Visit Harwich - hometown to Christopher Jones, Captain of the Mayflower

This traditional historic maritime town has a fascinating history. It is probably best known for being the home of Christopher Jones, Captain of the Mayflower, who in 1620 took the first pilgrims to America. 2020 sees the 400th anniversary of this incredible journey and Harwich will be participating in the many commemoration events planned throughout the UK and overseas. Find out more about the Mayflower 400, other destinations in England with connections, and the year-long commemoration programme here. Follow the Mayflower 400 Trail and discover the exciting stories that link the port to one of the most significant voyages in history.

Other attractions include the Electric Palace, one of Britain’s first cinemas (which has local actor Clive Owen as its patron), and the atmospheric Redoubt Fort, which dates back to the Napoleonic Wars. Have a wander around Harwich and imagine yourself in the days of famed diarist Samuel Pepys, who was actually MP for the town.

Join one of the local guided summer tours organised by the Harwich Society

Download the Mayflower 400 in Harwich booklet

Download the Harwich leaflet

Discover Harwich

Harwich is not just any port. Not only is it the UK's second busiest passenger ferry port, its harbour, which is the largest between the Humber, in the north of England, and London, was created by a storm surge in the 1100s, a quirk of fate that gave rise to the area’s long and fascinating seafaring history.

The attractive old town was built on a grid pattern, in the 13th Century, by the Earl of Norfolk, to exploit its strategic position at the mouth of the Stour/Orwell estuary. The famous seafarers Hawkins, Drake and Frobisher all sailed from Harwich during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I on various expeditions.

An enjoyable way to discover the historic town is to follow its Maritime Heritage Trail. From Ha'Penny Pier Visitor Centre on the Quay there are guided walking tours throughout the summer.  Start your walk at the Low Lighthouse Maritime Museum built in 1818 and Lifeboat Museum, where you can get aboard a lifeboat and ending at the Barge Murals which overlook the site where Thames Sailing Barges were built up to 1930. A special gem is the Treadwheel Crane, built in 1667, a kind of colossal hamster wheel based on a Roman design. The crane was worked by men walking in the interior of two large wheels to raise and lower goods and materials. As far as is known Harwich has the only British example.

On route down the quaint streets there is the chance to take in gems such as the Electric Palace Cinema, built in 1911 and now the oldest unaltered purpose built cinema in Britain. St Nicholas Church which was rebuilt 1821 and The Redoubt Fort which was built in 1808 as a large circular fort to protect the harbour from a Napoleonic invasion. These are just a few of the outstanding treasures the trail has to offer. Also visit the old Radar Tower, at Beacon Hill Fort, which was the first radar installation of the second world war, and can be opened on request to the Harwich Visitor Centre.

Harwich is not just any port. Not only is it the it is now the UK's second busiest passenger ferry port, its harbour, which is the largest between the Humber, in the north of England, and London, was created by a storm surge in the 1100s, a quirk of fate that gave rise to the area’s long and fascinating seafaring history. The attractive old town was built on a grid pattern, in the 13th Century, by the Earl of Norfolk, to exploit its strategic position at the mouth of the Stour/Orwell estuary. The famous seafarers Hawkins, Drake and Frobisher all sailed from Harwich during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I on various expeditions.

Highlights of the area

Mayflower 400 Trail

Turn your mobile into a personal GPS tour guide and follow the Mayflower 400 Trail. You can download the app by selecting one of the links below on your mobile device or search for 'Mayflower 400' in the App and Play stores.

 

Download the Android app
Download the Apple app

Step back a century in time to the golden age of film and enjoy a cinematic experience at the historic Electric Palace Cinema. It's one of the oldest purpose-built cinemas to survive and celebrated its centenary in 2011, complete with silent screen, original projection room and ornamental frontage still intact. It continues to show films throughout the year.

The Redoubt is a Napoleonic circular fort and moat built between 1808 and 1810 to protect the port of Harwich against the threat of invasion. Part of the fort is now used as a military museum. Battle re-enactments and other events are held during summer.

More highlights

Built in 1818 as the forward of two transit light houses, it now houses a maritime museum. The museum is full of nautical memorabilia, from photographs and paintings to ships in bottles and lighthouse bulbs. There are displays on the Royal Navy, including uniform and badges, and local commercial shipping. From the top floor you can have a fantastic view of the shipping activity in the harbour.

The attractive old Lifeboat station on the waterfront now houses the “Valentine Wyndham-Quin”, an offshore lifeboat which was in service at Clacton-on-Sea from 1968 to 1984. Visitors to the museum have a rare 'hands on' opportunity to see a lifeboat at close quarters and other exhibits.

Originally the pier was twice as long when it opened in 1853 and was a popular departure point for paddle steamers. It was so called because of the ½d toll charged. The Pier Ticket Office, a charming, typical example of late 19th century architecture, now houses the Visitor Centre run by the Harwich Society. It also contains an exhibition ‘Harwich and the New World’ covering Christopher Newport, Christopher Jones and the Mayflower.