Noble Patrons

Mary Carlton with Thomas Langley at the Three Cups (1663)



“... Let this varlet go unpunished: you will oblige the oppressed: all Harwich wich perishes under him. I could wish myself in England to tell my tale but Capt. Thomas Langley and Samuel Newton at the Three cupps in the town can and will give the same account: if they are required.” (Mary Carlton’s words, published first in 1662 in: The Self-fashioning of an Early Modern Englishwoman: Mary Carleton’s Lives, by Mary Jo Kietzman, Ashgate, 2004, p.174)

Lord Nelson (1758-1805)

Lord Nelson at the Three Cups, Harwich in Essex

Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson (1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté) came to Harwich in his ship Medusa in 1801 to assist in the formation of Sea Fencibles, a naval local defense force.


'While every possible effort was making to prepare for a most vigorous attempt on the flotilla at Boulogne, his lordship, by visiting Harwich for a few days, endeavoured to divert the attention of the enemy, and induce them to suppose that he was now going against Flushing, really meant to be the next object of attack. By this stratagem, both services were actually, at the same time, in a state of constant preparation. Having arranged matters at Harwich, his lordship returned to the Downs; from whence, on 15th, he again stood over Boulogne’ (Harrison, James The Life of the right Honourable Horatio Lord Viscount Nelson, Vol.II, London, 1806, p.354). 

Lord Nelson visited the Three Cups in 1801, as did the Prince Regent in 1813, and the Duke of Wellington in 1823. (fn.3) (Institute of Historical Research, History on Line,  A History of the County of Essex: Volume 9, the Borough of Colchester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1994, p.169-175) 

"Of the many great men that patronized the Three Cups, perhaps the greatest was Nelson. Until the "improvements" to the inn were carried out, the Nelson room was a place of pilgrimage for all admirers of the great admiral." (Morgan, Glyn The Romance of Essex Inns, Letchworth, 1983, p.47) 

During this visit, Nelson is said to have slipped off the Medusa to meet his lover Lady Hamilton at the Three Cups. Some insist that Nelson stayed aboard the Medusa which was moored in the harbor. However, others have pointed out that if he was to come ashore for a tryst it would not have be recorded.

In her 1913 book Nelson in England, Esther Meynell states that Nelson often visited Harwich and stayed at the inn.

In the same year the Great Eastern Railway Magazine informs readers that Nelson and Emma stayed in the inn when he returned home after the Battle of the Nile.

Queen Elizabeth I... stayed at the Three Cups Hotel, which was also used by Nelson on two or three occasions. (Puck, Alexander Historical Harwich, Essex Countryside, Autumn 1954, vol.5, no17, p.16)

In fact the story and the 'Nelson Room' at the Three Cups, may have originated from a Nelson visit or visits which are now  lost to history (Cooper, Winifed The Three Cups, Essex Countryside, vol.17, no.151, August 1969, p.32-35). 

One of the oldest purpose-built cinemas to survive is situated only a few meters away from the Three Cups. It opened its door for the first time on 29 November 1911. The first film screened being The Battle of Trafalgar and The Death of Nelson, to commemorate Nelson's visits to the town. 

A Cutter, The Lord Nelson of Harwich, was commissioned on Nelson's death in 1805. The ship, built to commemorate Nelson's visits to Harwich, was constructed by J. L. Douglas of Yarmouth. It was launched the year after Nelson's death in 1806, being acquired by Captain George Deane of Harwich, from the executors of Daniel Stewart of Harwich, on 23 February 1810 for £2,700. (Essex Records Office, D/DU 220/5, D/DU 220/6 & D/DU 220/7)

There were scenes of great excitement in the town when Nelson, the hero of the battle of Copenhagen, landed at Harwich, and from the balcony of the Three Cups he addressed his admirers. (Mander, R. P. An Old Gateway of England, Essex Countryside?, p.93)

When you come to Harwich you must not fail to go aboard the "Ganges." It will carry you back to the days of the wooden walls of England, and when you step ashore again you can make your way to the "Three Cups," and drink a health to His Majesty, just like Nelson did no doubt many a time in the days when he stayed there. You can see his room still, a little one at the back of the hotel. The window looks out on that picturesque courtyard, with its wonderful canopy of clematis. (Carnie, T. West Happy-Go-Lucky Harwich, 1920?, George Pulman & Sons Ltd, p.16)

The public House, 'The Three Cups' is facing you, and it is recorded that Nelson once stayed there with Lady Hamilton. (Tendring District Council, Walking for Pleasure 1, Walk 1, p.2)

 The letter next in date is marked "off Harwich," and so are several others ; while in a letter to Lady Hamilton,... of that interesting old inn at Harwich, the Three Cups, to be the place where Nelson always stayed when at or off Harwich. It is true that Nelson was on the east coat from July to October of 1801, and that his letters do not always bear the place as well as the date, therefore he may have been at Harwich at some time later than his statement to Lady Hamilton. The tradition that he stayed at the Three Cups is at least worth something, even if it cannot definately be proved, and adds interest to the quaint low room with its uneaven floor, great beams, and dark walls panelled to the low ceiling, that Nelson is said to have used. (Nelson in England: A Domestic Chronicle, by Esther Meynell, 1913, p.166)

Colchester's importance as a garrison town during the French Wars (1793-1815) and its situation on the London to Harwich road saw a number of distinguished travelers stopping there when visiting or returning from Harwich. On 2nd June 1801 (Ipswich Journal, 4 June 1801; Jephcott, Inns: 125) it was reported that Lord Nelson stopped for refreshment at a Colchester inn on his way from Harwich at 2 o'clock in the morning. However dispatch letters seem to disprove this, so that date must be inaccurate.

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703)

Samuel Pepys at the Three Cups, Harwich in Essex

At the beginning of 1679 Samuel Pepys was elected MP for Harwich in Charles II's third parliament. He was elected along with Sir Anthony Deane, a Harwich alderman and leading naval architect, to whom Pepys had been patron since 1662. Pepys was often in Harwich on naval business and is said to have frequented the Three Cups in Church Street.

When Samuel Pepys visited his friend and fellow M.P. Sir Anthony Deane , the famous Harwich shipbuilder in 1678 he would have been received at the guildhall by members of the council, after which all would adjoin to the Three Cups opposite to partake of refreshment. At that time the proprietor, Samuel Newton, was a Burgess of the borough and had been mayor in 1677, following Sir Anthony Deane. During his year of office wine seems to have flowed freely and he appears to have been bothguest and host in his own house, for which the council seems to have paid.  (The Three Cups by Winifed Cooper, Essex Countryside, vol.17, no.151, August 1969, p.32-35) 

'The oldest on the heritage trail is the Three Cups on Church Street, which goes back to the 13th century. Formerly a mansion house, it was where Samuel Pepys used to work.' (Mitz Macaulay, Harwich's Place in History, Essex Countryside, February 1996, p.49)

Christopher Jones (1570-1622)



Captain Christopher Jones, master of the Mayflower, whose name will be forever connected with the new world, was a capital burgess of the borough and attended many meetings at the Three Cups. (Cooper, Winifred The Three Cups, Essex Countryside, vol.17, no.151, August 1969, p.32-35)

Records including documents signed by Christopher Jones are held in the Guildhall, directly opposite the Three Cups.

Colonel Suckling (Before 1780)

Colonel Suckling at the Three Cups, Harwich in Essex

On 5th April, Colonel Suckling initiated a search for arsonists who had tried to set fire to the dwelling house of Henry Pilham Davies, Esq. The owner of the Three Cups, Mr Abraham Hinde, having disturbed the perpetrators, had been brutally cut him down with cutlasses, and remained very ill. Colonel Suckling’s militia started their search at the Three Cups, where they found several bunches of matches and bottles with gunpowder. (The Country News Monthly Chronologer, 1780, p.237)   

Sir Thomas Cavendish (1557-1592)

Sir Thomas Cavendish at the Three Cups, Harwich in Essex

'Next door to the church is that famous old hostelry "The Three Cups" Hotel, said to take its name from the Cavendish family arms. One of the Elizabethan seamen whose fame has been somewhat obscured by that of Drake, Frobisher, and the rest, was Sir thomas Cavendish (1557-1592), who, in his short life, accomplished much. He was one of the terrors of the Spaniards, and in his little ship, the "Desire" of Harwich he made a successful voyage round the world - a superb feat of courage, skill, and endurance in those days. (Harwich & Dovercourt Official Guide, The New Centurion Publishing Co., Ltd., St. James's Chambers, Derby, 1930s?, p.18)

Sir James Thornhill (1675/6-1734)

sir James Thornhill at the Three Cups, Harwich in Essex

Sir James Thornhill, the eminent baroque artist responsible for the paintings on the inside of the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, was a regular visitor to the Three Cups. His diary entry for 25th May 1711 states his acquisition of: "Best French Clarret in flat flasks containing a qrt. & a little over is 4s. att the 3 Cupps, Mr. Edy's... Best New French in Bottles at the - 3 Cup - 3s. 6d.". He also starts his diary entry for Sunday 3rd June 1711: 

"Dined at ye 3 Cupps". (Fremantle, Katharine Sir James Thornhill's Sketch-Book Travel Journal of 1711, vols.I & II, Utrecht, 1975, p.12,21,24) 

N.B. The import of French wines had been discouraged by duties, and at times forbidden, since the beginning of the reighn of William III, because they came from an enemy country. They were hard to obtain for this reason, and their use was considerred unpatriotic. Commoisseurs nevertheless preferred them to the more readily obtainable Spanish wines. 

 In June 1718 King George I made Thornhill court painter, and in March 1720 Serjeant Painter, succeeding his former master Highmore in the latter role. On 2 May 1720, the king knighted him, the first native artist to be knighted. In the same year, he was master of the Painters' Company and in 1723 fellow of the Royal Society. 

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington at the Three Cups, Harwich in Essex

 Lord Nelson visited the Three Cups in 1801, as did the Prince Regent in 1813, and the Duke of Wellington in 1823. (fn.3) (Institute of Historical Research, History on Line,  A History of the County of Essex: Volume 9, the Borough of Colchester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1994, p.169-175)  

The Duke of Wellington visited the Three Cups in 1823. (3. E.R. xxiii. 10; lvi. 215; Colch. Expr. 12 Oct. 1972; E.C.S. 28 May 1965.)

Lord Hawkesbury: Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool (1770-1828)

Lord Hawkesbury, Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool at the Three Cups, Harwich in Essex

We know Lord Hawkesbury was at the Three Cups as in the book Sketches of History, Politics and Manners, written in the autun of 1810, by John Gamble, it reads on page 89: …when Mr Bull, the landlord, came in, saying that Lord Hawkesbury, who was then in town with his regiment of militia, would pay his respects to him in a few minutes, if he has no objection... A few moments afterwards, Mr. Bull returned, and throwing open the door, said, "My Lord Hawkesbury"...

Captain William Liveing of Harwich (1775 - ?)



In the Ipswich Journal on 4th May 1822, Captain William Liveing of Harwich was elected a capital Burgess last Monday. Captain Liveing and Mr William Randfield, Chamberlain, of this borough, in the room of the late Mr Edmund Jermyn. "The event was celebrated by an excellent dinner at the Three Cups Tavern, which was attended by the Mayor, Body Corporate, and many friends of the successful candidates". (The Kings Candlesticks)

John Hobhouse, 1st Baron Broughton (1786-1869)

John Hobhouse, 1st Baron Broughton at the Three Cups, Harwich in Essex

John Cam Hobhouse, later Baron Broughton (1786-1869), politician and best friend of Lord Byron, the eldest child of Sir Benjamin Hobhouse, bart., by his first wife, Charlotte, heiress of Samuel Cam of Chantry House, Bradford, Wiltshire, was born at Redland, Bristol, on 27 June 1786. 

'In his diary on May 21st 1813 Hobhouse books a place on the mail to Harwich, and dines with Byron and Benjamin at the St. Albans. On May 25th he takes leave “of my father, my dear Lord Byron, and of my brother Benjamin at the Spread Eagle, Grace Church Street,” and boards the coach for Harwich, where on May 26th he puts up at the Three Cups, and breakfasts and dines “in low company.” (Hobhouse on the Continent, January 1st 1813-February 6th 1814, p.327.)    

Sir Francis Drake and the Lord High Admiral (1540-1596)

Sir Francis Drake and the Lord High Admiral at the Three Cups, Harwich in Essex

"Sir Francis  Drake and the Lord High Admiral were Harwich men. They met at The Three Cups after the defeat of the Armada." (Sipple, Mavis Titbits and Tales of Essex Inns, 2001).

"Three Cups Hotel, Meeting place of Drake and Frobisher after Spanish Armada."  (Moles, A. C. Official Guide to Harwich and Dovercourt Bay [Holiday Guide], Dovercout, 1960s(?), p.27) 

Bourbon Family and Nobility of France

The Boubon family and nobility of France at the Three Cups, Harwich in Essex

In 1808 Several of the Bourbon Family and Nobility of France landed in Harwich, on seeking an asylum in England. (Clarke, B. The British Gazetteer, vol.2, p.387)

On Monday, the 29 th of August, 1808, about half-past five, p.m., his majesty’s frigate Euryalus, commanded by the Honourable Captain H. S. Dundas, arrived at this port, having on board, the Countess de Lille, consort of Louis XVIII., the Duke and Duchess d ’Angou léme, the Count and Countess de Damas, Count Etienne, and twenty-seven other persons in their suite, with a very large quantity of baggage, the wreck of their fortunes. The Count and Countess de Damas and the Count Etienne, landed in the course of the evening, and slept that night at the Three Cups.’ (Lindsey, W. H. Season at Harwich with Excursions by Land and Water, 1851) 

Sir James Spittal, Lord Provost of Edinburgh (1769-1842)

Sir James Spittal at the Three Cups, Harwich in Essex

James Spittal was a Scottish silk merchant who was Lord Provost of Edinburgh 1833 to 1837. In September and October 1815 Sir James took a tour of Europe, which he documented in a diary; Harwich 27 September 1815: Arrived here this day a 10 o'clock at the Three Cups, kept by Mr. Bull. Breakfasted then went to the Packet office and presented our passports when we obtained ticket on paying £2..14..6 for our passage to Hlvoetsluiss [Port in Holland now spelt Hellevoetsluis] - with these tickets went along with our luggage to the Customhouse where it was examined and passed and from thence conveyed onboard. We afterwards dined and embarked on board the Henry Freeling packet. Captain Mason - about  o'clock set sail for Holland on the coast of which we arrived early next morning, but owing to contrary wind, we did not reach Helveotsluiss till 9 o'clock. P.M. Slept on board that night and next morning about seven, went n shore paying one guilder for our passage to the harbour, off which our packet was then lying.

Alleyne FitzHerbert, 1st Baron St Helens PC (1 March 1753 - 19 February 1839)


HARWICH, July 10

Saturday morning Mr. Fitzherbert, with his suite, arrived at the Three Cups in this place, and the same day set off for Helvoetsluys in the Dolphin packet, on his way to the Hague to take upon him his new embassy. The celebrated Mr Howard also went over passenger in the Dolphin, on a three years tour in India. (The Ipswich Journal, 11th July 1789)

Alleyne FitzHerbert was Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia from 1783 to 1788, appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland and a member of the Privy Council in 1787, serving in the position until 1789. ... then to the Hague as envoy extraordinary, with the pay of ambassador in ordinary.

Lord Bishop of Bangor, and Lord Chief Baron Eyre (1793)


HARWICH, August 16

Saturday last the Lord Bishop of Bangor, and Lord Chief Baron Eyre with their ladies, came to the Three Cups in this place, and after visiting the encampment, expressed themselves highly gratified with the beuty of its location. (The Ipswich Journal, Saturday 17th August, 1793)

James Edward Harris, 2nd Earl of Malmesbury (19 August 1778 - 10 September 1841)


Extract of a letter from HARWICH, May 30. "This day Sir James Harris, attended only by one servant, arrived at the Three Cups in this town, and in a few hurs afterwards embarked for Holland. (The Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 3rd November 1786). One historian called James Harris "the greatest English diplomat of the eighteenth century"

Count Kielmansegg (18th century)

In many cases the landlord himself would meet the boats, and persuade the foreign travellers to follow him. At Harwich, we are told, an enterprising landlord seized a passenger's overcoat and hurrying in front of him, led him triumphantly to the Three Cups, where, the passenger, Count Kielmansegg tells us,

"we found everything we could wish for, a good cup of tea, bread and butter and well-aired, clean beds".  (Inns, Lodgings, Coffee-Houses and Clubs f​rom 18th Century Travellers by Rosamond Bayne-Powell, 1951) 

John Attwood MP (1847) & Sir Dudley Hill

'They went to adopt Sir Dudley Hill, who arrived in Harwich a few days before the election. Headed by a band and colours, he was drawn in his carriage from Dovercourt to the Three Cups, where he made a speech from an upper window, set up his Committee Rooms, and began to canvass the voters. When Attwood arrived he also made his headquarters at the Three Cups, and shared Hill's Committee Rooms. Haste drew up a list of voters which he presented to Attwood with the threat that they would not give him one of their two votes unless he "made them a good offer." "You arrange with us, and we can carry the election which way we like." (Weaver, Leonard T. Harwich Papers, 1994, p.105) 

General Balacheff, Lord Gower and Lieutenant General Baron Hotapesch (1813)

'Arrived this day at the Three Cups Inn, his Excellency General Balascheff and suite, to embark for Holland, in his Russian Majesty's frigate Sveahorg, lying at Hollesley Bay to which they were conveyed, with the carriages, by a fast sailing cutter, called the New Union, belonging to Lloyd's agents at this place. Lord Gower and Lieutenant General Baron Hotapesch also arrived here on their way to Holland. His Royal Highness the Hereditary Prince of Orange is expected here tomorrow. (Morning Post, Thursday 16 December 1813)

General Gourgaud, Survivor of St. Helena, Aid to Napoleon Bonaparte (1818)

During General Gourgaud's stay at the Three Cups, Harwich, he was strictly guarded, but he concluded himself in a very orderly manner. On Monday se'nnight he sent for the Mayor of the town, to question him as to the legality of his being carried away in so forcible manner. He is 34 years of age, thin made, about 5 feet 7 inches in statue, and possessed of a most penetrating and intelligent eye. He is considered to be a man of first-rate abilities, and has accompanied Bonaparte, with whom he was a great favourite, as his Aid-de-Camp, in every engagement within the last 15 years, having entered the army at the age of 18. General Gougaud embarked on Thursday on board the Lord Castlereagh packet, Capt. McDonough, which sailed for Cuxhaven. (Bury and Norwich Post, 25th November 1818)

If one were to ask a Napoleonic scholar about Gaspard Gourgaud the response might be, “Gourgaud? He accompanied Napoleon to St. Helena”. If it were an astute scholar the reply might be, “Gourgaud? He saved Napoleon's life in Russia”. 

Sir Arthur de Capell Broke (1823)

Travels Through Sweden, Norway and Finmark to the North Cape by Sir Arthur de Capell Broke, includes a brief description of Harwich and a stay at The Three Cups. (Rodwell & Martin, Bond-Street, London, 1823). 

James Boswell (1740-1795): Lawyer & Diarist and Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784): Poet & Biographer.

"We have already met Johnson and Boswell in Colchester. Where they stayed when they arrived in Harwich is not known with certainty, but the Three Cups is not an unlikely place. We know that it stood near the church, and the doctor's piety was "constant and fervent". Boswell records that they did attend the church and that returning to their inn they discussed Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter." (Morgan, Glyn The Romance of Essex Inns, Letchworth, 1983, p.47)  

A Letter to Colonel William Smith, General George Washington's Aide, from the Three Cups (1786)

"Little did the Colonel or Thomas Jefferson discussing maps of 'S. America' in those affectionate friendly days, foresee the plot in which a certain dark-browed Quixote from that land was to entangle them, from which one was to free himself at the other's expense, one to remain afloat, the other all but go down in the bitter waters.

That summer of 1786, Colonel Smith and lady remained in Wimpole Street, while Sir and Madame Adams took a look at the Netherlands. From an inn, with the intriguing name of 'The Three Cups,' at Harwich there is a composite letter from both to their new son-in-law. It does not need the change in the handwriting to tell us where 'Sir' leaves off and Madam begins.

'THREE CUPS HARWICH' August 5, 1786

'Dear Sir

After a very pleasant journey, here we are. We came very leisurely ... dined yesterday at Mistley (Mr. Rigby's seat very near) and slept where we are, in full view of the Land Guard Fortification. Our Carriage is on Board. Hearn is the Captain. It is my third Passage with him. The Agent for the Packette called upon us last night, in Consequence of Mr. Fraser's Letter. My Love to my dear Mrs. Smith. Mamma sends her love to you both.

'We passed a pretty Seat of the Family of Hoar, perhaps the same with that of President Hoar, once of Harvard College.

'At the Sign of the 3 Cups, a tolerable house where a better is not to be had, with a fine view of the water from 3 windows, and a memento mori from the fourth, viz a burying ground and church within half a rod of us. We are now sitting at the breakfast table.Pappa having told you where we slept &c has nothing for me to say excepting that he twice mounted John's Horse & rode 7 miles twice, which you see by computation makes 14 M. In consequence of a Letter from the Secretary of State's office the captain is obliged to give us the great cabin to ourselves, for which we must make him a compliment of 10 Guineas & 7 for the Carriage. We concluded, as there were 10 other passengers, one being a Lady, that if any of them were very sicke we could not (doing as we would be done by) refuse them admittance, so it was as well not to retain it, as the captain promised me a small room by myself. The Country from London to Harwich is very delightfull. We found a cart at Wood's from Mr. Hollis requesting us to call on him & take a dinner or Bed &c...

'He received us with great Hospitality & Miss Brand's countenance shone. She treated us with some cake, we sat an hour, took our leave & dined at Wood's. Esther sighed this morning as she was dressing me & said, how steange it seems not to have Mrs. Smith with us. I had felt it strange through the whole journey. One must be weaned by degrees. I hope you are very happy, you cannot be otherwise whilst you have the disposition to be so. Look in if you please once a weeke at our House, & let me know that it continues to stand in Grosvenor Square

adieu, Yours affectionately

                                                 'A. A."

 (Colonel William Smith and Lady by Katherine Metcalf Roof, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1929, p.139-141) 

Foreign Secretary George Canning (1823)

Foreign Secretary George Canning, (who later became Prime Minister) was in a party of 150 who dined at the Three Cups Inn, Harwich a few days ago. (The Leicester Chronicle, Saturday 22 February 1823)