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Harwich is in the county of Essex, and lies on the south side of the estuary formed by the confluence of the Stour and the Orwell, about sixty-two miles to the northeastward of London. The view in the engraving is taken from the southward, and comprises three of the most conspicuous objects in the town — the church, which is of modern erection, and the upper and the lower light-houses. In the distance, to the right, is perceived Landguard Fort, which lies on the Suffolk shore, on the opposite side of the channel.
In 1318, Edward II incorporated Harwich. at the request of his brother, Thomas de Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk. In 1347, the town supplied 14 ships and 183 mariners to the grand fleet of Edward III. ; and in the 17th and 18th years of that king’s reign, Harwich returned two members to Parliament; but the exercise of this privilege was discontinued till 1616, when it was restored by James I.
The trade of Harwich never appears to have been extensive; and its prosperity seems to have greatly depended on the Post-office packets, which formerly used to sail from the place with passengers and letters for the northern parts of Europe. The introduction of steam-packets has, however, rendered Harwich a place of no further importance as a packet-station, and for several years past the town has been in a declining state. The fishery, which formerly contributed to the prosperity of the place, has greatly diminished since the commencement of the present century. Harwich is the only harbor between Yarmouth Roads and the mouth of the Thames that is capable of affording refuge, in gales of wind from the eastward, to vessels navigating the eastern coast. During the prevalence of strong northeast winds, sometimes from 200 to 300 light colliers, and other vessels proceeding northward, are to be seen anchored in the harbor.
On the south of the town a cliff divides Orwell Haven from the bay that extends to Walton-on-Naze. This cliff is observed to be constantly giving way to the action of the sea, which, it is expected, will at some future period force a passage to the opposite shore, and insulate Harwich and its vicinity. The cliff contains many acres of land, and its greatest height is about fifty feet. At the bottom, a bed of clay, of a bluish color, about one foot thick, is succeeded by a bed of stone of nearly the same color and thickness. Within the latter, shells and petrifactions, of various descriptions, have been found embedded. Above the stone are several beds of clay similar to that under the stone, rising to more than twenty feet. This clay, on exposure to the air, hardens into stone, and the streets of Harwich arc paved with it. The town walls were formed of this material, as were also the castles of Oxford and Framingham.
During the fashionable season the town is visited for sea-bathing, and excellent accommodations are now provided, bathing machines having been introduced, and the private baths rendered most convenient. They stand in a large reservoir of seawater, which is changed at every tide, and supplied with fresh water every hour, by a contrivance on the principle of a natural siphon. In some of these baths, the water is made hot for invalids, who, if they have neither strength nor courage to plunge themselves into the water, are assisted with a chair. There are also vapor oaths, and machinery to throw the seawater, either hot or cold, on any part of the body.
There is a delightful walk, called “the Lawn,” much frequented in fine weather as a promenade; and not far distant from it is the Beacon Cliff, on which were formerly the signal-house and telegraph, which were, some time ago, destroyed by the encroachments of the sea. This eminence commands a grand, interesting, and extensive prospect. Parties are also frequently made by the visitors for sailing or steaming up the Orwell and Stour, and making excursions on the bosom of the ocean. The scenery of the Orwell possesses peculiar interest, the banks being studded with elegant villas and pleasure grounds.