The Electric Palace, King's Quay St
Take a ferry over the Stour estuary from Shotley Quay and you find yourself in Old Harwich. Kings Quay St is a short step away and behold: a delightful pocket-sized kinema for the showing of those awful talkies which will never catch on...

Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich 42006 image
The decorative facade has been considerably enhanced since 2006 bythe picking out of raised details in blue-grey and the gilding of the capitals:
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The central ticket booth is flanked by two entrances:
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The Harwich Society information plaque says it all.
Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich 10
The Electric Palace cinema, Harwich, is one of the oldest purpose-built cinemas to survive complete with its silent screen, original projection room and ornamental frontage still intact. Other interesting features include an open plan entrance lobby complete with paybox, and a small stage plus dressing rooms although the latter are now unusable. There is also a former gas powered generator engine with a 7 foot fly wheel situated in the basement. The cinema was built in 18 weeks at a cost of 1,500 and opened on Wednesday, November 29th, 1911, the first film being The Battle of Trafalgar and The Death of Nelson. The creator of the Palace was Charles Thurston, a travelling showman well known in East Anglia, and it was designed by the Ipswich architect Harold Ridley Hooper ('The Colonel' 1886-1953), at the time a dynamic young man of 26 years who demonstrated his imaginative flair with this his first major building. The cinema closed in 1956 after 45 years interrupted only by the 1953 floods and was listed as a building of sociological interest in September 1972 and is now a Grade II* listed building. It re-opened in 1981 and now runs as a community cinema showing films every weekend.

24 Kings Quay Street,
'School House'
Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich School House 1
Harwich Corporation School or Free School. The first proper school in Harwich was the Humphrey Parsons School in Kings Quay Street (altgernatively known as the Corporation School and also the Free School) built by Sir Humphrey Parsons in 1724. There were thirty two boys, admitted at the age of eight and remaining at the school until they were fourteen, at a cost of 7.10s. per annum to educate eight boys. The Corporation of Harwich increased the salary to 40 a year out of their own funds and added twenty-four boys to the free establishment. The Corporation is the patron and the school and house were uniformly given to the curate of Harwich in aid of his curacy. However, recently the Corporation has given it to a non-resident clergyman who conducts it by a lay assistant; the curate is consequently distressed for a house. In 1855 the name was changed to the Harwich Corporation School when Harwich High School was opened but was later used as an annexe to the Harwich Further Education Centre. In a derelict condition,
it was restored in 1981as a dwelling house, today called ‘School House’.
The tablet below the coat of arms at first floor level reads:
Boni moribus & litters
Et Religions Sanctiffimae rudimentis
Secunduni instituta ECCLESIAE ANGLICANAE
Has AEdes Sacrari voluit
Sumptibusq; fuis extrui curavit
Civic & Aldermannus Londinensis
Ad Comitia Palrliamentaria ab hoc Burgo delegatus
A.D. 1724.
Patrons vult Fundator
Tu largitoris eximij munifi entiae
Felices des eventus
Te Favente Honori Succedant Tuo
Et Juventus & AEdes
Nullo peritura die.’

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The hand-caligraphed information plaque to the right of the front door reads:
'This edifice for instructing the youth of Harwich in good manners, literature and the doctrine of the Church of England, was founded and built at the proper  charge of Humphrey Parsons, Esq. citizen and Alderman of London and Member of Parliament for this borough, A.D1724. The founder begs thee, O Almighty God, to take it into thy protection; do thou prosper the munificence of the illustrious benefactor, and under thy favour may both the youth and the building succeed to thy honour for ever ......'
The mineral plaque to the left of the front door bears archaic-looking lettering: 'SCHOOL HOUSE', which may not be as old as it seems.

19 Kings Quay Street 'Bank'
Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich Bank
In 2016 this building was the Harwich Antiques Centre and Old Bank Studios art gallery. Quite clearly it was built as a banking house with the typical provincial 'BANK' in relief capitals above the main door, but there is nothing typical about the splendid architectural detailing.

18-18a Kings Quay Street
Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich Wellington 12015 images
The half-circle at first floor level bears the lettering:

in white, drop-shadow capitals.
Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich Wellington period
The period view above shows it to be a public house with, above the front ground floor windows at left, 'Cobbold Beers' and at right: 'Wines & Spirits'. The Grade II Listing text mentions a date of 1798. The public house is built in red, Flemish-bond brickwork with Gault brick dressings. The front has a plain parapet and an off-centre column of the facade projects slightly to house the old main doorway and bricked-up first storey window recess, both with painted semicircular arches on impost blocks. After a chequered career during which part of the pub was used as a music hall, Cobbold's (the brewery originated in Harwich, of course) bought it in 1907.

Wellington Road
This one appears to have disappeared...
Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich Infants School 1875
Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich Infants School 1875   Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich Infants School 1875
A part of the building has fallen onto the pavement and some kind soul has swept it up.

65 Church Street, Hanover Inn
Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich Hanover Inn
(24 Kings Quay Street entrance)
Originally 16th and 17th century houses with the front rebuilt in the early 19th century. In Victorian times it became a dairy and dining room. The dining rooms were converted to a public house in the 20th century. In 1872 the pub was licenced as a beer-house and became known as an inn. Many visitors to Harwich made for the Hanover Square Dining Rooms, which wereunder the proprietorship of Mr William Lawrence for some forty years. The premises are excellently adapted for business. well situated close to the church and the esplanade, there is a magnificent dining room on the ground floor, also one upstairs.

18 Church Street
Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich 1698
2015 images
in a roundel, with relief details picked out in black. This address was, in 2015, occupied by The Book Annex: New Academic Books.

Church Street, Guildhall
Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich Guildhall
2015 images
The inscribed panel reads: ‘This Guildhall was restored by Harwich Town Council, who succeeded The Harwich Borough Council (1604-1974) on April 1st 1974. Restoration commenced in August 1975 and was completed in April 1977.’
[Erected by The Harwich Society’]
The royal coat of arms above bears the usual inscriptions: 'Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense' and 'Dieu Et Mon Droit'.

64 Church Street The Three Cups (former pub)
Ipswich Historic lettering: Harwich 3 Cups
2015 images
The Three Cups Hotel was situated next door to the Parish Church of St Nicholas in Church Street, People often asked Why the Three Cups? It is said that the Three Cups are on the arms of the Cavendish family – one of whom, Sir Thomas Cavendish (1557-1592), was the terror of the Spaniards and in his little ship, the Desire of Harwich, he made a successful voyage round the world – a superb feat of courage, skill, and endurance in those days. Naturally the town desired to honour such a worthy son. (Incidentally Cavendish Street in Ipswich is named after this sea captain.) Originally it was an L-shaped, early 16th century building with another wing added in the 17th century and later refronted. The building had many improvements including a Georgian Facade and an archway at the rear. On the first floor level there was a late Tudor plaster ceiling and a staircase with twisted balusters of  c.1700. The structure was remodelled in 1949, when the top storey and archway at the rear was removed. Many famous people have enjoyed hospitality at this ancient establishment. The hotel was very spacious with its comfortably furnished lounge, a dining room, and private rooms for teas, receptions and other functions. There were a number of comfortable bedrooms with gas fires and modern fittings. Electric lighting was installed throughout. Why is Nelson depicted on the hotel sign? The portrait is based on the painting Horatio Nelson by Lemuel Francis Abbott, 1797; Lady Frances Nelson is on the left; Emma, Lady Hamilton on the right. A carving of Lady Hamilton is a reminder that Lord Nelson was living in the Three Cups while the fleet was being refitted in the harbour, although there no documents to prove that Lord Nelson actually stayed here. The Three Cups closed in 1995 and is now a private dwelling.

The Alma Inn,
25 Kings Head Street
Not far from the cinema and the ferry is this hostelry at 25 Kings Head Street with a huge blue painted cartouche on the side wall (it originally contained much larger text, blacl letters on white) with the sign:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Harwich 12006 image Ipswich Historic Lettering: Harwich 12
The Alma Inn was once a merchant’s house owned by Captain Twitt, a relative of Thomas Twytt, a merchant brewer of Harwich in 1599. the Alma traded as an alehouse around 1871 as The Alma Dining Rooms and was opened by Charles Cunningham, a brewer of Ipswich. It then became a Tolly Cobbold house, and the tenant from 1932 until 1953, was William Chambers. Upon his retirement the tenancy was taken up by his son Arthur who ran it until 1987. It changed names to the Alma at the turn of the century. How the Alma pub got its name is not known, an Alma is actually an Egyptian dancing girl, and there is no obvious link between the land of the pharaohs and King’s Head street pub. It is more likely to be named after the Battle of the Alma in the mid-19th century. After the closure of the Tolly Cobbold Brewery the Alma was taken over by Pubmaster, who in turn were bought by Punch Taverns in 2004. This large, dark blue cartouche features traditional, centred pub capital letters. In 2006 it is clear that the tenants or owners have had to remove a large amout of ivy from this side wall, the aerial roots leaving their mark on the surface.

Humphreys Bakery, 14 West Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Harwich bakery
Sign: 2022 image courtesy David Gaylard
Humphreys Bakery was here since at least 1890 but the business closed in 2004. Although the sign above the shop-front has been painted over, lettering can still be made out:
‘Baker … HUMPHREYS … Pastry Cook’
The upper and lower case words at each side are in a cursive script, acting as book-ends to the central decorative capitals (which appear to be painted on a gentle curve by the sign-writer). The hanging sign is a bit battered by 2022 with the lower part of the frame missing, but it's still a double-sided, attractive design with an illustration of breads and stalks of wheat. For many years, Humphreys baked 'kitchels' (spiced bread cakes) to be used in the Harwich Mayor-making ceremony on the third Thursday in May. The kitchels were thrown from the Guildhall window by the Mayor to the crowd (see the Guildhall photographs above). The bakery also boxed up the kitchels and provided them to local schools; the Mayor would then go along and make sure every child collected their kitchel. This 400 year-old tradition was once observed in some Suffolk towns, but Harwich seems to be the last town where kitchels are thrown.

Smith fruiterers, 21 Market Street
And further into the town, one of our favourites at 21 Market Street, Harwich:
 By the look of the fine ceramic panel to the right of the shop door depicting a gentleman atop a ladder resting against the bough of a tree, while a fair maiden receives the fruits of his labours in a basket below, Mr Smith once sold fruit and vegetables from these premises. Now a bookshop, the entrance still boasts this excellent piece of mosaic lettering on the trapezoidal doorstep. Replete with colourful fleur-de-lis in the corners, contiguous borders and a capital letter resembling a treble clef - perhaps Mrs Smith had a sweet voice and sang to the customers queuing for their calabrese and celeriac. 10 out of 10 for panache and preservation. These photographs date from 2006.
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[This information comes from the Harwich Old Books website (see Links). The shop is spread over three rooms on the ground floor of a historic, Grade II-listed building in the town's conservation area. The back rooms retain the late-medieval flavour of the original timber-framed building (ask to be shown the surviving carvings!), while the atmosphere in the Victorian front of the shop is quite different - this is a light-filled area, probably added in the 1880s, which served as a butcher's, greengrocer's and antique shop before we moved in. A period mural outside the front door and the elegant windows are highlights of this stage in the building's evolution. Other unusual features of the building include the 'rainback', a kind of well that was used to collect rainwater before the piped supply came to Harwich.] For more tiled doorsteps: 'Hales Chemist' Ipswich, 'Roll', Wells-Next-The-Sea, 'E.Smith', Woodbridge and Ann Williams' fine collection (see Links).

Excellent street nameplate, No. 94

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Harwich 20
Beautifully-shaped, classy serif'd capitals, multiple word street nameplate. Except that this is George Street.

The Quay
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Above: the Ha'penny Pier and the very decorative Great Eastern Hotel. Below the lettered 'PIER HOTEL' from the pier with a lightship now used as a pirate radio museum.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Harwich 22

Adjacent to the public library, Kingsway
Walking along the Old Harwich Marine Parade past the historic Low Lighthouse, the path rises up the cliff until one reaches a statue of Queen Victoria. Turn left down Kingsway and at a refurbished frontage on the right, look back at the right-angled brick wall (shown below). Yes, it's been cleaned almost to extinction, but you can just make out in huge capitals the words:
This doesn't quite ring true as a retail opportunity. We assume that the trader's name was above this in the inverted 'V' of the gable. It also suggests that the red brick structure to the left, which abuts the wall and obscures one or more letters,  post-dates the signed wall.
Ipswich Signs: Harwich 5

Old Co-op store, corner of Hordle Road and Kingsway
A little further down Kingsway on the opposite side is a relief panel with a gnomic motto ('Each for all & all for each' it definitely isn't):

Ipswich Signs: Harwich 62002 image
Although not readable in the photograph, the mottos which appear below the date (shown in decorative numerals curving round the top of the panel) on two heraldic banners are certainly there above the Old Harwich/Dovercourt branch of the Co-op. These last two photographs were taken in 2002. See our Colchester page for an explanation of this unusual Co-op motto. And our Ipswich Co-op page for several similar lettering examples.

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