A Royal Navy Dockyard was established at Harwich in 1652. It was ideally positioned for readying the fleet in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the seventeenth century. Thereafter its importance waned; it ceased to operate as a Royal Dockyard in 1713, but was leased to a succession of private operators under whom naval and commercial shipbuilding continued. The Navy maintained a small storage and refitting base there until 1829. One unusual structure surviving from the dockyard is a very rare treadwheel crane of 1667, which was in use until the early twentieth century before being re-sited on Harwich Green in the 1930s. The dockyard bell, dating from 1666, is preserved on the original site, which still operates as a commercial port (known as Navyard since 1964).
A wooden board on the dockyard gate lists some 58 Men-of-war built at the Old Naval Yard there from 1660-1827. During the First World War a flotilla, the Harwich Force, was based at the port. During the Second World War parts of Harwich were again requisitioned for naval use, and ships were based at HMS Badger, a shore establishment on the site of what is now Harwich International Port. Badger was decommissioned in 1946, but the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service maintained a headquarters on the site until 1992.