The Harwich Treadwheel Crane


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017202

Date first listed: 16-Feb-1948

Date of most recent amendment: 11-Feb-2000


Ordnance survey map of The Harwich Treadwheel Crane
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Tendring (District Authority)

Parish: Harwich

National Grid Reference: TM 26215 32469

Reasons for Designation

The Harwich Treadmill Crane is believed to be unique, being the earliest surviving example of this type of structure in England. It is now the sole visible element of the 17th century naval dockyards, which developed from a supply base in this important deep water harbour during the Spanish and French Wars of the 15th and 16th centuries, and became properly established around 1660 in reponse to increased hostility with the Dutch. Despite having been relocated and rebuilt, the structure is substantially authentic and has few modern alterations. Furthermore, the present location still has relevance to its former setting, being close to both the site of the former dockyards and the historic core of the town, set in a comparable shoreline location and featuring on the well-established Harwich Maritime Heritage Trail.


The monument includes a 17th century harbour crane, relocated in 1932 and now situated near the eastern shore of the Harwich peninsula, towards the northern edge of Harwich Green. The crane, which is Listed Grade II*, is housed in a rectangular structure, measuring some 8m by 4.5m, with the boom or jib protruding from the eastern (seaward) end. The timber framed housing has four bays (some parts indicating the reuse of ships' timbers), the two eastern bays strengthened with angled supports (inverted kneelers) to carry the weight of the loaded jib, and the two end frames cross braced. Shiplapped weatherboards cover the lower two- thirds of the structure, with open frames (now sealed with mesh to keep out birds) for light beneath the hipped roof. The roof is clad with pantiles over the main section and felt above the jib, replacing wooden boards recorded prior to its relocation. A central north-south axle carries a pair of spoked wooden treadwheels, each 5m in diameter with narrow barrel-staved walkways. During operation, the men turning the wheels would have raised or lowered loads via the iron chain which is still wound around the centre of the axle. This continues through an aperture beneath the eastern gable and along the boom (to which it is now attached). The boom itself is mounted on a vertical pivoting post with a diagonal brace and a strengthened (hanging knee) spandrel. The underside of the boom is carved with scallop and ogee motifs. The crane is thought to have been erected in 1667 on the orders of the Duke of York, as part of a renewed phase of activity in the naval dockyard established at Harwich in 1657. It originally stood some 200m to the north, near the modern pilots' station and the former site of the Napoleonic `Bathside Bay' battery. The structure was moved to its present location in 1932 for public diplay when the dockyard area was redeveloped. It was enclosed by a dwarf brick wall and iron railings in the early 1970s. The brick wall and iron railings, two anchors on display within the enclosure, the various internal and external information boards and the bird-screen mesh, are all excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath and the structures to which these features are attached are included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 29440

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Medlycott, M, Harwich: Historic Town Assessment Report, (1998)
Clark, D W, 'The Essex Review' in The Harwich Crane, , Vol. 42, (1933), 1-15
609-1/3/47, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, Harwich, (1951)
RCHME, Monuments of Essex, (1922)
Text and photographic record, Shaw, R, 0052: The Harwich Crane, (1995)

End of official listing