The British Flag

Status:Open as a pub
Phone:01255 502717

A classic Harwich pub still very much open for business today the British Flag still has the feel of a traditional beerhouse and was always very popular with Trinity House seamen.

The British Flag, Harwich
The British Flag.


It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the British Flag started trading as a public house, the building would appear to date from the late 18th or early 19th Century and it first appears in licensing records around 1873 as a beerhouse.

The owner at that time seems to be one Samuel Dutton from Dovercourt but by 1889 we find that the owners are named as Woods & Dutton and the Woods element certainly appears to be the Woods & Co. Brewery from Hadleigh in Suffolk. The same partnership also seems to own the Bird in Hand in Dovercourt at the same time.

It is highly probable that prior to 1873 the premises were a beerhouse under the terms of the 1830 licensing act which made it very easy to open a private house for the consumption of beer, although not spirits and fortified wines. Beer houses were not permitted to open on Sundays and the beer was often served in jugs dispensed directly from the wooden barrels. Such premises were often very profitable and after explosive growth in the number of such establishments the government clamped down and brought licensing under magisterial control with a new act in 1869.

Certainly in 1880 Fred Kettle and his family are running the pub, having taken over from James Nunn, and have a domestic as well as a nursemaid for their two children.

The Kettles stay at the pub over 20 years and in this time they build up a highly successful mineral water business in the pub's cellar. The Kettle name soon became famous in Harwich and Dovercourt and even further afield as their soft drinks won awards and they moved out of the British Flag and to larger new premises on the Bathside and then to Gwyne Road in Dovercourt.

When the Kettles move out in the early 1900s Joseph Sherman takes over and the pub is bought by Mann, Crossman and Paulin, the London brewers. Although some alterations are carried out the pub broadly retains its 19th Century pub front and interior today.

In 1937 the pub was taken over by Mr. and Mrs. Claude Whitnall from Mrs. Whitnall's parents on their retirement and they ran it for the next 50 years.

Interestingly the pub remained a beerhouse right up until 1953 when the brewery obtained a full licence from the Harwich Court, the licence costing £2,000.

The British Flag, Harwich
The British Flag.

The British Flag 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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