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The Three Cups

One of Harwich's Most Famous Buildings

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Historically Important

The Three Cups is an ancient Inn frequently mentioned in Harwich records. The existing building was built as a Tudor Mansion next to the Church of St Nicholas circa 1500.

The Royal and Famous

Kings, Queens, Princes and the nobility have refreshed themselves here and admiral Nelson and Lady Hamilton are reputed to have stayed here. Queen Isabella and her son waited for their horses at The Three Cups after landing at Harwich on 24th September 1326, with Roger Mortimer, the Queens lover, to fight against her husband Edward II.

Honored and Publicly Praised

The Harwich Society erected a plaque to commemorate the sites historical importance in 1973.

An Ancient Building

The Tudor Three Cups by David Sorapure​,​ ex Head of Buildings Archaeology​, Museum of London

A conjectural view of the Three Cups Hostelry in Tudor times


Occupying a prominent position next to the church, the Three Cups is an ancient hostelry with a rich history that opened in the 16th century. The building was frequently called an ‘Elizabethan mansion’ in the seventeenth century, and was regularly used as an interim council chamber during the late eighteenth and early ninteenth centuries.

It is a late medieval house of some quality with seventeenth and eighteenth century improvement including a Georgian facade and an archway at the rear. The structure was remodeled in 1949, when the top story and archway were removed. The Three Cups Inn closed in 1995 and is now a private dwelling.

The Nelson Room, The Three Cups Hotel, Harwich, Battle of Trafalgar Centenary Celebrations

The Nelson Room, the Three Cups, Harwich, circa 1905


After Nelson's visits, including his famous visit to Harwich by sea in 1801, the room where he stayed with Emma Hamilton was turned into a museum. This postcard is one of five different postcards known to feature "The Nelson Room". This one is entitled "Nelson Room, Three Cups Hotel, Harwich" and is from the Harwich and Dovercourt set of six chromette cards first issued 27th October 1906. They were distributed for sale throughout England.


Years ago patrons of the inn were shown, for a small fee, the wood-panelled room where they stayed. Till they were removed in 1913 the room allegedly housed several relics of the great man. (Julian Foynes, The Harwich Society Highlight Magazine, no.187, Spring 2017, p.20.) 

Historic Quotes

"The Three Cups has played a leading role in Harwich's History"

(Winifred Cooper, August 1969)

"Better is not to be had"

(Sir John and Madam Abigail Adams, 5th August 1786)

"Well-placed as a stopover for Royal commuters"

(The Harwich Society & CFRA)

"An Elizabethan Mansion"

(English Heritage, 20th June 1972)

"An ancient hostelry with a rich history"

(The Harwich Society & CFRA)

The only building with a history in the town is "The Three Cups"

(In Quaint East Anglia, T. West Carnie, London, 1899, p.84)

"Visitors are sure to find good accommodation and entertainment"

(The Harwich Guide, Containing an Account of The Ancient and Present State of That Borough, J. Row, Ipswich, 1808)

"a highly popular establishment"

 (Peter R. Goodwin, Harwich and Dovercourt Pubs, 2004, p.33) 

"The Three Cups Hotel has played host to the country's two greatest seafarers, Drake and Nelson."

(The Visitor's Guide to East Anglia, Clive Tully, Derbyshire, 1990, p.150)

"comfortable and home-like reception"

(A Season at Harwich, W. H. A. Lindsey, 1851, p.21)

"by far the best inn"

(Harwich-Holland, The story of the service and the boats since 1661, L. T. Weaver, Seaford, p.7) 

"The Three Cups Hotel... associated with Drake and Nelson"

(Official Guide to Harwich and Dovercourt Bay, L. T. Weaver, Dovercourt, 1951, p.27)

"Queen Elizabeth I stayed at the Three Cups Hotel"

(Essex Countryside, Alexander Puck, Autumn 1954, p.16)

"The Three Cups hotel was used by Nelson on two or three occasions"

 (Essex Countryside, Alexander Puck, Autumn 1954, p.16) 

"a hugely significant building within the history of the town"

(The Harwich Society Highlight Magazine, The Three Cups, p.6)

"The writer... assumes that you have... explored the church and admired the Thee Cups"

(Old Harwich, The Ships and Homes of an Ancient Borough, E. Auston, Dovercourt, 1950, p.2)

"Three Cups Hotel, Harwich... THE OLDEST HOUSE IN ESSEX"

(Proprietress Mrs. A. Dorton, Burrows Guide - Harwich & Dovercourt)

"The Oldest and Best"

 (Happy-Go-Lucky Harwich, T. West Carnie, 1920?, George Pulman & Sons Ltd, p.iii) 

"THE LARGEST?: MUST have been the 3 CUPS"

(A Town of Many Pubs, Brian Woods, Dovercourt, 2002, p.26) 

"Kept by a Mr Bull who was a universal favorite"

(Edward Henry Lisle Reeve, 1881) 

"Of the many great men that patronized the Three Cups, perhaps the greatest was Nelson"

(The Romance of Essex Inns, Glyn Morgan, Letchworth, 1983, p.47)

"Arrived at “The Three Cups,” an excellent inn, where foreigners are continually going and coming"

 (The Reminiscences of Henry Angelo, 1830, p.430)

"One of the "Show Houses" of Harwich is the Three Cups Hotel"

(Harwich & Dovercourt Information Brochure, p.20-21)

"the old Three Cups Hotel, containing the room occupied by Nelson during his visits to the town"

 (Delightful Dovercourt, by E.C. Pattinson, West Drayton, 1908/9, p.19) 

"a real and very distinguished Harwich Hotel, The Three Cups"

(In the Night In the Dark: Tales of Ghosts and Less Welcome Visitors​, b​y Roger Johnson, 2011)

"the ‘Three Cups’ remains a wonderful hostel"

 (Essex Survivals with Special Attention to Essex Smugglers, by Fred Roe, R.I., R.B.C., London, 1929, p.50)

"The Three Cups inn was considered to be the most reputable hotel throughout the 19th century"

(The Victoria History of Essex, Harwich, Dovercourt and Parkeston in the 19th Century, by Andrew Senter, University of London, 2019)