hidden europe 67

An Essex backwater: Discovering Harwich

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: One of Harwich’s former lighthouses is now a small museum celebrating the town’s maritime connections (photo © hidden europe).


The old town of Harwich, a port in the county of Essex on England's North Sea coast, is tucked away on the end of a peninsula. Maritime connections have shaped the development of Harwich. It's a place for sea breezes, rock oysters and watching the ferries come and go.

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.

Related article

Remembering Anna

Anna Walentynowicz died five years ago this spring in the plane crash that also claimed the lives of many in the Polish leadership. We recall the woman who was a welder, crane driver and political activist - a woman who quietly helped shape modern Poland.