Ship Shape and Hartlepool Fashion

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

There can be no doubt that research plays an essential role in any archaeological or historical investigation. In the past, undertaking research has usually involved paying a visit to the local library, regional museum, or even a national archive, all of which required a great deal of time and effort.

Fortunately, more and more maritime resources are being made available through the internet, allowing more and more people to carry out research from the comfort of their own homes. To show just how valuable and rewarding this research can be, NAS NE was awarded “Renaissance North–East” grant funding for a new project - “Ship–shape and Hartlepool–fashion: accessible and enjoyable maritime research for all.”

Project Aims & Objectives


  • To pilot a scheme to encourage large scale voluntary participation in maritime research, specifically exploring the shipbuilding and ship-owning history and heritage of the Tees Valley.
  • To improve public and professional access to maritime archive material, including ship’s plans, documents, photographs and memorabilia, held in the Museum of Hartlepool collections.
  • To enhance these collections through focused research utilising the North-East of England Maritime Research Archive (NEEMARA), creating a longterm, sustainable maritime resource.


  • Engage the membership of the Nautical Archaeology Society to undertake at home, online research into the shipbuilding and ship owning history of the Tees Valley.
  • Enhance the existing large, though as yet unquantified, ‘Gray Archive’ collection, held by the Museum of Hartlepool, through a pilot scheme to establish and train a small team of volunteers specifically to begin identifying and cataloguing this material (estimated to number some 35,000 individual plans and drawings).
  • Facilitate the creation of a new genealogical resource relating to Hartlepool crewmen.
  • Create ‘Adopt–a–Ship‘ family activity packs, to encourage family members of all ages, to work together as a team and research “their” ship: for ships built in Hartlepool, this research will be uploaded onto the NAS NE’s ‘Hartlepool–built: Ships, Crews and Community’ website:

The NAS NE invited the whole membership of three different groups, namely the NAS, the Teesside Branch of the World Ship Society, and the Hartlepool Family History Society, to take part in this project. Each group was invited to undertake some basic maritime research in areas that play to their own particular strengths, as outlined below.

NAS members
Each volunteer was provided with the names of two Hartlepool-built ships and asked to track them through a run of digitised Lloyd’s Registers (covering the period 1930-1945), available on the PortCities Southampton website (, recording any significant technical changes, change of ownership etc., on a project-specific recording form.

WSS Teesside Branch members
Each volunteer was given the names of two Hartlepool-built ships and the dates and manner of their loss. They were then asked to choose one of the following Options to research the details of these ‘events’.

  • Option 1: to carry out maritime research from home utilising either a) their own personal collections of maritime resource material, or b) on-line website resources, eg. PortCities Southampton on-line Plimsoll Ship Data resource (Lloyd’s Registers 1930-1945)
  • Option 2: to carry out maritime research at Sir William Gray House, Hartlepool, utilising the material held by the North-East England Maritime Archaeology Research Archive (NEEMARA)
  • Option 3: to carry out maritime research at Hartlepool Central Library, utilising microfilm readers to access local newspaper accounts/stories involving these Hartlepool-built ships
  • Option 4: to undertake a ‘test-sampling’ of the estimated 35,000 un-catalogued ship’s plans comprising the William Gray Archive, held by Hartlepool Museums & Heritage Service at Sir William Gray House

Hartlepool Family History Society members
Each volunteer was given the names and dates of death of two Hartlepool crewmen, rather than ships, and asked to search for supplementary information such as names of spouse, children, parents, address, date of birth etc. This information, would provide a valuable new genealogical resource for people researching their maritime family tree, but who lived outside the Hartlepool area.  

“Ship-shape” ran until the end of April 2011. If you would like further details of the project, please contact me at, or through the NAS Office.