Welcome to the historic town of Harwich
Harwich is a pleasant, coastal town, the gem of the Sunshine Coast, full of history and character with a strong sense of community.
Images © Maria Fowler
Following the Royal Charter of 1604 (King James I) the town has seen a continuous line of Mayors, elected by the Council for a yearly term of office. The Mayor making ceremony falls in May each year. The church service, to which all were welcome, is accompanied by the rare custom of kitchel throwing from the upper Guildhall windows, and is a lot of fun for the younger members of our community who scramble to catch the freshly-baked treats. The entire ceremony is unique to Harwich and has been a local tradition for centuries.
Set in the heart of the historic old sea port, Harwich’s Guildhall is the town’s only Grade I listed building, dating back to the seventeenth century and is home currently to Harwich Town Council. The wealth of history and heritage that it contains, along with its remarkable architecture, make the Guildhall in Harwich a fascinating place to visit.
The Chamber is a beautiful oak panelled room, its walls adorned with large portraits and its windows including a stained glass depiction of the town crest. The Chamber also houses the regalia show case containing the seventeenth century mace and the Mayor’s chain of office.
The Chamber is available to hire for meetings, so please contact the office for details and availability.
Amongst the treasures in the Mayor’s Parlour are the town’s Imperial Brass Yard and a portrait of Charles II painted in the year 1675. A unique feature of the Guildhall is the Carvings/Graffiti room, or Gaol, once used to hold prisoners waiting to be tried or sentenced. Etched into the bare, wooden walls are elaborate carvings of ships, gallows and symbols designed to ward off evil spirits, some of which date from the end of the eighteenth century.
Our honorary Archivists manage the Council’s archives and amongst the hidden delights there is the Royal Charter of 1604, which incorporated the village of Dovercourt and the Borough of Harwich and allowed the appointment of a Mayor and Council, comprising ‘honest and discreet burgesses’ who served for life, and the election of two members of Parliament. Council minutes date back to this time, maps are held from the 16th century and material dating back to Richard II in the 14th century. A large photographic collection is held covering a wide range of local events and interests over the years. Many of these documents are displayed at the exhibition held annually, during the Heritage Weekends. Talks on the history of the town and assistance with personal research can be arranged by appointment with the Archivists.
The Guildhall has recently undergone refurbishment, including the installation of a stair lift and disabled accessible toilet. Entry to the Guildhall is free so please call 01255 507211 (Mon-Weds-Fri 9.30am – 1pm) where staff will be happy to arrange a short guided tour.
The revitalised Friday market situated in the High Street continues to thrive and the first phase of DOVERCOURT REDISCOVERED is underway following the installation of heritage lamp posts and community tourist maps. This project will continue to evolve in consultation with the District and County Council.
Town Council funding supports many local groups and organisations working within the community. The town is extremely fortunate to have a large network of volunteers, and the time and invaluable support they give help to enrich our community. These people are a fine example of the community spirit previously referred to.