Today the term ‘West Hartlepool’ is rarely heard, other than in rugby circles where one of the town’s rugby teams continues to carry the name of a town that officially disappeared in 1967.
It was in 1967 that the two parts of modern ‘Hartlepool’ were unified when Old Hartlepool (or ‘The Headland’) was merged with the larger West Hartlepool.
The origins of Hartlepool are to be found in the 7th century. Dwellings were established around
the monastery of Hartlepool Abbey by the Angles from Scandanavia, who had started raiding he North East coast following the departure of the Romans. The abbey had been founded in 640 A.D. by the Irish Christian priest Saint Aidan and became powerful under St Hilda, who served as its abbess from 649–657 A.D, but was destroyed by the Vikings in in the 9th Century.
The settlement was situated on a headland overlooking a natural harbour and the North Sea, and in the Middle Ages the village grew and its harbour served as the official port of the County Palatine of Durham.
However, by the early nineteenth century, Hartlepool was still a small town of around 900 people, with a declining port. Plans were made to develop the port as a coal exporting port with railway links to the South Durham coalfields.
In the nineteenth century a new port was established to accommodate the export of coal from the South Durham coalfields. Ralph Ward Jackson became frustrated at the planning restrictions placed on the old Hartlepool dock and surrounding area for access, so bought land to the south-west, and established West Hartlepool.
West Hartlepool Harbour and Dock opened on 1 June 1847. By 1881, old Hartlepool’s population was12,361, but West Hartlepool had a population of 28,000.
By 1900 the two Hartlepools were, together, one of the three busiest ports in England.
In 1967 the two towns were formally merged, and although West Hartleppol was the significantly bigger town, the name ‘Hartlepool’ was adopted for the merged town and the name ‘West Hartlepool’ disappeared.
The name West Hartlepool was no longer used, except in the name of a frugby club, after the unification in 1967.
The merger was even reflected in the name of the local professional football club.
West Hartlepool won the FA Amateur Cup in 1905. Following this success, in 1908 a new club was formed that was intended to attract support from both towns, and it was called ‘Hartlepools United’. In 1967, when the boroughs combined the club renamed itself “Hartlepool” before once more re-renaming itself ‘Hartlepool United’ in the 1970s.
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