‘Hart Island, pool or inlet’. This is a difficult name; its forms fall into three main types:

  1. Herterpol c.1160-1335; Hiartar poll [c.1170]c.1220; Hertrepol 1200-1521 with variants –poll(e) –pole.
  2. Hertepol 1211-1420 with variants -i-, -y-, -pole, -poll –pull (1420), Hertpol(e) 1310-11, 1382.

III.  Hertelpol 1200-1433; Hertilpol(e) c.1230-1511 with variant spellings –yl-, -poel (1260-c.1325), -pull(e) (1342-1473); Hartlepoul 1344; Hartlepool from 1531.


There is also a strange 17th  century spelling Hartinpoole ‘Hart in pool’.


Type I is consonant with an Old Norse origin – hjartar pollr ‘stag’s pool’ as in the Old Norse Morkinskinna c.1170, but this cannot be the explanation of the name since St. Hild’s 7th century monastery on the headland at Hartlepool has an Anglo-Saxon (Old English) name in Bede c.731, Heruteu, id est Insula Cervi, ‘Heruteu, that is, the island of the Stag’. There are no grounds for doubting Bede’s analysis of Heruteu which is a compound of Old English heort ‘a stag’ and eg ‘an island’ (with re-inflected feminine nominative singular ending –u). This would become Middle English Herte which, with the addition of Old English pol ‘a pool, a creek’, produces the type II spellings. It seems unlikely that Middle English Hertepol could have been subject to folk-etymological reformation under Old Norse influence since there is no evidence other than sporadic Scandinavian settlement in this area: the Morkinskinna form is best regarded as a literary translation.


A possible explanation was suggested by Ekwall. In late Old English times the district dependent on Hart was known as Heorternesse [c.1040], ‘Hart hernes, Hart jurisdiction’, exactly as the district dependent on Berkeley in Gloucestershire was known as Berkeley Harness, Beorclea hyrnesse 1121, ‘Berkeley jurisdiction or district’, with Old English hernes  ‘obedience, jurisdiction, a district subject to a single jurisdiction’.


With loss of medial –h- Hert-hernes would have been subject to false analysis as Herter-ness ‘the headland called Herter’ and hence have led to reformation of Herte-pol as Herter-pol. This form was subject to dissimilatory processes whereby the sequence r – r became r – l to produce the type III spellings. The final form of the name is probably influenced by the 15th/16th century vogue for names containing the French definite article le. Hart-le-pool nicely fits the pattern of Dalton-le-Dale, Chester-le-Street etc. etc.


Hartlepool occupies a rocky peninsula (the ‘eg’ or island of the name) connected to the mainland by a narrow neck of blown sand only 500 yards wide; there is no evidence that it was ever a tidal island like Holy Island but in ancient times the connecting neck of land was probably narrower than now. The parallel between the monastic site at Hartlepool and that at Lindisfarne is striking. The pool referred not just to the harbour south of the peninsula but also to the Slake (N dial. slake ‘a mud-flat, waste land bordering the sea-shore and covered with water at high tide’.), a large shallow bay now drained, which formerly extended inland in a North West direction, emphasising the insular character of the headland.


Information on this place-name was provided by Victor Watts, by personal communication.


Early Landowners

Hartlepool 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 and the chapel of Hartlepool 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 and Hartness for three centuries. In 1587 the manors of Hart and Hartness were purchased by John Lord Lumley for £5,350.

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


An Early Mention

Calendar of Patent Rolls January 28th 1365. Confirmation of a charter dated 2nd July 1234 granted to “the men of the town of Hertrepol” “. . .that they should be free burgesses and all their tenements within the borough of Hertrepol free by just and right yearly rents in lieu of all services, aids, customs and exactions; also that there should be yearly in the said borough on the feast of St. Laurence a free fair lasting fifteen days and in every week on Tuesday a free market; also that the said burgesses should have all good and right liberties and free customs  . . . also that they should have a mayor and a gild merchant . . . “


An early mention in literature appeared in “Magna Britannia Antiqua et Nova” C.Ward & R.Chandler vol vi (1738). “Hartlepool, being encompassed on all Sides but the West by the Sea. It is a famous Market-Town, and hath under it a safe Harbour situated. . . ‘Tis an ancient Town-Corporate and is governed by a Mayor, his Brethren, and other subordinate Officers. The market is on Mondays, and tho’ it was considerable in Mr. Camden’s Days, it is of late very much disus’d, so that the Town depends entirely upon the Harbour, which is chiefly famous for receiving the Coal-Fleets passing to and from Newcastle in Stress of Weather.”


Another early mention can found in “A Description of England and Wales” vol. 3,  F.Newbery and T.Carnan, (1769) “About three miles to the north-east of Gretham is Hartlepool, a town commodiously seated on the sea-shore, and surrounded by water on all sides, except the west, where there are rocks and hills. It is an ancient corporation, governed by a mayor and aldermen, with other subordinate officers. The town depends principally on its fishing trade and its harbour, which receives the coal fleets from Newcastle, when the weather is bad, or the wind contrary. It has a market on Mondays; four fairs, viz. on May 14, August 21, October 9, and November 27, for toys and fish.”


Selected Buildings

St.Hilda’s church (c.1200, including remains from the early 12th century. Later additions and restoration work.)

The town wall and Sandwellgate (early 14th century)

The Friarage Manor House (c.1600)

St. Mary’s Presbytery (late 17th century)

The Duke of Cleveland’s House (late 17th century with early 19th century additions)

Throston Engine House (1830s)

Tunnel under the coastal embankment (1835) designed by George Stephenson.

St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church (1850)

The Morison Hall (mid 19th century) originally a Methodist church.


 A Few Lost Buildings

The Anglo-Saxon monastery (c.640) Archaeological evidence suggests it was abandoned in the 8th century.

The Franciscan friary (1240) The Friary was dissolved in 1545 and was demolished soon after.

The Free School (1755, replaced by the Ann Crooks Endowed School in 1871) demolished in 1963.

Cambridge Buildings, the Croft. (early 19th century) demolished 1938.

Northgate Methodist Church (1839) demolished in 1969.

St. Mary’s church spire (1850) taken down in 1946.

William Gray’s Offices (19th century) demolished in 1971.

St. Hilda’s Hospital (1865) demolished in 1987.

Henry Smith’s Grammar School (1889) demolished in 1982.

Queen’s Cinema (1934) demolished in 1967.


Some People of note

Hilda or Hild (614-680) St. Hilda was of royal blood from the kingdom of Deira in Yorkshire. She became abbess of Hartlepool (c.649) and went on to found Whitby Abbey where she was abbess at the time of the Synod of Whitby (664). Five pupils of her monastic school went on to become bishops.

Geoffrey de Hartlepool (fl.1302-1310) A lawyer who became the first Recorder of the City of London.

Hugh de Hartlepool (c.1245-1302) A Franciscan Friar who helped to establish Balliol College in Oxford.

Perceval (c.1550-c.1630) and Jane (1553-1593) Bell. Perceval was mayor of Hartlepool five times. Jane is remembered today for the memorial brass in her memory in St. Hilda’s church.

Robert Clifford (1274-1314) King Edward I granted Hartlepool to Robert Clifford and made him Marshal of England. He was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn.

Richard Cosin (c.1548-1597) A lawyer, born in Hartlepool, who became a judge in one of the highest church courts in the land.

Ann Crooks (d. 1776) A benefactress who resurrected her late brother’s plan for a school for 24 poor boys. It was rebuilt in 1871 as the Ann Crooks Endowed School and was demolished in 1963.

William Romaine (1714-1795) An academic who was born in Hartlepool. He became a professor of astronomy in London and lectured on faith in several London churches.

Ralph Milbanke (1747-1825) An M.P. who campaigned against slavery. He was mayor of Hartlepool three times.

Cuthbert Sharp (1781-1849) Sir Cuthbert Sharp was mayor of Hartlepool three times. He wrote a “History of Hartlepool” in 1816.

Frank Boylen (1878-1939) A rugby player who was an England international at rugby union and went on to play for England at rugby league.

Reg Smythe (1917-1998) A cartoonist with a national newspaper. He created the famous character “Andy Capp”.

John Mackenzie Dee (1938-  ) A rugby player who was capped by England three times in 1962-3.

George Feeney (1957-  ) and John Feeney (1958-  ) Brothers who both became British boxing champions, George at lightweight and John at bantamweight.

Michael Hunter (1978-   ) A boxer who was British and European super-bantamweight champion and fought for the world title.

Savannah Marshall (1991-   ) A boxer who in 2012 became the first British woman to be crowned a world boxing champion.


The Hearth Tax of 1666

22 houses in Hartlepool were listed as having 1 or 2 hearths in the tax returns for 1666.  8 houses had 3 hearths, 3 had 4 hearths, 2 had 5 and 1 house had 6.   The highest tax payers were Mr. Hodgson and Grace Parrett, each with 7 hearths. 54 houses were exempt, their owners falling below the tax threshold.

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



1801     993

1851     9,503

1901     14,074

1961     18,090



Whellan’s Directory of 1856 listed, among others, 56 grocers, 4 bakers, 17 butchers, 15 greengrocers, 4 confectioners, 2 fishmongers, 24 tailors, 9 milliners and dressmakers and 3 hatters. Amongst the more specialist trades were 6 china, glass and earthenware dealers, 6 clock and watch makers and 3 cabinet makers. The town’s maritime focus was reflected in the 17 coal fitters, 11 marine store dealers and ships’ chandlers, 70 master mariners, the “oil skin and sou-wester manufacturer”, the ship steering manufacturer, the fish hook maker, rope maker, anchor smith and chain smith that are named in the directory.  There were also 32 inns and taverns and 21 beer houses.

The figure of 2 for fishmongers may be inaccurate, since Ward’s Directory for 1936 named 23 fishmongers. The 1936 list also included 17 butchers, 32 grocers, 4 bakers, 6 confectioners, 8 fruiterers, 8 general dealers, 7 drapers, 11 newsagents, 3 pawnbrokers, 3 chemists, 4 hardware dealers and 2 wireless dealers, as well as a variety of other shops.


A Selection of Dates

c.640     The Anglo-Saxon monastery on the Headland was founded.

1174     Hugh, Count of Bar, landed at Hartlepool with an invasion force of Flemish mercenaries.

1201     King John granted Hartlepool a charter making the town a borough.

1240     The Franciscan Friary was founded by this date.

1305     A collector of customs was appointed by King Edward I’s government.

1315     Hartlepool was attacked and burnt by the Scots.

1337     The customs collector at Hartlepool was convicted of smuggling.

1346     Hartlepool supplied five ships for Edward III’s fleet at Calais.

1391     A feud broke out between the men of Hartlepool and the men of Stranton. It was still simmering 12 years             later.

1473     Bishop Booth granted a licence for the burgesses of Hartlepool to raise funds and build a pier.

1535     Hartlepool was removed from the Liberty of the Bishop of Durham by Act of  Parliament. For a time it             was technically part of the county of Northumberland.

1569     Hartlepool was seized by the Northern Earls during their rebellion against Elizabeth I.

1593     Elizabeth I granted a charter to Hartlepool.

1600     The burgesses of Hartlepool built a town hall.

William Porrett was paid £8 for a ferry boat. Hartlepool ferry service lasted until the 1950s.

1634     The trustees of Henry Smith acquired land in Hartlepool.

1644     Royalist troops were stationed here for a time during the Civil War.

1667     Hartlepool was garrisoned against the possibility of a naval attack during the Dutch wars.

1680     The customs officers at Hartlepool were transferred to Stockton because coastal trade had increased so                much there.

1718     Nineteen corn ships from Hartlepool sailed to the port of London.

1741     There were riots in Hartlepool because of a sharp rise in the price of corn.

1742     A free school was established for 24 boys.

1757     John Wesley visited Hartlepool for the first time.

1793     A Wesleyan chapel was built on the town wall.

1810     Storms severely damaged Hartlepool pier.

1813     A lifeboat was based at Hartlepool.

1832     The Hartlepool Dock and Harbour Company was formed at Middleton.

There was an outbreak of cholera in this year, and again in 1849.

1839     John Denton began building ships. The Wesleyan chapel in Northgate was dedicated.

1843     An Independent chapel was dedicated. It later became the United Reformed church.

1846     The Hartlepool Gas and Water Company was formed.

1847     A lighthouse was erected on the Heugh.

1849     The town’s mayor, William Vollum, fell into the Victoria Dock and drowned.

1851     Holy Trinity church was consecrated. St. Mary’s R.C. church was consecrated in the same year.

1853     Victoria Buildings on Middlegate were erected.

1859     The Heugh Breakwater was constructed.

1860     The Heugh Battery was built.

1866     The Borough Hall was opened.

1870     The breakwater was built.

1875     Throston School was built.

1878     Hartlepool railway station came into service.

1879     Hartlepool Rovers Rugby Football Club was formed, under the name Hartlepool Albion.

1884     Steam trams began running to West Hartlepool.

1886     St. Andrew’s chapel was consecrated.

1887     William Gray’s Central Shipyard was constructed.

1896     Electric trams began running.

1904     The Carnegie Library was opened.

1911-12 Hartlepool Rovers scored 860 points in 37 games.

1914     Hartlepool was bombarded by three German warships.

1917     King George V and Queen Mary visited Hartlepool.

1923     The open air swimming pool was built. It was destroyed in the great storm of 1953.

1926     The Headland Lighthouse was erected.

1927     Trams were replaced by trolley buses.

1934     The Queen’s Cinema was opened.

1938     The Croft was demolished. The Steetley Magnesite Plant was constructed.

1941     Five hundred houses were damaged in an air raid in March. Enemy bombing in May killed 12 people and           injured 25 more.

1949     Croft Gardens were laid out where the buildings of the Croft had once stood.

1953     The last trolley bus ran to West Hartlepool. The outdoor swimming pool was destroyed in a storm.

1958     West View Secondary Modern school opened.  In 1973 Henry Smith’s Grammar School was combined   with West View to form Henry Smith’s Comprehensive School.

1961     The last ship built at Gray’s shipyard was launched. The yard closed in 1962.

1964     The railway station was closed.

1967     Hartlepool and West Hartlepool were united to form the County Borough of Hartlepool.

1968     St. Helen’s School was opened.

1973     St. Bega’s R.C. school was opened.

1974     Throston railway bridge was demolished.

1978     Hartlepool were the North Yorkshire and South Durham Cricket League champions for the first time.            They were champions again in 1982 and 1988.

1991     A world championship boxing match was staged at the Borough Hall.

1999     The television archaeology programme “Time Team” spent three days in Hartlepool.

2001     St. Hild’s C of E School was built to replace Henry Smith’s Comprehensive School.

2003     Work began to reconstruct the Heugh Battery and create a visitor centre there.

2005     The former Steetley magnesite works was closed.

2006     Hartlepool Town Square was redesigned.

2007     A statue of the cartoon character Andy Capp was unveiled.

2012     The 230 feet tall Steetley chimney, a prominent landmark, was demolished.


This list of dates was compiled using “A Hartlepool Chronology” by John Ward (1985) and other secondary sources.


Selected Further Reading

“History of Hartlepool” C.Sharp (1st edition 1816, supplemented edition 1851)

“Hartlepool Records” J.Todd (1954)

“Hartlepool As It Was” D.R.P.Ferriday (1977)

“The Book of Hartlepool” D.R.P.Ferriday (1987)

“Shades of the Past: Photographs of Old Hartlepool” G.Colley (1992)

“Maritime Hartlepool: Two Thousand Years of History” (2005)

“Anglo-Saxon Hartlepool and the Foundations of English Christianity” R.Daniels (2007)

“Hartlepool: An Archaeology of the Medieval Town” R.Daniels (2010)

“Fishing in Hartlepool” M.Cook (2011)