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