Hartlepool-built: Ships, Crews and Community

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Monday, May 4, 2009

With a very generous English Heritage Regional Capacity Building grant of nearly £36,000, this unique project aimed to create a new, community-driven maritime heritage website documenting Hartlepool’s ‘modern’ history and tradition of shipbuilding, through the memories, stories and photographs of the people involved.

Hartlepool has a long and distinguished ‘modern’ shipbuilding heritage. Between 1836 and 1963, 11 individual companies built a total of nearly 2,000 ships, with over half coming from just one yard – William Gray & Co. which made over 1,100 ships between 1874 and 1963, when the closure of the yard signalled the end of shipbuilding in the town.

Hartlepool ships travelled - and were lost – across the globe, and there are some fascinating stories about them. Using the North-East England Maritime Archaeology Research Archive resource as a starting point, the project aimed to create comprehensive ‘sea histories’ for all the vessels involved, including technical data, voyage details, crew lists and of course images/photographs.

The project was particularly keen to record the human stories behind these ships and wanted to hear from anyone who might have worked in one of the shipyards or served on one of the ships or had a relative who did. Perhaps someone with a descendant who emigrated on one of the vessels, or from divers who may have explored and videoed the underwater remains of Hartlepool-built shipwrecks.

On a local level, the project also ran a number of information-gathering ‘Roadshows’, actively encouraging anyone with an interest in Hartlepool’s shipbuilding history to come along for a chat and a cup of tea with project volunteers, to share their personal maritime recollections and to have their photographs and other documentary memorabilia scanned and added to the archive.

‘Hartlepool-built’ was generously supported by a number of organisations and individuals, including Tees Archaeology, Hartlepool Library Service, PortCities Hartlepool, Hartlepool Heritage & Museums Service, Teesside Archives, the Teesside Branch of the World Ship Society, and Renaissance North-East,

All the information generated through this project can now be found in the Ships & Shipping section of the ‘Hartlepool History Then & Now’ website - http://www.hhtandn.org/hartlepool-ships-and-shipping