There’s a fine painting by the Dutch artist Willem van de Velde in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich near London. It depicts the Dutch fleet attacking Harwich in summer 1667. In the foreground of the picture, three porpoises are swimming playfully in the North Sea. The sea mammals are still a common sight in the waters off Harwich, but the Dutch fleet is long gone. Anglo-Dutch relations have improved since the events of 1667, so much so that on a wall outside a pub in Harwich there is a nice homage to the Netherlands. Under the Dutch flag and a cute image of a galleon, that inscription in Harwich turns a blind eye to the Dutch attack in 1667. It reads:
“For about 400 years, the ferry crossing to Holland has brought jobs and income to Harwich. Long may it continue.”
Despite the evident affection for their Dutch neighbours suggested in the plaque, the residents of the Harwich area, like those of every other district in Essex, voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum.
Yet Harwich, like Hoek van Holland, is a community that lives off its maritime connections.