixstowemarker to the northeast, Ipswichmarker to the northwest, Colchestermarker to the southwest and Clacton-on-seamarker to the south.

Its position on the estuaries of the Stourmarker and Orwellmarker rivers and its usefulness to mariners as the only safe anchorage between the Thames and Humbermarker led to a long period of maritime significance, both civil and military. The town became a naval base in 1657 and was heavily fortified, with Harwich Redoubtmarker, Beacon Hill Batterymarker, and Bath Side Batterymarker.

Harwich today is contiguous with Dovercourtmarker and the two, along with Parkestonmarker, are often referred to collectively as Harwich.


The town received its charter in 1238, although there is evidence of earlier settlement - for example, a record of a chapel in 1177, and some indications of a possible Roman presence.

A chart of Harwich published in 1804 from a survey by Graeme Spence

Because of its strategic position, Harwich was the target for the invasion of Britain by William of Orange on November 11, 1688. However, unfavourable winds forced his fleet to sail instead into the English Channelmarker and eventually land at Torbaymarker. Due to the involvement of the Schomberg family in the invasion, they were made Marquesses of the town.

Writer Daniel Defoe devotes a few pages of his A tour through England and Wales to the town. Visiting in 1722, he noted its formidable fort and harbour "of a vast extent". The town, he recounts, was also known for an unusual spring rising on Beacon Hill (a promontory to the north-east of the town), which "petrified" clay, allowing it to be used to pave Harwich's streets and build its walls. The locals also claimed that "the same spring is said to turn wood into iron", but Defoe put this down to the presence of "copperas" in the water. Regarding the atmosphere of the town, he states: "Harwich is a town of hurry and business, not much of gaiety and pleasure; yet the inhabitants seem warm in their nests and some of them are very wealthy".


The Royal Navy is no longer present in Harwich but Harwich International Portmarker at nearby Parkestonmarker continues to offer regular ferry services to the Hook of Hollandmarker (Hoek van Holland) in the Netherlandsmarker and Esbjergmarker in Denmarkmarker. Many operations of the large container port at Felixstowe and of Trinity Housemarker, the lighthouse authority, are managed from Harwich, and plans for the development of a new container port in Bathside Bay were approved by the British government in December 2005.

The town's coastal position, however, made it vulnerable to the North Sea Flood of 1953.

The port is famous for the phrase "Harwich for the Continent" seen on road signs and in London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) advertisements.


Despite, or perhaps because of, its small size Harwich is highly-regarded in terms of architectural heritage, and the whole of the older part of the town, excluding Navyard Wharf, is a conservation area.

The regular street plan, with principal thoroughfares connected by numerous small alleys, betrays the town’s medieval origins although many buildings of this period are hidden behind 18th century facades.

The extant medieval structures are largely private homes. Notable public buildings, all later, include the parish church of St. Nicholas (1821) in a restrained Gothic style, with many original furnishings including a (somewhat altered) organ of the same date in the west end gallery, and the Guildhall of 1769, the only Grade I listed building in Harwich.

The Harwich Quay

On the quayside may be seen the Pier Hotel of 1860 and Great Eastern Hotel of 1864 (the latter now divided into apartments), both reflecting the town’s new importance to travellers following the arrival of the railway line from Colchestermarker in 1854.

Also of interest are the High Lighthouse (1818); the unusual Treadwheel Crane (late 17th century); the Electric Palace Cinemamarker (1911), one of the oldest purpose-built cinemas to survive complete with its original projection room and ornamental frontage still intact and operational; the Old Custom Houses on West Street; and a number of Victorian shopfronts. There is little notable building from the later parts of the 20th century, but major recent additions include the lifeboat station and two new structures for Trinity Housemarker; that organisation's office building, next door to the Old Custom Houses, was completed in 2005. All three additions are influenced by the high-tech style.

Notable inhabitants

Harwich was the home town of Christopher Jones, the master and quarter-owner of the Mayflower, and was also a base for that ship. The famous diarist Samuel Pepys was the Member of Parliament for Harwich. Christopher Newport, captain of the expedition that founded Jamestown, Virginia, also hailed from Harwich.


Harwich is home to Harwich and Dovercourt RFC, Harwich & Parkeston F.C.marker, Harwich & Dovercourt Sailing Club, Harwich, Dovercourt & Parkeston Swimming Club and Harwich & Dovercourt Rugby Union Football Club


Image:Harwich lighthouse by John Constable c1820.jpg|Painting of Harwich lighthouse by John Constable c.1820.Image:HarwichDocks.jpg|Harwich Docks and Harwich seen from the riverImage:Highlighthouse large.jpg|The Harwich High Lighthouse

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