Town celebrates Royal Charter grant

By James HoreA CIVIC service has been held to mark the 400th anniversary of the granting of a town's Royal Charter. King James I gave the port town of Harwich its Royal Charter on April 18, 1604, when the population was just over 1,000 people.

By James Hore

A CIVIC service has been held to mark the 400th anniversary of the granting of a town's Royal Charter.

King James I gave the port town of Harwich its Royal Charter on April 18, 1604, when the population was just over 1,000 people.

The historic event was commemorated yesterday with the service at the town's St Nicholas Church, conducted by the Bishop of Colchester and in the presence of the Lord Lieutenant of Essex.


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An exhibition was also open to the public in the town's Guildhall, which included the original charter and two specially-commissioned topographical models showing how Harwich was in 1604.

The Royal Charter marked a milestone in the town's history, giving Harwich a new status and the right to control its own affairs for the first time.

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Harwich mayor, Les Double, said the 400th anniversary celebrations had been a special occasion for the town.

"Harwich has arranged a large number of events throughout 2004 to celebrate this important anniversary, but this weekend is the central part of the celebrations," he added.

"The people of Harwich have always been fiercely proud of our history and heritage and this weekend represents all that Harwich has stood for during the past 400 years."

Mr Double said the many visitors to the town had made it especially enjoyable. "I am particularly pleased that the council from the Hook of Holland will be joining us for the occasion and I am sure it that it will be a memorable weekend for everyone," he added.

The celebrations were just the beginning of a year-long series of events, which also include a sailing regatta and a visit by the residents of Harwich, Massachusetts in America.

The town's anniversary will also be recognised by the issue of a commemorative postal cover and a book, written by Harwich's honorary archivist, Dr David Male, that charts 1,000 years of local government in Harwich at the port town.

For more information on the charter and this year's events, log on to www.harwich-charter-400.co.uk.

n The celebrations in Harwich yesterday also capped a week in which BBC Essex broadcast from the LV18 lightship in the town's harbour to mark the 40th anniversary of the pirate station Radio Caroline.

Crowds - including members of the Essex chapter of an Harley Davidson owners group - gathered on the quay to welcome the DJs, led by veteran of the airwaves, Keith Skues, back on to dry land.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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