Museum Of Hartlepool
Museum Hartlepool County Durham

Museum Of Hartlepool

Museum In Hartlepool, County Durham

Discover history on Hartlepool's maritime history with some unusual and macabre pieces.

On my first visit to the National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool, I completely missed the Museum of Hartlepool! It is attached to the Royal Navy Museum. The entrance is obvious, through the shop.

The building looks authentic but I understand it was purpose-built and opened in 1996. It was all part of a £52 million project called The Tides of Change. Artifacts came from the former Gray Art Gallery and Museum.

The Museum has an eclectic mix of objects and information, and I have chosen just a few to highlight. There is the history of Hartlepool and the terrible bombardment in 1914 which is covered by The Heugh Battery Museum post. The first room we went through looks like a play area, so we skipped through the fiberglass arches that looked quite real until we tapped them.

We squeezed through the last arch on the left and it opened into a high-ceilinged room with a huge coble boat called Three Brothers Grant which was built in 1921. It was the first to be fitted with motors as well as sails. Cobles have distinctive flat bottoms which aides buoyancy and enables them to be run ashore on a beach. In the 1960's it had a cabin added and renamed Tres Amigos. By 1978 maintenance issues and costs forced it to be sold. It was donated to the museum in 1982, then renovated and restored to its original name.

The Lighthouse Light is illuminating especially when you work out it flashes twice when you are close. The information board states this light is from the first Lighthouse at the Heugh, Hartlepool, and the first in Britain to use coal-gas to power it. The builder was Stephen Robinson who was a Civil Engineer and was completed in 1847. Some reports state he was responsible for the optics which could be seen for 18 miles. The lighthouse was unfortunately in the line of fire from the guns at the Heugh and was demolished in 1915. It is possible it was unstable. I suspect this was partly due to the reinforced work required for its base being ravished by the cruel North Sea and locals taking the stone in the cliff to make cement. The light however was used at the temporary lighthouse at Town Moor.

There is a rock face full of model seabirds. You can press buttons to hear their calls.

In another room there are engines and some will make you jump when they spring into action.

Someone was devoted and made a model of Seaton Carew Blast Furnace. It helps you understand the steel process. Unfortunately, I was not able to photograph much in this area without reflections.

Now for the macabre! Meet Herman the Merman. This is a Cryptid, a mythological creature. Half human and half fish, therefore the male equivalent of a mermaid but not as pretty. Popular in the 19th century. Far eastern fishermen made them and sold them to sailors for luck or a curio. From various research, I found the head is not of human remains but could have real bones from something like a monkey. With paper mâché, wire, and clay the creature takes shape. Teeth are carved from bone, and the fishtail tended to be real.

You'll see a reference to the Monkey Hangers of Hartlepool which dates to the Napoleonic Wars when a French ship was wrecked off the coast. The only 'survivor' was dressed in a French military uniform. A group of locals who had never seen a Frenchman or a monkey hastily concluded it was a spy and held an impromptu trial. As the monkey did not answer any questions it was found guilty and hung.

Since 1999 a cheeky monkey has become Hartlepool Football Club's Mascot called H'Angus which is a play of the word hang and the name Angus. A chap called Stuart Drummond took up the role as mascot dressed in a monkey suit and for a bit of fun decided to stand for Mayor citing 'free bananas for school children'. He won and had to hang up the monkey suit. Mr Dummond even got re-elected twice more.

A couple of carts are tucked to one side and don't really draw much interest, but Jas (James?) Herring & Son was a licensed horse slaughterer in the 1930s. his address is on his advert. It would not have been a pleasant occupation, but a necessary one. Horses were still the backbone of many industries such as farming and transport. In times of hardship which the 1930s certainly had, it would not have been uncommon to eat horsemeat.

The other cart of Stokell Ltd, I believe was a greengrocer.

Outside is Paddle Steamer (PS) Wingfield Castle, minus its paddles. “Why is the funnel at an angle?” I asked my husband thinking it was falling into further disrepair. “It was to allow smoke to disperse and aid better ventilation” he answered. Of course! Built here by William Gray and Company in Jackson Docks. Launched in 1934 and served on the River Humber as a passenger ferry. In the background you can see the Historic Custom House and Old Docks Office with an octagonal bellcote.

On the quayside is a WWII Mine. I believe it is a Vickers Mk14 Hertz (acid) horned contact mine. They worked by floating and exploding on contact. They would be held in place by 'sinkers' which were tethered to the mine. The sinker acted as an anchor resting on the seabed.

This museum is free, but it is worth paying to explore The National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool too.

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Contributed by Rosalind Parker

Thanks for reading through and getting to the end of this post. I enjoy exploring the Fabulous North (Especially as a Southerner residing up North). I like 'snippets' of information, and more so, if they are obscure, amusing or meaningful. The photographs are taken on a mobile phone, without any enhancements.

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Museum Of Hartlepool was listed in Museum // County Durham // Hartlepool