The Spread Eagle

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

This historic Harwich pub closed in the 1950s. It was known previously in its early history as the Star and was regarded after the war as the oldest pub in the borough.

The Spread Eagle, Harwich
The Spread Eagle.


It is difficult to fathom the early history of the building known today as Eagle House but it seems to date from the early 18th Century and may well have been built as a public house.

In 1730 we read in Dale's History and Antiquities of Harwich and Dovercourt that:

This Town is sometimes overflown by great Tides, the last of which was about the Year 1723 when the Water ran thro' the West Street and was so high at that End next the Gate, that Boats rowed in thereat as high as the Spread Eagle Ale-house, at which Door some Men sat in their Boat, and drank divers (several) Pots of Beer.

Certainly by the early 19th Century it was an established public house trading as the Spread Eagle and became part of the estate of the Harwich Brewery run by Thomas Cobbold.

When Thomas Cobbold retired in 1837 the pub was sold at auction and was described thus; A Freehold Public House called the Spread Eagle, situated in West Street, Harwich; containing good Front Parlor and Bar, Tap Room, Wash-house and large Parlor in the rear, front Sitting Room and Bed Chamber, four back Bed Rooms, two front Attics, Lumber Room, and Man's Room, Cellars under-ground, small Yard, in which is a Wash-house and Pantry, Stabling for five Horses, with Loft over, Yard and Shed. In the occupation of Mary Joyce.

Charles Joyce has taken over the pub in 1827 but ten years later his wife Mary was running it with her staff which continued until 1848 when William Rumsey took over. The Rumsey family would run the Spread Eagle until 1881 with Louisa taking over after her husband's death.

The East Anglia Daily Times reported the transfer of the licence on 11th May 1881 from Louisa Rumsey to Joseph Henry Kersey and the Star of the East reported that the licence had been transferred again on December 9th 1885 from Mrs. Pettitt to Louis Tovell.

It would appear that Mrs. Pettitt had acquired that licence after her husband had deserted her and she had not heard from him for three years but that she then married Mr. Tovell because the 1891 census lists Louis Tovell, his wife Jane and their daughter Jane Pettitt living at the Spread Eagle.

Unfortunately in 1893 tragedy struck as it was reported that; A 15 year old girl, Florence Pettitt, the youngest daughter of Mrs. Tovell, had been taken seriously ill at about 10pm and died at 2am the following day. The deceased had always been a delicate girl. On Sunday she appeared to be in her usual health and on returning from the church assisted in the bar until closing time. After supper Mrs. Tovell, seeing that the deceased was looking very ill, sent for a doctor, who advised that she should be put to bed and kept very quiet; shortly afterwards she became worse. The doctor was sent for again, but in the short time elapsing before his arrival, she died.

Tragedy struck again in 1900 when the stalwart Mrs. Tovell lost her second husband but she kept the pub until 1909 when it appears to have been acquired by Mann, Crossman and Paulin the London brewers.

In 1922 the Spread Eagle was the venue for a public meeting that resulted in the purchase of the Royal Oak ground on behalf of Harwich & Parkeston Football Club. The £500 required was collected in under ten minutes and it was proudly claimed that the borough was thus assured of a football venue for perpetuity. The Spread Eagle was regarded as the HQ of the football for many years afterwards.

In 1940 the Spread Eagle became owned by brewers Ind Coope and stayed in their ownership until it closed in 1954 and became a private residence called Eagle House.

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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