arwich /ˈhærɪtʃ/ is a town in Essex, England and one of the Haven ports, located on the coast with the North Sea to the east. It is in the Tendring district. Nearby places include Felixstowe to the northeast, Ipswich to the northwest, Colchester to the southwest and Clacton-on-Sea to the south. It is the northernmost coastal town within Essex.
Its position on the estuaries of the Stour and Orwell rivers and its usefulness to mariners as the only safe anchorage between the Thames and the Humber led to a long period of maritime significance, both civil and military. The town became a naval base in 1657 and was heavily fortified, with Harwich Redoubt, Beacon Hill Battery, and Bath Side Battery.
Harwich is not mentioned in the Domesday Book so at that time if anyone lived there it must have been a very small settlement. (The name Harwich is believed to be derived from the old words here wic, meaning army camp because the Danes camped there in the 9th century). However there is an entry for Dovercourt. It was a little village with a population of about 120. The inhabitants were peasants who farmed the land around a cluster of wooden huts.
Yet by 1177 a chapel existed at Harwich so by then there must have been a small number of people living there. Then in the 13th century the Earl of Norfolk turned the hamlet into a town. At that time trade and commerce were increasing in England and many new towns were founded.
In 1253 the Earl of Norfolk, Lord of the manor, started a weekly market in Harwich. In those days there were very few shops and if you wished to buy or sell anything you went to market. Once the market in Harwich was up and running craftsmen and merchants would go and live in the town. So new streets were laid out and wooden jetties were built for ships.
Harwich grew rapidly and in 1318 it was given a charter (a document granting the townspeople certain rights). In the later Middle Ages Harwich was a busy little port. At that time England’s main export was wool and bales were sent from Harwich. The main import was wine (the drink of the upper class). Furthermore in Harwich there were the same craftsmen found in any town such as carpenters, brewers, butchers, blacksmiths etc. then at the time of Henry VIII strong defences were built at Harwich. Three forts were erected. At that time Harwich was a busy fishing port with a population of about 800.
In 1604 James I gave Harwich a new charter. As well as weekly market Harwich was allowed 2 annual fairs. In those days fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year. People came from all over Essex to attend a Harwich fair. In the 17th century Harwich continued to flourish. Shipbuilding was a major industry in the town.
Harwich became an important naval base in the 1660’s, and Samuel Pepys was First Secretary to the Admiralty at this time and also the town’s M.P. The Navy Yard was the original site of one of the town’s most impressive surviving monuments, the Harwich Crane, dating to about 1667