Harwich, Essex

Historical Description

Harwich, a municipal borough, sea-port town, watering-place, and parish in Essex. The town stands at the NE extremity of the county, and at the terminus of a branch of the G.E.R., on a point of land projecting northward into the mouth of the conjoint estuary of the Stour and the Orwell, 1 ½ mile by water WNW from Landguard Fort, 12 E miles from Manningtree, and 71 ½ from London. It appears to have been of Roman origin, but it derived its present name-originally Hare-wieh 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 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 Stonr, 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 then, 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 Eocks; 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 2750 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 III., 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.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient County Essex
Hundred Tendring
Poor Law union Tendring

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Harwich from the following:


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Newspapers and Periodicals

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