History of Harwich - part 2

ship under construction
Royal Naval Yard, Harwich, c.1851.
Image from 'A Season at Harwich, with excursions by land and water' courtesy of the British Libary on Flickr NKCR

History of Harwich >> White's Directory 1848

White's Directory of Essex 1848

Part 2. Part 1 >>.

The name of Harwich is supposed to be derived from the Saxon words Here, an army, and Wic, a castle or fortification; and hence it is supposed that a Saxon army was stationed here to prevent the descent of invaders. It is also probable that the Romans had a considerable station near the town, and the remains of an ancient camp, of great extent, may still be traced, southward from the town to Beaconhill field, in which is a tumulus.

On one side, the rampart, or vallum, is, in several places, from 10 to 12 feet high; and the ditch, now chiefly filled up, was 6 feet deep and 40 feet wide. Another earthwork extends from this on the top of the hill, and the road leading to it bears the name of street, and has in various parts of it considerable remains of a stone pavement, proving it to have been a military way of the Romans; and several of their coins have been found in it. A tesselated pavement was discovered many years ago, near this road, in a farm belonging to Dover Court Vicarage; and a wall, pulled down about the same time, was found to be composed of Roman materials.

The earliest historical record relating to this neighbourhood, occurs in the Saxon Chronicle, where a battle is mentioned to have been fought at the mouth of the Stour, between the fleet of King Alfred and sixteen Danish ships, in the year 885. The Danes were completely defeated, and every sail taken; but the English were soon after worsted in a second engagement with a more powerful fleet of the enemy.

Harwich did not obtain any importance as a town till after the Norman Conquest. Its first considerable increase arose from, the decay of Orwell, which is said to have been overwhelmed by the sea. Edward II, through the influence of his brother, Thomas de Brotherton, then lord of the manor, made it a borough corporate and market town by charter in 1318; but it is said to have been a borough by prescription long before that period. Other charters were granted to it by Edward III., Richard II., Henry IV., V., and VI., James I., and Charles II.

The charter of James was the basis of the municipal constitution previous to the passing of the Municipal Reform Act of 1835. Under that charter, the corporate body consisted of a mayor, 8 aldermen and 24 capital burgesses, with a recorder, high-steward, town clerk, and other officers. The mayor was greeted by the capital burgesses, out of the aldermen; the aldermen by the capital burgesses, and the capital burgesses by themselves, and most of the freemen were non-resident.

This select body was also entrusted by the charters with the choice of two discreet and honest men, to the burgesses of the Parliament for the borough; and the honesty and discretion they sought was found for many years among the members of the government, who, in return, found lucrative places for many members of the corporation.

They held quarter sessions and a court of pleas every Tuesday, for the recovery of debts not exceeding £100. A court of admiralty was instituted at an early period, but fell into disuse about the end of last century. The municipal commissioners state, in their report on the borough in 1833, that the loss of this court was a subject of regret among those interested in the shipping of the port, as disputes could be settled in it at much less cost than in other courts; but more than half of the harbour is subject to the jurisdiction of Ipswich.

print published 1834

The borough is now governed by a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, with a commission of the peace, embracing nine or ten magistrates; a town clerk, high steward, and other officers. The income of the borough in 1839 was £621.16s.6d., chiefly arising from land, buildings, market tolls, and port dues.

The Corporation Property comprises a farm and lands in Beaumont, Tendring, and Thorpe, purchased in 1715, and let for about £150; a farm at Great Holland let for about £100; and various houses, stores, shops, and other tenements in the borough, built at various periods on the waste, and now let for upwards of £100 per annum.

In 1814, the corporation expended £1200 in building a new farm-house at Beaumont, £800 in building the National School, and £300 in erecting a new Look-out House.

The mayor and magistrates hold petty sessions every Tuesday, at the Guildhall, an old brick building, in which is the police station, with a lock-up for the temporary confinement of prisoners, who, if convicted are sent to Colchester; the old bridewell being now disused and offered for sale.

The Local Acts are as follows :-one passed in 1821, for completing the rebuilding of St. Nicholas' church; one passed in 1824, for amending the said act; and another passed in 1819, for paving, lighting, cleansing, watching, and otherwise improving the town, and supplying it with water. The workhouse (now a brewery,) was sold in 1836, after the borough had been joined to Tendring.

A COUNTY COURT is held monthly at the Guildhall, for the borough and 16 neighbouring parishes in Tendring Hundred, and for this district Edward Chapman, Esq., is clerk; and Mr. James Pain, bailiff.

Harwich returned two members to Parliament before the reign of Edward III., when the privilege was suspended; but it was restored by the charter of James I. The right of voting previous to the passing of the Parliamentary Reform Act, in 1832, was in the mayor, alderman, and capital burgesses, and the greatest number of electors polled within 30 years previous to 1831 was 20.

In 1837, the number of registered voters was 167, of whom 12 freemen. At the general election in 1847, John Bagshaw and John Attwood, Esqrs., were elected as the representatives of this borough; but the latter gentleman was ousted for bribery, in March, 1848, when Sir John Cam Hobhouse, Bart., was elected in his place. A petition has been presented against the return of the latter, alleging bribery and government interference, by sending the cutters to sea with voters on board. Mr. Bagshaw is also high steward of the borough, and is a liberal, in favour of the ballot. He was formerly an East India merchant, at the head of the firm Bagshaw and Co., of Calcutta.

The Town which occupies neatly all the narrow tongue of land from the harbour to the sea beach, has only one entrance by land, and consists of three main streets, with several lanes branching out on either side. It was formerly encompassed by a wall, and had four gates, named St. Helen's port, Barton's, or Water-gate, St. Austin's-gate, and Castle-gate; and also three small gates or posterns. It had a castle and an admiralty house; and the Dukes of Norfolk had a large house near St. Austin's-gate, and their arms were to be seen in the hall window till 1676, when they were taken down.

The Pier, Harwich © Copyright Footstepsphotos 2006. http://www.footstepsphotos.co.uk/index.html
The Pier, Harwich
Low resolution copy courtesy of Footsteps' Shop on Ebay. Quality postcards of Essex.

The town wall was built of the clay-like substance found at the bottom of the cliffs, which, on exposure to the air, gradually hardens to a species of stone, with which the streets are paved.

The ancient PARISH CHURCH, dedicated to St. Nicholas and founded as a chapel of ease to Dover Court, by Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, about 1210, being in a dilapidated condition, was taken down in 1821, and the present magnificent fabric erected on its site, at the cost of nearly £20.000.

It is built chiefly of white brick, but the butttresses and steeple are of stone. It measures in length 100, and in breadth 60 feet, and the tower contains eight good bells, and is crowned by a handsome spire. The interior is elegantly fitted up, and has 1500 sittings, and a fine toned Organ. In the chancel are several neat monuments, one in memory of Sir William Clarke, who was killed in a sea-fight with the Dutch, in 1666, and whose body, after being tossed about on the ocean several days, was washed into this haven.

The benefice is a perpetual curacy, annexed to the vicarage of Dover Court. The Rev. S. N. Bull, M.A., is the vicar; the Rev. Richard Bull, M.A., curate; Francis Hiblett, clerk; and Miss E. Freshfield, organist. The Church Land, for repairs, etc., consists or a farm of 52 acres, at Tendring, let for £80, and purchased in 1720, for £24l, derived chiefly from the sale of a house at the Town-gate, which was left by William King, in 1627, and taken down in 1714, by the Commissioners for fortifying the town.

In the town are three dissenting meeting houses. The Independent Chapel belongs to a congregation which was formed in the 17th century, and has been about 50 years under its present minister, the Rev. W. Hordle. The Wesleyan Chapel was built in 1827, in lieu of the old one, now belonging to the Baptists. Schools are attached to most of the places of worship, and here is a Mechanics' Institution, established in 1847, and having about 130 members.

Part 2. Part 1 >>.

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Harwich - Cary's New and Correct English Atlas, 1798

Harwich - First Series Ordnance Survey Map 1805

This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth. Licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence BY-SA-4.0

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