Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for HARWICH

HARWICH, a sea port town, a parish, and a subdistrict, in Tendring district, Essex. The town stands at the NE extremity of the county, and at the terminus of a branch of the Eastern Union railway, on a point of land projecting northward into the month of the conjoint estuary of the Stour and the Orwell, 1½ mile by water WNW of Landguard Fort, 5 N of the Naze, and 18 ENE of Colchester. It appears to have been of Roman origin; but it derived its present name-originally Hare-wich or Here-wich, signifying the "castle of an Army"-from a Saxon or a Danish camp. A quondam road into it had vestiges of an ancient stone pavement; bore the Roman appellation of ' ' the Street; '' and passed remains of a Roman camp, with a rampart from 10 to 15 feet high, and a fosse 45 feet wide, and 4 feet deep, extending from the S side of the town to Beacon Hill field. Roman relics also have been found to the W at Dovercourt; and a second Roman rampart ran from that of the Roman camp to the top of Beacon Hill. A battle was fought in the adjacent waters, at the month of the Stour, in 885, between the fleet of King Alfred and sixteen Danish ships; when the latter were defeated, and all captured. A town, called Orwell, stood thon, or soon afterwards, on ground about 5 miles distant which became eroded by the sea, and is now represented by a shoal called the West Rocks; and, on the decay of that town after the Norman invasion, Harwich rose into importance. Queen Isabella and Prince Edward, in 1326, landed here from Hainault, with 2, 750 soldiers, and marched hence to Bristol to make war against the King. Edward III., in 1338, embarked here, with 500 ships, on his first expedition against France. The French, in the following year, with 11 galleys, appeared before the town, and made an unsuccessful attempt to fire it. Edward III., in 1340, when 400 French ships had assembled at Sluys to intercept an English expedition, set sail from Harwich against them, with the result of achieving a remarkable victory over them in a great sea battle. Henry VIII. was here in 1543; Elizabeth, in 1561; and Charles II., in 1666. A Spanish fleet appeared off the Harbour, in 1625, causing considerable alarm; and some of the naval engagements between the English and the Dutch, in the time of Charles II., took place at such near distances as to be visible to spectators on the cliffs. The town was fortified against the Dutch in 1666; and remains of the works then formed were plainly seen at an extraordinary ebb tide in 1784. William III., George I., and George II. sailed from Harwich on their respective tours to the Continent. Frederick, Prince of Wales, was here in 1728; the Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, on her way to be married to George II I., landed here in 1761; and the corpse of Queen Caroline, on its way to be interred at Brunswick, was taken on board a frigate here in 1821. The site of the town is low, with well defined shore and pleasant environs. The esplanade, or green, extending towards the Beacon Hill, and the Stone quay, near the lighthouses, afford pleasant sea walks. The Beacon Hill divides Harwich haven from Walton bay toward the Naze; rises to a considerable height; and commands a very fine view. The Beacon Cliff, on the seaward face of the hill, makes a very steep descent; had formerly a signal House and a semaphore which, with a great portion of the cliff itself, have been submerged; consists largely of London clay, charged with fossils; has a height of 50 feet; and, till recently, suffered much from erosion by the sea, -which wore away 80 feet of it between 1756 and 1804, and 350 feet between 1804 and 1841. A tract, called the Vicar's field, has disappeared since 1807; and part of a battery, built at the beginning of the present century, on a spot then considerably distant from the shore, was swept away in 1829. An inroad by the sea was threatened also at Lower Dovercourt, and would have been disastrous to the town, but has ceased to be dreaded. The clay of Beacon Cliff, when exposed to the air, gradually hardens into a kind of stone; and this was used as the building material of Orford and Framlingham castles, and was used sometime also for paving. A petrifying spring formerly flowed at the N skirt of the Beacon. The town consists of three main streets, and some smaller ones and lanes. It was formerly enclosed by a wall, with four principal and three subordinate gates; and it had a castle, blockHouses, and an admiralty House; but all these have disappeared. The railway to it leaves the main line at Manningtree; was opened in 1854; and has stations at Mistley, Bradfield, Wrabness, and Dovercourt. The townhall is used for petty sessions and for county courts. The coastguard station was built in 1858; and is a fine suite of Houses, in the form of a square. There is a customHouse; and there were formerly a jail and a theatre. St. Nicholas church was built, in 1210, by Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, as a chapel of ease to Dovercourt; was rebuilt, on a much larger scale, in 1821; is a brick edifice, in the pointed style, 100 feet by 60; consists of nave, chancel, aisles, and porch, with tower and spire; and contains the grave of Sir W. Clarke, secretary-at-war, killed in action at sea, in 1666. There are chapels for Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, and Primitive Methodists. There are also a Corporation school and a national school; and the former educates 32 boys, nominated by the town council. The town has a head post office, ‡ a railway station with telegraph, a banking office, and two chief inns. Markets are held on Tuesdays and Fridays; and there were formerly two fairs. Harwich long depended for prosperity on its being the packet station to Holland, Germany, and Sweden, -on great transit of passengers going to the Continent, or coming from it, especially during the French war, -on a government dockyard establishment, together with the presence of large garri sons here and at Landguard, -and on its having the only roadstead capable of affording secure shelter between Yarmonth and the Thames; but, since 1815, owing to quicker communication from other ports, the removal of the governmeut works and garrison, and the extension of the

Harbour at Lowestoft, it has suffered great declension. A thriving fishery, too, was long carried on here, and employed 78 vessels, averaging about 40 tons each, in 1778; but this also has fallen off, and had only 10 vessels in 1833. Yet, in consequence of improvements on its harbour, of the opening of the railway to it, of the resort of families for sea bathing, and of other causes, the town has been finding some compensations for its losses. A Roman cement trade is carried on to the extent of employing a great number of vessels in dredging fOr cement stone on the West Rocks. Ship building likewise is carried on; and there is a dockyard, from which several third rates have been launched. Steamers sail daily to Ipswich, and regularly to London, Antwerp, and Rotterdam. A yacht club was founded in 1843; is under royal patronage; holds regattas annually; and gives prizes to successful competitors. Well contrived baths, bathingmachines, and excellent accommodations exist for the use of summer visitors. The harbour is protected, on the E, by a northerly bend of the coast, -on the W, by a Southerly projection of land; and it has a depth of water always available to vessels of large tonnage, and commands a magnificent opening to the sea. A grant of £50, 000 was made by parliament, in 1844, and was followed by additional grants in subsequent years, for forming a breakwater from Beacon Cliff to divert the current towards Landguard Point, -for so dredging the shoals at the harbour's entrance as to admit first class vessels, - for building a wall at the base of the cliff, to prevent the farther eucroachment of the sea, -and for making a walk, upwards of a mile long, from the end of the breakwater to the esplanade. About £20, 000 also were expended by the corporation prior to 1862, in making large enclosures of land from the harbour, forming quays along the entire N front of the town, and constructing a pier there approachable by vessels at all states of the tide. Large sums were spent also in 1 866-8, in constructing two protection groins seaward, the one 1, 350 feet from the beach end, the other 1, 000 feet from a point at Felixstow. A redoubt is a little above the esplanade; and there were two lighthouses, the low and the high, to direct vessels past the Andrews, a sandband or bar reaching from Landguard Fort to the Rolling Grounds, where there is good anchorage. The low lighthouse is near the beach; and is of white brick, and 45 feet high. The other is nearer the town; was built, in 1818, by General Rebow; and is of grey brick, octagonal, and 95 feet high. But both lighthouses, owing to growth of Landguard Point, became gradually useless prior to 1865; and two iron Ones, in lieu of them, have been erected on Dovercourt beach. The port has Mistley, Holland, Thorpe, and Walton for sub ports. The vessels belonging to it, at the beginning of 1863, were 67 small sailing vessels, of aggregately 2, 064 tons; and 49 large ones, of aggregately 4, 979 tons. The vessels which entered, in 1862, were 43 British vessels, of aggregately 3, 998 tons, from foreign ports; 34 foreign vessels, of aggregately 2, 571 tons, from foreign ports; 544 sailing vessels, of aggregately 35, 626 tons, coastwise; and 1 steam vessel, of 383 tons, coastwise. The vessels which cleared, in that year, were 4 British vessels, of aggregately 132 tons, to British colonies; 3 British; vessels, of aggregately 528 tons, of foreign ports; 68 foreign vessels, of aggregately 4, 087 tons, to foreign ports; and 352 sailing vessels, of aggregately 14, 944 tons, coastwise. The amount of customs in 1867 was £9, 810. The borough is of the same extent now as before the reform act; consists of the parishes of Harwich and Dovercourt; and is the same parliamentarily and municipally. It sent two members to parliament in the time of Edward III.; it then suffered a suspension of the franchise; it sent two members from the time of James I. till 1867; it was then reduced to sending only one; and it is now governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors. Acres, 1,836 of land, and 1, 470 of water. Real property in 1860, £15, 489; of which £100 were in gas works. Borough income, in 1855, £1, 208. Electors, in 1868, 389. Pop. in 1851, 4, 451; in 1861, 5, 070. Houses, 811.—The parish bears the name of St. Nicholas; was originally a part of Dovercourt; and is still, in some respects, a hamlet of that parish. Acres, 340; of which 250 are water. Real property, £9, 219. Pop. in 1851, 3, 383; in 1861, 3, 839. Houses, 579. The living is a vicarage, annexed to the vicarage of Dovercourt, in the diocese of Rochester. Leake, the master gunner of England, Was a native; and the Marquis of Downshire takes from the town the title of Baron.—The sub-district is conterminate with the borough.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a sea port town, a parish, and a subdistrict"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Harwich CP       Harwich SubD       Tendring RegD/PLU       Essex AncC
Place: Harwich

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