The History of Harwich

Heritage and history abound throughout the towns

  • 885

    King Alfred’s fleet defeated a fleet of sixteen Danish ships in a battle at the mouth of the River Stour.

  • 1210

    St. Nicholas church was built by Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, as a chapel of ease to Dovercourt.

  • 1319

    The port of Harwich received its charter from King Edward II.

  • 1326

    Queen Isabella landed at Harwich with 2,750 soldiers before marching to Bristol against Edward II.

  • 1338

    Edward III embarked from Harwich with 500 ships, on his first expedition against France.

  • 1339

    A small French fleet made an unsuccessful attempt to set Harwich ablaze.

  • 1340

    Edward III’s fleet sailed from Harwich to confront 400 French ships at Sluys. The English achieved a remarkable victory in what was the first sea battle of the Hundred Years War.

  • 1534

    A blockhouse fort was built, on the site of the present Beacon Hill Battery, to defend the port of Harwich, Essex.

  • 1620

    Mayflower ship sailed with 132 people – Captain Christopher Jones

  • 1625

    A Spanish fleet appeared off Harwich which caused considerable panic in the town.

  • 1666

    The town was fortified against the Dutch. Several naval engagements occurred off Harwich, between the English and Dutch, during the reign of Charles II, some of which were so close that they could be witnessed by spectators from the cliffs.

  • 1667

    The Naval Treadmill Crane on Harwich Green, probably unique in the world, was built to lift naval stores.

  • 1761

    The Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz landed at Harwich on her way to be married to George III.

  • 1769

    The Guildhall was built on the site of the The Bear Inn where council meetings had been held since 1673.

  • 1778

    There was a thriving fishery industry with 78 vessels operating from Harwich at this date.

  • 1808

    The Redoubt was built as part of coastal defences, against threatened invasion during the Napoleonic Wars.

  • 1811

    Bath Side Battery was built as part of the same complex as the Redoubt

  • 1818

    The High Lighthouse was built by General Rebow.

  • 1821

    St Nicholas’ Church was rebuilt.

  • 1821

    The body of Queen Caroline, wife of King George IV, was taken aboard a frigate at Harwich on its way to be interred at Brunswick in Germany.

  • 1835

    Harwich Municipal Borough was created. It was abolished in 1974.

  • 1843

    Royal Harwich Yacht Club was formed; patrons include King George V, King George VI and Prince Phillip as its current.

  • 1850s

    Dovercourt was developed as a seaside resort, promoted by the local MP John Bagshaw.

  • 1854

    The railway line between Colchester and Harwich was opened.

  • 1853

    Ha’Penny Pier constructed

  • 1862

    The two lighthouses by the pier at Dovercourt were built.

  • 1864

    The Great Eastern Hotel was built, which later was converted to become the Town Hall.

  • 1877

    Harwich & Parkeston Football Club was founded.

  • 1883

    The Parkeston Quay, just west of Harwich, was opened by the Great Eastern Railway company to accommodate the increased shipping trade.

  • 1889-92

    A new fort was built at Beacon Hill which was in put into service during WW1 and WW2. It was finally decommissioned in 1956.

  • 1891

    The population of Harwich according to the census was 8,202.

  • 1911

    The population of Harwich according to the census was 13,622.

  • 1911

    The Electric Palace Cinema was opened.

  • 1918

    German submarines were moored at Harwich at the end of World War One

  • 1925

    Harwich Civil Parish was created, part of Harwich Municipal Borough.

  • 1931

    The population of Harwich according to the census was 12,046.

  • 1953

    Harwich & Parkeston Football Club reached the final of the FA Amateur Cup, losing to Pegasus at Wembley.

  • 1956

    The Beacon Hill Fort was finally decommissioned.

  • 1961

    The population of Harwich according to the census was 13,699.

  • 1961

    Harwich Town Sailing Club was founded.

  • 1969

    The Harwich Society was founded to help preserve the ancient seaport town.

  • 1971

    The population of Harwich according to the census was 14,937.

  • 1974

    Under the Local Government Act (1972), the municipal borough of Harwich was abolished and administratively Harwich became part of the newly created Tendring District.

  • 1997

    Parkeston Quay was acquired by Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd and renamed Harwich International Port.

  • 2001

    The total population of the Tendring District according to the census was 138,555. The population of Harwich and Dovercourt was approximately 15,500.

  • 2008

    Harwich starts to prepare for Mayflower 400.

Discover Harwich


Dovercourt Bay

Ha'penny Pier