The North's Permier Maritime Attraction

A brief history of Hartlepool

Hartlepool Headland has been populated more or less continuously since the dawn of history - even before it was a headland jutting into the North Sea.

Primitive man hunted here in the deer-rich forests and the first farmers took advantage of the fertile soil created by the geological activity of the Ice Age to grow their crops.

Early Christians chose the area for an important monastery and their successors used the plentiful supply of local limestone to build their splendid churches.

Kings and Queens of England and Scotland availed themselves of the Headland's strategic position for their military exploits against each other throughout the centuries.

The fortunes of Hartlepool itself have fluctuated considerably over the years: it passed into the hands of Norman, Scottish and England landlords and became, at various times, part of Durham, Northumberland and North Yorkshire. Inevitably its prosperity has been tied to the sea and many of its inhabitants have made their living from fishing, shipbuildings and sea-faring.

In the 14th century, herring fishing was of prime importance. By Queen Elizabeth I's time, Hartlepool was described as 'in a great corn country, most commodiously situated for shipping corn and lime'. By 1795 the Customs House books list the following exports:

  • 12,107 quarters of oats and wheat
  • 85 qrs pease, beans and barley
  • 35 qrs malt
  • 32.5 tons of dried fish
  • 159 pigs of lead
  • 306 ling
  • 112 firkins of butter
  • 68 ankers of ale
  • 3 casks of pork
  • 239 hams
  • 3 barrels of mustard seed
  • 3 boxes of books


The imports of the same year were '8 tons of salt and 179 chaldrons of coal', although from this period commerce gradually declined.

It was the transportation of coal which first brought Hartlepool into the Railway Age, for haulage by road from the Durham pits was prohibitively expensive. This signalled a period of expansion for the town which quadrupled in size in the middle of the last century when West Hartlepool came into being.

The twin towns prospered until the First World War and the port set all-time records in 1913, when over 1 million tons of timber and iron-ore were imported and 2.5 million tons of coal and coke left the docks.

Bloodied but unbowed by the bombardment of their town in the Great War which was supposed to 'be over by Christmas', Hartlepudlians voluntarily subscribed more money per head to the war effort than any other town in Britain.

Ay the beginning of World War II the town suffered considerably at the hands of the enemy and once more an invasion from the continent seemed likely Hartlepool continued undaunted however, and was one of the first places to emerge from the war with a planning scheme for its conservation and reconstruction. New industrial development brought a period of optimism, new housing and employment but the traditional industries suffered as the post-war boom ended. On April 1st 1967, however, Hartlepool and West Hartlepool finally amalgamated at the ninth attempt and the new town looked forward to a united future.