Uncertain. Hert c.1135-1512, Herte 1235-1335, Harte 1321-1621, Hart from1438-9. This is a difficult name. Ekwall believed that the name Heruteu “stag island”, first recorded c.731 in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, originally referred both to Hartlepool and to Hart. This would normally have become late Old English Heorte, Middle English Herte, rather than Hert. Ekwall explained the endingless spelling as a back-formation from the district name He(o)rte-nes “the jurisdiction or district of Hart”. If Ekwall is right, the etymology is Old English heorot “a stag” + eg “an island” presumably used in the sense “an island, a spur of high ground”. Hart occupies an elevated site overlooking the coastal plain. Nevertheless, in Beowulf a hall is called simply Heorot “stag” and in the new world simplex animal names such as Bear, Beaver, Buffalo, Eagle, Elk and Hart are not uncommon. Bede’s analysis of Heruteu as insula cerui is undoubtedly correct, but his translation may be wrong: Heruteu might not be “stag island, hart island” but “Hart island, island belonging to Hart”. If so, Hert and Herte (Bede’s Hereteu) were distinct names and places.

Information about this place-name was supplied by Victor Watts by personal communication.

Early Landowners

Hart was among the lands granted to the first Robert de Brus by King Henry I. Later, Robert granted the lands of Hart and Hartness to his younger son, Robert, who was lord of Annandale in southern Scotland. The Bruses granted the church of Hart to the canons of Guisborough Priory. The most famous of the family, Robert Bruce who became King Robert I of Scotland, forfeited Hart and Hartness in 1306. The lands were granted to Robert de Clifford, who was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The Clifford family held Hart for three centuries. In 1587 the manors of Hart and Hartness were purchased by John Lord Lumley for £5,350. In 1772 they were bought by Sir George Pocock for £72,000.

See the Victoria History of the County of Durham vol.3 (ed.) William Page (1928).

An Early Mention

In a letter to the Bishop of Durham, dated 8th June 1327, King Edward III complained about the Bishop’s interference at Hart.

“The king lately – upon being given to understand that the bishop had entered the manor of Hert and the lands pertaining to it, in the king’s hands, by force and arms, and had occupied the king’s goods and chattels found therein, and levied the issues, ferms and rents pertaining to the king for his own use – ordered the bishop to cause to be corrected and amended what had been attempted by him or his men against the king on his behalf, and to cause to be restored to the king’s keepers there the goods and chattels, issues, ferms, and rents received by the bishop or his men, and to certify the king of his proceedings . . .”

An early mention in literature can be found in”A Historical, Topographical and Descriptive View of the County Palatine of Durham”, vol.2, E.Mackenzie and M.Ross (1834)

‘The village of Hart is situated on an eminence sloping eastward to the sea, with a small rivulet running through it, and commands a fine view of the Hartlepool peninsula, and of the coast for some miles to the north and south of that place. It is 11 miles north-by-east from Stockton, and 4 miles west-by-north from Hartlepool. Adjoining the church-yard on the south-west is the mansion-house of the Ellerker family; and a little further to the west are the remains of an ancient building, apparently monastic . . . It is now partly occupied as farm offices. The Rev. Robert Taylor, the resident curate, keeps a boarding-school in the village; which also contains a day-school, two public houses, a common brewery, a mill, two joiners, &c.; and the township includes eight farmsteads. The parish-feast is held on the Sunday and Monday before Old St. Magdalen’s day. . . . The Marquis of Cleveland is now lord of the manor.’

Selected Buildings

St. Mary Magdalene (Anglo-Saxon nave, 12th century tower and Victorian chancel)

Medieval wall on Butts Lane (Medieval on Anglo-Saxon foundations)

The Raby Arms (Originally an 18th century farmhouse)

Hart Windmill (Early 19th century)

A Few Lost Buildings

Hart Manor House (14th century) parts of the walls remain.

Southlands Farm (18th century) demolished by the early 20th century.

Some People of Note

Thomas Lord Clifford (1414-55) who wrote a letter dated at Hart in 1438, was killed at St.Albans in 1455. His son John was ‘Clifford the butcher’ in Henry VI part 3 and who was killed on the eve of the Battle of Towton.

Allison Lawe (fl. 1580) On 28th July 1582 at Durham it was stated that “she is a notorious sorcerer and enchanter”. She was ordered to do penance once in the market place at Durham “with a papir on her head”, once in Hart church and once in Norton church.

Thomas Ellerker (1738-95) A Jesuit who was born at Hart. He became a professor of theology at the Catholic College in Liege.

George Pocock (1765-1840) Known as “Sir George Pocock of Hart”. He purchased the manor of Hart in 1772. After more than 20 years in Parliament, he was created First Baronet of Hart.

The Hearth Tax of of 1666

The tax returns for 1666 portray Hart as a relatively poor village. Only 19 properties were eligible to be taxed, while 58 fell below the tax threshold. 18 houses had 1 or 2 hearths and the largest house in the village was the modest 3-hearth property of Ann Reed.

See “Hearth Tax List for South Durham Lady Day 1666” (ed.) J.C.Howe for Cleveland Family History Society.


1801     219

1851     297

1901     279

1951     368


Whellan’s Directory of 1856 listed 9 farmers, one of whom was a butcher, and 2 blacksmiths, one of whom was also a shopkeeper. In addition there were 3 shoemakers, 2 joiners and a tailor. Michael Storey ran Hart Brewery and Thomas Stephenson had Hart Mill. Thomas Moody kept the post office and Thomas Gent had the Raby Arms.

According to Whellan’s directory of 1895, there was a school with more than 50 pupils at Hart, as well as a post office and a railway station. There were two public houses (the White Hart and the Raby Arms), two shoemakers and two blacksmiths. John Bastow was the miller at Hart mill and two of the local farmers (Robert Darling and Jackson Sweeting) were listed as ‘thrashing-machine proprietors’.

Kelly’s Directory of 1914 listed 15 farmers, 2 shopkeepers, a joiner and cartwright, a blacksmith and a miller. Also mentioned were the post office and the White Hart.

A Selection of Dates

800        According to the chronicler Matthew Paris, churches in Hartness were attacked by the Danes.

1119     The church of Hart was granted to Guisborough Priory by Robert de Brus.

1306     Robert Bruce forfeited his estates in England. Hart was granted to Robert Clifford.

1311     Bishop Kellaw confirmed the Brus grant to Guisborough Priory.

1314     A windmill at Hart was mentioned.

1461     John Clifford, Lord of the Manor of Hart, was killed the day before the Battle of Towton.

1540     The advowson of Hart church was claimed by the Crown when Guisborough Priory was dissolved. The Crown continued to appoint the vicars of Hart until 1885.

1569     Seventeen men from the village joined the Rising of the North and four were executed.

1577     The Parish register began.

1582     Allison Lawe of Hart was accused of being a witch.

1587     There was an outbreak of plague at Hart.

1660     A beacon was erected near Hart as a precaution against a possible Dutch naval raid.     

1735     A borehole 55 fathoms deep was made near Hart, but failed to find any coal seams.

1795     The broken church bell at Hart was purchased by someone in Stockton.

1818     A second attempt to find coal seams beneath Hart also failed.

1814     A gale destroyed Hart windmill. A sail was blown off in another gale in 1893.

1832     A mineral railway line passed through Hart parish. Hart station was built.

1838     The Duke of Cleveland built a school in Hart, which was supported by school fees.

1840     There was a typhus epidemic in the district.

1841     Hart Bushes coal mine was sunk.

1850     The Derby and the St. Leger horse races were won by Voltigeur, trained at Hart by Robert Stephenson.

1884     Restoration work at St. Mary Magdalene exposed six fragments of pre-conquest carved stones and an early sundial.

1898     The chancel of the parish church was restored. The altar stone that had been hidden in the 16th century was found and restored.

1915     Hart windmill ceased operating.

1940     Incendiary bombs caused fires at a Hart farm. During the Second World War a small army camp was established near St. Mary’s church. Prisoners of War were held here for a time.

1947     Hart Village Hall was built.

1953     The council school moved to a new building. Hart and Elwick Hall parishes were united and a new parsonage house was built at Hart.

1968     Hart Bog was designated a site of Special Scientific  Interest.

1981     Hart Primary School opened. The village bypass was opened.

2001     The Village Hall was extended and completely refurbished.

2009     The “Heritage of Hart” project was undertaken.

2012     Hartlepool Water put Hart reservoir up for sale.

2014     Hart Primary School entered into a federation with Elwick Primary School.

This list of dates was compiled using “The Victoria History of the County of Durham vol.3 (ed.) William Page (1928) and other secondary sources.

Suggested Further Reading

“The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham” vol. 3 Robert Surtees (1823)

“An Historical, Topographical and Descriptive View of the County Palatine of Durham” vol. 2 E.Mackenzie and M.Ross (1834)

The Heritage of Hart Project (2009-10)