The Foresters Arms
|Status:||Closed as a pub. Now the HQ of the Harwich Society and open to members a few days each year. Please contact the Harwich Society for more details.|
Said to be the oldest building in Harwich today the Foresters Arms was a pub from around 1800 to 1942 when it closed after being damaged by bombing. It was restored in 1953 and today is the headquarters of the Harwich Society.
As with any old building there are some questions about the origins of the Foresters Arms but it was almost certainly built as a house around 1450.
It is timber-framed with two storeys with attics and a long wall jetty (overhanging first storey) to the Church Street frontage. There is a two/single storey extension to the rear that was probably added when the building was a pub. The timber frame creates four bays and is largely constructed out of elm with the left hand bays forming large chambers on the ground and first floors.
One explanation for the longevity of the building is the use of the “special” elm wood from nearby Dovercourt (after which the area “Crooked Elms” is named) – Dale's The History and Antiquities of Harwich and Dovercourt says:
In this Parish grows a strong, knurly, and knotted and crooked form of Elms, famous for their several uses in husbandry, which with using wear like Iron.
In the early 19th Century the house became a pub and although it was called the Foresters Arms it was known locally as the Drum and Monkey. The precise reasons for the nickname are a little uncertain but there was definitely a monkey and a drum involved. One story says that the monkey had been trained to bang a drum to warn the licensee when a customer came in and another story has the monkey taking the drum around to collect fines for bad language – both stories could easily be true!
What we do know is that the pub was run by the same family for over 60 years. Daniel Barwood arrived with his family in Harwich in 1877 and ran the pub until his death in 1913 when his wife Harriet took over and ran it until 1923 when her son Frederick took over and ran the pub until it closed in 1942.
The Luftwaffe effectively closed the pub in 1942 when it was badly damaged by incendiary devices during a bombing raid. The story goes that although it was uninhabited it was still furnished and Fred Barwood retained the keys so he could visit it each day. When he passed away his daughter was offered the pub by the owners Ind Coope but she declined the offer and so it was sold on with restrictive covenants meaning if could not reopen as a pub.
Big, national brewing concern Ind Coope become the owners of the Foresters in 1925 by acquiring the previous owners, The Colchester Brewing Company who, in turn, had acquired another Colchester Brewer Charrington, Nicholl & Co. only 5 years earlier. Prior to 1914 Charrington, Nicholl & Co. were simply Nicholl & Co. – a pretty typical story of consolidation in the British brewing industry with brewers trying to increase their brewing capacity and tied estates.
Fortunately for the people of Harwich the building was purchased by Winifred Cooper who lovingly restored the building and lived in it for 46 years. When she died in 1999 she bequeathed the building to the Harwich Society – the organisation of which she was president. Today it is the Headquarters of the Harwich Society and opens to the public from time-to-time.
Foresters was listed Grade II by English Heritage in 1951.
Notable Facts, Things to Look Out For
- The front door is probably 19th Century but has possibly been re-used from elsewhere.
- The rear extension has brick vaulted cellars which form a “rain back” for the collection of rain water instead of a well for domestic supply.