Around the turn of the 19th into the 20th centuries Harwich boasted a total of 35 pubs and hostelries (with another dozen in Dovercourt). Until the start of the First World War in 1914 Harwich was popular with summer daytrippers, as well as having a busy Naval Dockyard, and so there was plenty of trade to go around.
During the war the Dockyard ran at full-capacity but the tourist trade dwindled to next-to-nothing and never recovered. After the war the Dockyard went into decline and was closed in 1921.
With the town in depression the pubs obviously began to close, with most of them being sold as private dwellings. Many of these have interesting histories and despite no longer being pubs their place in the town's past has been kept alive through the efforts of the sterling Harwich Society.
One such is the Foresters, in Church Street, which is reckoned to be Harwich's oldest house, dating from c1450. It had been an Ale House since the 1800's but was severely damaged during a German bombing raid in 1941 and never reopened as a public house. Instead it was renovated in 1953 by the then president of the Harwich Society, Winifred Cooper, and became her home for the next 50 years. The building is now the headquarters of the Harwich Society.
Another interesting building, again in Church Street, is the former Three Cups Hotel. This has a history dating back to the 14 century when Queen Isabella stayed there whilst awaiting her lover, Roger Mortimer, before he set off to do battle with her husband King Richard II. The Three Cups is also reputed to have hosted Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton.
The original 14th century building has been replaced and renovated many times including the 19th century addition of its Georgian frontage. It survived as a hotel until 1995 when it was sold as a private development. It has though continued to display its former signage and a little plaque from the Harwich Society outlining its history.
Harwich's fortunes have been reviving in recent years, which I've evidenced over the last ten years or so that I've been passing through. I've noticed significantly more tourists on the occasions I've passed through during daylight hours and of the ten pubs remaining, in their various guises, they all seem to be doing well. The pubs are all individual, each with their own appeal, but they are unanimously friendly and welcoming and I can rely on a good night out any day of the week.
You do not have to be a 'pub person' to take an interest in Harwich's numerous public houses. Indeed, such an integral part of the town's history are these establishments, that no consideration of its local history is complete without investigating their location & origination. Where there are ports there are pubs, & this has much to do with the tradition of retired sailors & seamen becoming publicans to see out their latter years, without becoming destitute. This is the tradition of Harwich pubs, & if you think the area is full of them now, consider the situation over a century ago, when the local Temperance movement requested a licence be denied on the grounds, "there were sufficient other licensed premises in the area, 32 within 200 yards, it having insufficient accommodation, being unfit for habitation & looking at the upper part the windows appeared as though they had seen neither cloth nor water, its appearance being that of a third rate beer house in a low neighbourhood rather than a house of full dignity". Despite the objection, the bench granted the renewal of the licence, to what was no doubt a typical drinking den of the time, providing a living for someone who had served his graft at sea, & now needed a licence to pursue his 'pension'. There was little sympathy with the campaigning teetotallers, because the alternative to drinking a brew, often meant a dose of diarrohea, if not worse, as Harwich once had an outbreak of typhus, such was the state of potable water, at the time.
Trinity House is the organisation responsible for the UK's marine navigational aids such as lighthouses, lightships and buoys. Although its registered office is at Tower Hill, in London, its operational headquarters is here at Harwich.
The control centre remotely monitors the thousands of buoys, beacons and unmanned lighthouses twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year and when necessary co-ordinates any repairs and maintenance. The depot and the harbour are also used for these purposes and there are often lightships docked here for working on.
Once a month Trinity House offers tours of its facility here which include a presentation on the organisation's history and work, a visit to the control centre and to the buoy yard. These tours are free of charge and are open to interested individuals and groups with a maximum number of 20 people at a time. Information on how to join a tour is on the press page of their website - http://www.trinityhouse.co.uk/news_info/press-resources/faqs.html#22
The whole of Harwich's old town is a listed conservation area. Its street layout is mostly Medieval and its oldest house, the "Foresters", dates from around 1450. Many of the other dwellings and buildings are from the port's 18th century heyday and are often built upon much earlier foundations, retaining some original features such as the 16th century beam over the entrance of the Thai Up At The Quay restaurant.
The Harwich Society was founded in 1969 and with a present membership of about 1,700 (out of a population of 15,000) is one of the UK's most active voluntary organisations. The society has been responsible for many restoration and preservation projects (see pics) over the last 40 or so years and is currently engaged in the restoration of the Napoleonic era Redoubt which is one of the largest projects of its kind in the country.
Members run the Maritime museum in the former "Low Lighthouse", the Mayflower exhibition at Ha'pennny Pier and provide year-round visitor services including guided tours of the town's notable places of interest.
The website below is well worth a visit as it has loads of historical information and the virtual tour of the Maritime Trail is really excellent.