Hartlepool received a Borough Charter in 1201, allowed the local people the freedom to set up a corporation for their own self-government, to have a mayor, and to hold an annual two-week fair and a weekly market.
Stockton on Tees did not receive a Borough Charter until ten years later and Middlesbrough not until 1889.
The granting of the charter reflected the growing importance of the town.
Hartlepool was founded in the 7th century, around the monastery of Hartlepool Abbey. Bede, writing in the 8th Century, referred to the spot on which today’s town is sited upon as “the place where deer come to drink”, and the Headland was named by the Angles as Heruteu (Stag Island). The name had evolved into Herterpol, by the 11th Century and it subsequently became Hart-le-pool (“The Pool of the Stags”).
During the Norman Conquest the De Brus family gained over-lordship of the land surrounding Hartlepool.
With a natural harbour, the main industry for Hartlepool was fishing. However, by the Middle Ages Hartlepool was growing into an important market town, and had established itself as one of the primary ports upon England’s Eastern coast, becoming the official port of the County Palatine of Durham.
The Crown frequently requisitioned ships and sailors from Hartlepool to assist in the prosecution of wars, mainly against Scotland. Defensive walls were built around the town in the 13th century to protect it from the marauding Scots, and some of these can still be seen. At the Sandwell Gate, built in the 14th century, the wall is over eight feet thick.
The modern Borough of Hartlepool dates fron1974, It was granted the status under section 245 of the Local Government Act 1972 and follows the unification in 1967 of Hartlepool (1850), West Hartlepool (1887)
That Hartlepool was the first town in Cleveland and Teesside to receive a Borough Charter is of significance. Other towns may have subsequently been granted borough status, and may today have acquired a political and economic status that is greater than that possessed by Hartlepool.
However, some of those towns were once much smaller than Hartlepool, and indeed some did not exist in the thirteenth century.
This granting of Borough Charter to Hartlepool reminds us that we should be mindful of the history of a place: the North York Moors were once a hive of mining industry, Yarm was once the main trading port for farmers from Teesdale, and Stockton was once the most important ship-building towns in the area.
Suggested Places to Visit:
Hartlepool – the Town Wall: dates from the late 14th century and once enclosed the whole of the medieval town.