The King's Head

Status:Closed as a pub but now a convenience store. Please do not enter this building unless you are intending to use the shop.

The King's Head closed as a pub in the 1930s but was the local “Dole Office” (Labour Exchange) and a shop after that. Today it is the Harwich Convenience store.

The King's Head, Harwich
The King's Head.


Many pubs have at one stage or another claimed to be the oldest pub in the town and the King's Head certainly seems to have been mentioned in records that go way back to the 17th Century.

Unfortunately many pub “signs” moved around during the town's history and it is by no means clear when the sign of the King's Head settled at no. 8 Market Street. Certainly it was very popular with sailors in the olden days and was known as the house of the dancing bears as they brought their tame bears ashore to dance in the pub.

It seems that the pub was acquired by Thomas Cobbold in the middle of the 18th Century, becoming part of the estate of the Harwich Brewery, and when his grandson, another Thomas, retired in 1837 the pub came up for auction and was described thus; A Freehold Public House, called the King's Head, situated in Market Street, Harwich; containing two excellent front Parlors, good Bar, and Tap Room, Wash-house, Pantry, Store Room, Cellar under ground, four Bed Rooms, large Club Room, divided into three by temporary partitions, with large Loft over, Yard, with back Entrance, In the occupation of Sarah Waights.

Sarah Waights appears to have taken over running the pub from her husband William who died in 1828 and stays on with the new owners after the auction until 1848 when her son George takes over. George and his wife Matilda are looking after the pub but also their niece Amelia whose mother, George's sister Amelia, gave birth out of wedlock in 1841. Matilda Waights runs the pub until 1862 meaning that the Waights family have been in the job for 30 years.

In 1875 the pub nearly burnt down when; A fire was discovered at the King's Head Inn, Market Street. It appears that Mr. Last the landlord, having gone to bed after shutting up his house on Monday night, awoke about 2 o'clock the following morning, where there was a strong smell of fire. He proceeded down strairs and went into the bar parlour here the smoke was thick. It was then found that a mat in front of the fireplace had been ignited and this had burnt a hole in the flooring. He threw what was left of the mat into the yard, and put some water on the burning floor, and extinguished the conflagration. The property was insured in the Queen Insurance Company, and Mr. Last's claim for damages has been settled by Charles Lucas, their Harwich Agent. This is one of many instances which demonstrates the value of insurance against fire. For a trifling sum one can insure himself against a heavy loss.

In any case lucky Mr. Last doesn't appear to have been at the pub very long as by 1878 one Richard Edward Manhood is the landlord.

After tenures by both the Paines and the Cracknells the Chambers family take over in 1894 with Frederick at the helm. In 1901 they have Frank Salve, an Ice Cream Vendor from Italy, boarding with them and it is fun to imagine Frank selling ice cream to visitors on the Ha'penny Pier!

Frederick Chambers runs the pub until 1914 when the owners are the Colchester Brewing Company. In the lean times between the wars the pub suffers from a loss of business and is eventually sold in the 1930s becoming first the Harwich Labour Exchange and then a shop.

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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