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County Durham
Hartlepool Town Wall
Grid reference: NZ508331
Location: 54°41’24"N, 1°12’36"W
Population: 90,290  (2006 est)
Post town: Hartlepool
Postcode: TS24 - TS27
Dialling code: 01429
Local Government
Council: Hartlepool

Hartlepool is a town and port in County Durham standing on the north bank of the River Tees.

Hartlepool was founded in the 7th century AD, growing around the Northumbrian monastery of Hartlepool Abbey. The village grew during the Middle Ages and developed a harbour which served as the official port of the County Palatine of Durham. A railway link from the north was established from the South Durham coal fields to the historic town. An additional link from the south, in 1835, together with a new port, resulted in further expansion, with the establishing of the new town of West Hartlepool.[1]

Industrialisation and the establishing of a shipbuilding industry during the later part of the 19th century caused Hartlepool to be a target for the German Navy at the beginning of the First World War. A bombardment of 1150 shells on 16 December 1914 resulted in the death of 117 people. A severe decline in heavy industries and shipbuilding following the Second World War caused periods of high unemployment until the 1990s when major investment projects and the redevelopment of the docks area into a marina have seen a rise in the town's prospects.

Origins of name

St Hilda's Church, Hartlepool

The name of Hartlepool derives from Old English heort-ieg pol ("hart island pool").[2] Records of the place-name from early sources confirm this:

  • 649: Heretu, or Hereteu
  • 1017: Herterpol, or Hertelpolle
  • 1182: Hierdepol

A hart appears on the town's shield.

Monkey Hangers

Hartlepool is famous for allegedly executing a monkey during the Napoleonic Wars.[3] According to legend, fishermen from Hartlepool watched a French warship founder off the coast, and the only survivor was a monkey, which was dressed in French military uniform, presumably to amuse the officers on the ship. The unsophisticated fishermen assumed that this must be what Frenchmen looked like, and after a brief trial, summarily executed the monkey.

Although a popular story, it seems unlikely to be true. Historians have also pointed to the prior existence of a Scottish folk song called "And the Boddamers hung the Monkey-O". It describes how a monkey survived a shipwreck off the village of Boddam near Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. Because the villagers could only claim salvage rights if there were no survivors from the wreck, they allegedly hanged the monkey.

"Monkey hanger" and Chimp Choker are common terms of (semi-friendly) abuse aimed at "Poolies", often from bitter footballing rivals Darlington. The mascot of Hartlepool United FC is H'Angus the Monkey. The man in the monkey costume, Stuart Drummond, stood for the post of Mayor in 2002 as H'angus the monkey, and campaigned on a platform which included free bananas for schoolchildren. To widespread surprise, he won, becoming the first directly-elected Mayor of Hartlepool, winning 7,400 votes with a 52% share of the vote and a turnout of 30%. He was re-elected by a landslide in 2005, winning 16,912 on a turnout of 51% – 10,000 votes more than his nearest rival, the Labour Party candidate.
The "monkey" bone

The monkey legend is also linked with another of the town's sports clubs, Hartlepool Rovers RFC, which uses the hanging monkey as the club logo. On tours it would hang a monkey on the posts of the rugby pitch to spread the story.

In June 2005, a large bone was found washed ashore on Hartlepool beach by a local resident, which initially was taken as giving credence to the monkey legend. Analysis revealed the bone to be that of a red deer which had died 6,000 years ago. The bone is now in the collections of Hartlepool Museum Service.


Early history

Christ Church, built from dock excavations

Hartlepool began as an English settlement of the Anglo-Saxon period, the first recorded village being that which grew from the 7th century around Hartlepool Abbey. The Abbey was founded by St Aidan, the Irish missionary saint, in 640 on a headland overlooking a natural harbour. The Abbey became famous under its Abbess St Hilda, who served as abbess from 649 - 657. In time it fell into decline and was probably destroyed by the Vikings in 800.[2]

In March 2000, the Time Team archaeological investigation television programme located a lost Anglo-Saxon monastery in the grounds of St Hilda's Church.[4]

After Norman conquest of 1066, the De Brus family gained ownership of the lands surrounding Hartlepool. William the Conqueror built Durham Castle and brought stability to the area. St Hilda's Church was built on Hartlepool Headland at around this time and for centuries was known as the Jewel of Herterpol.

The village of Hartlepool was first mentioned in records in 1153 when Robert de Brus, 1st Lord of Annandale became Lord of Hartness. The town's first charter was received before 1185, for which it gained its first mayor, an annual two-week fair and a weekly market.[2]

Later Middle Ages

During the later Middle Ages, Hartlepool was an important (though still small) town, gaining a market. A major part of the reason for growth was that its harbour was improved to serve as the official port of the county palatine of Durham. The main trade developed as fishing, making Hartlepool one of the major ports in the east of Great Britain.

In 1306, Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scotland. A scion of the De Brus family, he also inherited the title of Lord of Hartness. In response to Robert's rebellion, King Edward I confiscated the title to Hartlepool and ended the Hartness title. King Edward took possession of the Bruce estates and began to improve the town's defences, but in 1315, before the defebces were completed, the Scots attacked and sacked the town.[2] The town recovered in later years. A pier built in the late 15th century.

Wars of the Modern Age

During the English Civil War another Scottish army occupied Hartlepool, this time in support of the Parliamentary forces. An English garrison replaced them after 18 months.[2]

Gun emplacements and defences were built in 1795 to repel a possible French invasion which did not come. During the Crimean War concern was about a seaborne attack by the Russians, and two batteries were built close together, the lighthouse battery in 1855 and the Heugh Battery in 1859.

Taking the waters

The town had medicinal springs, particularly the chalybeate spa near the Westgate. Thomas Gray the famous poet ('Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard') visited in July 1765 to take the waters, and wrote to his friend Dr Wharton:

I have been for two days to taste the water, and do assure you that nothing could be salter and bitterer and nastier and better for you... I am delighted with the place; there are the finest walks and rocks and caverns.

A few weeks later, he wrote in greater detail:

The rocks, the sea and the weather there more than made up to me the want of bread and the want of water, two capital defects, but of which I learned from the inhabitants not to be sensible. They live on the refuse of their own fish-market, with a few potatoes, and a reasonable quantity of Geneva [gin] six days in the week, and I have nowhere seen a taller, more robust or healthy race: every house full of ruddy broad-faced children. Nobody dies but of drowning or old-age: nobody poor but from drunkenness or mere laziness.

19th century

Buildings by the historic quay

By the early nineteenth century, Hartlepool was still a small town of around 900 people, with a declining port. In 1823 the council and Board of Trade decided that the town needed new industry, so the decision was made to propose a new railway to make Hartlepool a coal port, shipping out minerals from the Durham coalfield. It was in this endeavour that Isambard Kingdom Brunel visited the town in December 1831, and wrote: "A curiously isolated old fishing town - a remarkably fine race of men. Went to the top of the church tower for a view."

But the plan was faced by local competition from new docks. 16 miles to the north, the Marquis of Londonderry had approved the creation of the new Seaham Harbour (which was opened on 31 July 1831), while to the south the Clarence Railway connected Stockton-on-Tees and Billingham to a new port at Port Clarence (opened in 1833). Further south again, in 1831 the Stockton and Darlington Railway had extended into the new port of Middlesbrough.

The council agreed the formation of the Hartlepool Dock and Railway Company to extend the existing port by developing new docks, and link to both local collierys and the developing railway network in the south. In 1833, it was agreed that Christopher Tennant of Yarm establish the HD&RCo, having previously opened the Clarence Railway. Tennant's plan was that the HD&RCo would fund the creation of a new railway, the Stockton and Hartlepool Railway, which would take over the loss-making Clarence Railway and extended it north to the new dock, there by linking to the Durham coalfield.

After Tennant died in 1839, the running of the HD&RCo was taken over by Stockton on Tees solicitor, Ralph Ward Jackson. But Jackson became frustrated at the planning restrictions placed on the old Hartlepool dock and surrounding area for access, so bought land which was mainly sand dunes to the southwest, and established West Hartlepool. Jackson was so successful in the century at shipping coal from West Hartlepool through his West Hartlepool Dock and Railway Company, and the fact that as technology developed ships grew in size and scale, that the new town would eventually dwarf the old town.

The 8 acre West Hartlepool Harbour and Dock opened on June 1, 1847. On June 1, 1852 the 14 acre Jackson dock opened on the same day that a railway opened connecting West Hartlepool to Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. This allowed the shipping of coal and wool products east, and the shipping of fresh fish and raw fleeces west, enabling another growth spurt in the town. This resulted in the opening of the Swainson Dock on June 3, 1856, named after Ward Jackson’s father-in-law. By 1881, old Hartlepool's population had grown from 993 to 12,361, but West Hartlepool had a population of 28,000.

Ward Jackson helped to plan the layout of West Hartlepool, and was responsible for the first public buildings. He was also involved in the education and the welfare of the inhabitants. In the end, he was a victim of his own ambition to promote the town. Accusations of shady financial dealings, and years of legal battles, left him in near-poverty. He spent the last few years of his life in London, far away from the town he had created.

In 1891, the two towns had a combined population of 64,000. But by 1900 the two Hartlepools were one of the four busiest ports in the country, and West Hartlepool had a population of 63,000.

20th century

The modern town represents a joining together of "Old Hartlepool", locally known as the "Headland", and West Hartlepool. What was West Hartlepool became the larger town and both were formally unified in 1967. Today the term "West Hartlepool" is rarely heard outside the context of sport, but the town's only premier Rugby Union team still proudly retain the name.

The name of the town's professional football club reflected both boroughs; when it was formed in 1908, following the success of West Hartlepool in winning the FA Amateur Cup in 1905, it was called "Hartlepools United" in the hope of attracting support from both towns. When the boroughs combined in 1967 the club renamed itself "Hartlepool" before renaming itself Hartlepool United in the 1970s. Many fans of the club still refer to the team as "Pools".

The area became heavily industrialised with an ironworks (established 1838) and shipyards in the docks (established in the 1870s).

By 1913, no fewer than 43 ship-owning companies were located in the town, with responsibility for 236 ships. This made it a key target for Germany in the First World War. One of the first German offensives against Britain was the Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby on the morning of 16 December 1914, when units of the Imperial German Navy bombarded Hartlepool, West Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarborough. Hartlepool was hit with a total of 1150 shells, killing 117 people.

Two coastal defence batteries at Hartlepool returned fire, firing 143 shells, damaging three German ships, the Seydlitz, Moltke and Blücher. The Hartlepool engagement lasted roughly 50 minutes, and the coastal artillery defence was supported by the Royal Navy in the form of four destroyers, two light cruisers and a submarine, none of which had any significant impact on the German attackers. Private Theophilus Jones of the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, who fell as a result of this bombardment, is commonly described as the first military casualty on British soil since the English Civil War. This event (the death of the first soldiers on British soil) is commemorated by a 1921 memorial in Redheugh Gardens together with a plaque unveiled on the same day (seven years and one day after the East Coast Raid) at the spot on the Headland (the memorial by Philip Bennison[5] illustrates four soldiers on one of four cartouches and the plaque, donated by a member of the public, refers to the 'first soldier' but gives no name). A living history group, the Hartlepool Military Heritage Memorial Society, portray men of that unit for educational and memorial purposes.

An attempt by the German High Command to repeat the attack a month later led to the Battle of Dogger Bank on 24 January 1915 at which the Blücher was sunk.

A view down Church Street from Christ Church tower

Hartlepool suffered badly in the Great Depression of the 1930s and suffered high unemployment until the start of the Second World War, during which its shipbuilding and steel-making industries enjoyed a renaissance. During Second World War, RAF Greatham (also known as RAF West Hartlepool) was located on the current South British Steel Works. Most of the town's output for the war effort were "Empire Ships". German bombers raided the town 43 times.

After the war, both industries went into a severe decline. "Blanchland", the last ship to be constructed in Hartlepool, left the slips in 1961. There was a boost to the retail sector in 1969 when Middleton Grange Shopping Centre was opened by Princess Anne, with over 130 new shops.

Before the shopping centre was opened, the old town centre was located around Lynn Street, but most of the shops and the market had moved to a new shopping centre by 1974. Most of Lynn Street had by then been demolished to make way for a new housing estate. Only the north end of the street remains, now called Lynn Street North. This is where the Hartlepool Borough Council depot was based (alongside the Focus DIY store) until it moved to the marina in August 2006. By the 1980s the area was again severely affected by unemployment. A series of major investment projects in the 1990s revived the town centre with a new marina, rehabilitation of derelict land, the indoor conversion to modernise Middleton Grange Shopping Centre from the 1960s brutalist architecture, the Historic Quay regeneration, and the construction of much new housing, which has led to the town becoming improbably chic in recent years.


Offshore supply vessels in Hartlepool docks
Former US Navy "ghost ship" awaiting scrapping in Hartlepool

Hartlepool has been a major seaport virtually since it was founded, and has throughout its entire history maintained a proud fishing heritage. During the industrial revolution massive new docks were created on the southern side of the channel running below the Headland, which gave rise to the town of West Hartlepool.

Now owned by PD Ports, the docks are still in use today and still capable of handling vessels of virtually all shapes and sizes. However, the capacity of the docks is now a fraction of what it once was, as after years of industrial downturn, a large portion of the former dockland was converted into a Superior Marina, capable of berthing 500 vessels. Hartlepool Marina is home to a wide variety of pleasure and working craft, with passage to and from the sea being determined by a lock, and visitors are always welcome to lay over and enjoy the hospitality of the town.

Hartlepool also has a permanent RNLI lifeboat station.


Hartlepool's economy has historically been linked with the maritime industry, something which is still at the heart of local business. Within the greater docks development, Able UK is a leading maritime recycler, which in the Teesside Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre (TERRC), owns and operates the largest purpose-designed facility for recycling redundant marine structures.[6] TERRC dismantled 13 former US Naval Ghost fleet vessels in 2003,[7][8] and in February, 2009, decommissioned the French Navy aircraft carrier Clemenceau.[7] Hartlepool's historic links to the maritime industry are centred around the "Maritime Experience", and the supporting exhibits PS Wingfield Castle and HMS Trincomalee.

Camerons Brewery was founded in 1852. Following a series of take-overs, it came under the control of the Castle Eden Brewery in 2001 who merged the two breweries, closing down the Castle Eden plant.[9] It brews a range of cask ale|cask and bottled beers, including Strongarm, a 4% abv bitter, and Castle Eden Ale, a 4.2% bitter.[10]

Hartlepool nuclear power station is an advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) type nuclear power plant opened near Hartlepool in the 1980s.

Middleton Grange Shopping Centre is the main shopping location. Aside from the local sports clubs, other local entertainment venues include a cinema and UK Super Bowl.

Tall Ships' Races

On 28 June 2006, Hartlepool celebrated after winning its bid to host The Tall Ships' Races.[11] The town welcomed up to 125 tall ships in 2010, after being chosen by race organiser Sail Training International to be the finishing point for the race. Hartlepool greeted the ships, which sailed from Kristiansand in Norway on the second and final leg of the race.


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Hartlepool)