Construction of the Great Eastern Hotel, now known as Quayside Court, commenced on April 27 1864, and the hotel was formally opened on June 1 the following year. Contemporary records detailing the hotel’s design make note of ten “medallions”, busts of important figures, consistently referred to as Sovereigns who had visited Harwich throughout history. The medallions, which still exist to this day, do not seem universally regal, however – only half appear to be monarchs, with the others appearing to be dignitaries and prominent mariners. None of the contemporary records explain precisely who these ten people are, so we must discover this for ourselves.
There exists a webpage, created by two visitors to Harwich, René & Peter van der Krogt, which makes an effort to identify the ten, with mixed success. The page gives seven names, two uncertain, and one which is provably incorrect – Christopher Jones was not notable at the time, as his, and therefore Harwich’s, connection to the Mayflower was not discovered until the early 20th century. Using that page as a guide, let’s go into detail.
#1 – Said to be Henry III.
Purely from the hairstyle, could be a number of monarchs, including Richard II, but going by the crown this is more likely to be Edward II, who confirmed what is regarded as the earliest charter specifically granted to Harwich, by Thomas de Brotherton in 1318.
#2 – One of three unknowns.
The design is almost certainly a Tudor Crown, which narrows it down. Despite appearances, this may actually be Elizabeth I; her state visit in 1561, during which she immortally described Harwich as “a pretty town, and wants nothing“, was one of the major events in Harwich history, plus one article detailing the build suggests there were to be kings and queens represented, which would not be the case otherwise. The hairstyle and facial structure are obvious stumbling blocks here.
#3 – Said to possibly be Sir Anthony Deane,
of which much will be written in this blog over time. Not a lot to go on but very possible, due to his status, and connection with the town.
#4 – Said to possibly be Samuel Pepys.
Again, little to go on, but the similarity is there, and his significance in history is of course without question.
#5 – Said to be Christopher Jones,
which as stated earlier is not the case. No clue on who this may be.
#6 – Said to be Christopher Newport.
Like with Jones, the connection between Christopher Newport and Harwich had probably not been established by this point. Incredibly similar to the previous medallion, so you could conclude they are from about the same era, but again very little beyond that.
#7 – The second of three unknowns.
Together with the previous two, could be none or all of the likes of Francis Drake, John Hawkins, and Martin Frobisher, all famed Elizabethan mariners who will have operated out of Harwich at one point or another.
#8 – The third and final of the unknowns.
Could once again be Drake/Hawkins/Frobisher etc., or even Walter Raleigh, going by the prominent ruff.
#9 – Said to be James I,
and again judging by the crown this is very likely. James I granted Harwich a significant charter in 1604, recognising it as an official borough, with Aldermen and capital burgesses.
#10 – Said to be Henry VIII,
which is almost certain. Instrumental to maritime development, and of course incorporated Trinity House in 1514, the influence of which was great in Harwich at the time the hotel was built, and remains great to this day.
Please get in touch if you have ideas about who these ten may be, or even better, if you have an official record explaining them!