The Billy

Status:Closed. Now a private residence with no public access. Please respect the owners' privacy when viewing the exterior of this building.

Known as "the Billy" when it closed in 2010 this pub had previously been called the Harwich Arms, the William the Fourth and the Duke of Edinburgh and was probably originally 2 houses.

The Billy, Harwich
The Billy.


It isn't entirely clear how the building at no. 65 West Street came to be. It was certainly built as two houses and although the English Heritage listing seems to point to both sides originating in the early 19th Century there was a public house called the Harwich Arms trading in 1753 on the site, owned by Thomas Cobbold as part of the Harwich Brewery estate.

It changed hands to become part of the Cobbold and Cox partnership when they ran the brewery and Thomas Cobbold, the grandson of the original owner, buys the pub outright in 1824.

Certainly by 1837 the pub had changed its name to the William the Fourth and it then came up for sale with the Harwich Brewery upon Thomas Cobbold's retirement. At that time the pub was described as containing two Parlors, Bar, Tap Room, two Bed Rooms, a Club Room and two Attics, Yard, containing a Wash-house with Chamber over. In the occupation of James Paine. Interestingly the listing also features A Tenement adjoining, containing two Rooms, Let to William Beneworth, Shoe-maker, at a Rent of £5 per Annum.

Once again in 1837 the pub changed hands from Cobbold to Cobbold as it rejoined the pub estate of the main branch of the family running the Cliff Brewery in Ipswich.

In 1876 the East Anglian Daily Times reported an unusual incident:

A Bull in a Public House. – We have so often heard of the consternation created by a bull in a china ship that it is refreshing to find him patronising other places of business and becoming more social. Indeed we may go as far to state that the instance which we record partakes not only of the sociable but somewhat of the convivial. Yesterday a bull, which was being driven with other beasts towards the railway trucks for conveyance to London strayed from the path of rectitude laid out for him by the drovers and scampered up West Street.

Whether it was the jovial looking picture of King William the Fourth which gracefully swings over the door of one of the temples of Bacchus know by that appellation, or whether it may have been the inviting odour of certain stimulants which are kept inside, is a matter open to discussion, but from whatever causes the fascination may have arisen, the bull, without further ado, betook himself straight away in through the front door, until even his tail was lost from view by those who witnessed the extraordinary phenomenon from the street. In less time than it takes to write it. Almost every window in the vicinity was thrown up, the doors opened, and the uninitiated were soon acquainted with the facts of the case by a crowd of urchins in the street, who gratuitously informed them that “a bull was in the Billy”, which statement was shortly afterwards verified by the said bull coming out of the Billy, and followed by his indefatigable guardians, the drovers, and a crowd of the aforesaid urchins, retracing his steps until he reached the cattle pens again, where several female friends tendered him their congratulations upon his restoration to them, and the whole herd were then safely conducted to their destination.

In the 1890s or early 1900s the pub changed name again to the Duke of Edinburgh and was taken over by the Colchester Brewing Company who were taken over by Ind Coope in 1925. The pub later became a freehouse and changed its name to the Billy.

The building was listed Grade II by English Heritage in 1972.

Notable Facts, Things to Look Out For

Historic Harwich Pub Trail is a collaboration between the Tendring Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale and the Harwich Society.
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