This walk starts in Anchor Hill, an ancient and informal square in the heart of the Conservation Area. On the west side in the corner of the Quay is Anchor House, which adjoins Anchor Cottage and Bonita.
These were built in about 1700 or earlier and form a very attractive group. There used to be a public house called The Anchor which suffered some damage in the earthquake of 1884. The Cage or House of Correction was located in Anchor Hill until 1850, next to the Whipping Post dating from the 17th Century.
On the north side of Anchor Hill is an ancient building, No. 1 High Street, recently altered and restored, once used as a bakehouse but now in use as a dwelling. This 16th century timber-framed building forms part of a group extending along West Street. Opposite on the east side of Anchor Hill and High Street is an interesting group of listed buildings, 2 to 4 High Street, used as shops on the ground floor. It has varying roof heights and the appearance is enhanced by the view of the church tower above. Notice the parapeted central section with the semi-hexagonal bay window on the first floor. A pleasing sense of enclosure is achieved by the 19th century dwellings on the south east and west sides.
Leaving Anchor Hill and entering the Quay, the Wivenhoe Sailing Club enclosed dinghy park and launching facilities are opposite on the river side of the Quay. On the east side of this area it is possible to take the ferry to Rowhedge or Fingringhoe for two hours or so each side of high tide. These ferry trips are available at weekends during the summer.
Turn right, by Anchor House, once The Anchor pub, and admire the bow-fronted cottages, once owned by local Captains and built in the 1600s.
Continue past the warehouse used more recently as a store by Wilkin’s, the jam company in Tiptree, and before that for the smoking and canning of fish. Follow the quay edge and come to the residential development called Old Wivenhoe Quay and more often by locals as Wivenhoe Port.
In reality, it is the site of an historic shipyard, where wonderful boats were built from 1782 until 1961. Craft from fishing smacks, sail and steam yachts, tramp steamers and gun-boats for Lord Kitchener and General Gordon. An experimental submarine, the Volta, was constructed in 1905 and for the second world war, sections of the Mulberry Harbour as well as motor torpedo boats were built here.
The Dry Dock, where boats could be finished off or repaired, has been retained as a water feature for the development.
There is a pleasant walk along the quay, towards Rowhedge. Or turn back, in the direction Wivenhoe’s historic waterfront. Find yourself standing outside Anchor House once more.
Continue along The Quay on the corner with Anchor Hill is an attractive 3-storey colonial brick building, being the British Legion Hall. At one time the building was a sail-making premises.
Moving eastwards is the Storehouse, a 3-storey dwelling built about 1800. It was a public house called The Maidenhead and later The Swan. It now has semi-circular bow windows of two storeys in height having changed its facade almost each decade. Next to the Storehouse is the Nottage Institute, the River Colne’s Nautical Academy and Museum open to visitors on Sundays. It contains a wealth of information on Wivenhoe’s maritime history. It was named after Captain Charles Nottage, a keen yachtsman who at the end of the 19th century left some money in his Will to be used for the creation of a nautical institute at Brightlingsea or Wivenhoe to enable professional sailors and yachtsmen to improve their knowledge of seamanship. The building was purchased from Hector Barr, Wivenhoe’s last sailmaker, in 1947 when the Nottage moved from the Lucy Dee in Black Buoy Hill. The majority of people taking classes at the Nottage now are amateur sailors and weekend yachtsmen or yachtswomen.
Immediately to the east of the Nottage is the Rose & Crown public house. It is mainly a mid-19th century building with key windows on the Quay elevation and a bow window at first floor level on the Rose Lane elevation. There has probably been a public house on this site since the 18th century.
100 years ago, all important public houses in Wivenhoe had Captain’s rooms where the captains of the big racing yachts, laid up in the Colne for the winter, could meet together. They were also used at this time for auctions of boats and fittings, timber from wrecked boats and other business transactions. In the 18th century, when tariffs were high, smuggling of brandy, tobacco, silks and other goods was rife on the Quay, hence the presence at that time of the Revenue Cutter in Wivenhoe. It is said there were hidden storage spaces between rooms in some old houses near to the Quay.
Crossing Rose Lane, Quay House is on the east corner. This is an early 19th century 3 storey building of yellowish grey gault bricks. John Harvey, the renowned yacht builder who followed his father in the occupation of this shipyard west of town lived here in the 1860s. John Martin Harvey was born here in 1863 but was not interested in following his father’s occupation. He became famous as one of the last great actor managers, his greatest triumph being the portrayal in 1899 of Sydney Carlton in The Only Way based on Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. He was knighted for his success in the theatre in 1921. To mark Essex Heritage Year 1989, Essex County Council fixed a plaque to this house in memory of Sir John Martin Harvey.
Moving eastwards along the Quay passing a large 3 storey private house, we come to what was the premises of the Colne Marine & Yacht Company: a 2 storey building of yellowish stock bricks and red bricks enclosing a long narrow yard, converted in 1999 to cottages. Originally though, it was an early 18th century shipwright’s premises and store. In 1932 the buildings were used for smoking and preparing sprats for tinning. The Colne Marine & Yacht Company was founded in 1952 and at that time turned out four or give yachts a year. It was mainly used for repair work and the laying-up of boats. Also in the vicinity of this yard was the site of yet another public house, The Sailor’s Return.
At the end of Bethany Street, the old ferry across to Fingringhoe was located and used until 1952. Ferry House extends along Bethany Street with the end facing the Quay. It adjoins Berry House and forms part of an attractive terrace including The Vines. These are early to mid 19th century houses. Ferry House was previously the home of the Ferryman and was owned by the Colchester Borough Council.
At the end of the Quay is The Folly, the first house being the 3 story Folly Bakehouse, originally a 2 storey building with a shop front. Some houses in The Folly have private gardens with boat moorings on the river side of this narrow road.
After The Folly and the end of St. John’s Road with its light industrial premises is the former shipyard site once owned by J.W. Cook and Company. After building the Lord Nelson, a sailing vessel designed specifically for handicapped people, the firm closed down, owing to a downturn in trade, when an era of professional shipbuilding came to an end in Wivenhoe.
The future of this 200-year old shipyard will be residential but with attractive areas for people to walk through as well as the river frontage to enjoy. The fitting out basin, known locally as the Wet Dock will be home to Wivenhoe’s fishermen.
Also visible is the tidal surge barrier built by the National Rivers Authority (since re-named the Environment Aency) in 1992. The barrier gates close whenever there is a threat of flooding of the river above the barrier.
The Sailing Club provides regular racing of dinghies like the Laser and Wivenhoe One Design. These craft were designed in 1935 by then local doctor, Dr Walter Radcliffe, and can now be seen in the summer months moored opposite the Club-house.
Looking east, downstream, the marshes have long been used for grazing cows.