HARWICH, a municipal borough and seaport in the Harwich parliamentary division of Essex, England, on the extremity of a small peninsula projecting into the estuary of the Stour and Orwell, 70 m. N.E. by E. of London by the Great Eastern railway. Pop. (1901), 10,070. It occupies an elevated situation, and a wide view is obtained from Beacon Hill at the southern end of the esplanade. The church of St Nicholas was built of brick in 1821; and there are a town hall and a custom-house. The harbour is one of the best on the east coast of England, and in stormy weather is largely used for shelter. A breakwater and sea-wall prevent the blocking of the harbour entrance and encroachments of the sea; and there is another breakwater at Landguard Point on the opposite (Suffolk) shore of the estuary. The principal imports are grain and agricultural produce, timber and coal, and the exports cement and fish. Harwich is one of the principal English ports for continental passenger traffic, steamers regularly serving the Hook of Holland, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Esbjerg, Copenhagen and Hamburg. The continental trains of the Great Eastern railway run to Parkeston Quay, i m. from Harwich up the Stour, where the passenger steamers start. The fisheries are important, principally those for shrimps and lobsters. There are cement and shipbuilding works. The port is the headquarters of the Royal Harwich Yacht Club. There are batteries at and opposite Harwich, and modern works on Shotley Point, at the fork of the two estuaries. There are also several of the Martello towers of the Napoleonic era. At Landguard Fort there are important defence works with heavy modern guns commanding the main channel. This has been a point of coast defence since the time of James I. Between the Parkeston Quay and Town railway stations is that of Dovercourt, an adjoining parish and popular watering-place. Harwich is under a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 1341 acres.
Harwich (Herewica, Herewyck) cannot be shown to have been inhabited very early, although in the 18th century remains of a camp, possibly Roman, existed there. Harwich formed part of the manor of Dovercourt. It became a borough in 1319 by a charter of Edward II., which was confirmed in 1342 and 1378, and by each of the Lancastrian kings. The exact nature and degree of its self-government is not clear. Harwich received charters in 1547, 1553 and 1560. In 1604 James I. gave it a charter which amounted to a new constitution, and from this charter begins the regular parliamentary representation. Two burgesses had attended parliament in 1343, but none had been summoned since. Until 1867 Harwich returned two members; it then lost one, and in 1885 it was merged in the county. Included in the manor of Dovercourt, Harwich from 1086 was for long held by the de Vere family. In 1252 Henry III. granted to Roger Bigod a market here every Tuesday, and a fair on Ascension day, and eight days after. In 1320 a grant occurs of a Tuesday market, but no fair is mentioned. James I. granted a Friday market, and two fairs, at the feast of St Philip and St James, and on St Luke's day. The fair has died out, but markets are still held on Tuesday and Friday. Harwich has always had a considerable trade; in the 14th century merchants came even from Spain, and there was much trade in wheat and wool with Flanders. But the passenger traffic appears to have been as important at Harwich in the 14th century as it is now. Shipbuilding was a considerable industry at Harwich in the 17th century.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)