You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone

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THREE of Hartlepool’s most recognisable and best-loved buildings might not be here today.

Back in April 1974, the shadow of the wrecking ball hung over the Friarage Manor House at St Hilda’s Hospital, Wesley Church, and the Central Stores building.

However, Hartlepool Civic Society was on the case, and determined not to let them be lost.

The Mail reported: “Correspondence was read to the society’s executive committee pointing out that the Methodist Circuit had decided that either the Wesley Church would be rebuilt internally, or sold to Hartlepool Borough Council.

“If sold, the society says, the site is designated as open space on the town plan.”

Phase three of Hartlepool’s shopping centre complex, now known as Middleton Grange, could claim the Central Stores site, according to the society.

The society’s press officer, Mr M Wilson, told the Mail that the society appreciated the problems of modernising or converting the Co-op building, as it was also known: “But its retention would be an asset to the town.”

Meanwhile, the society was continuing its efforts to save the Friarage building, which dates back to the early seventeenth century.

The society was concerned that the building “the only one of its type in the area” would be included in any closure plans involving the hospital.

The meeting heard that letters had gone out to the Regional Hospital Board and Hartlepool Borough Council to set out the society’s concern for the building’s future.

St Hilda’s Hospital did indeed close but the manor house survived, though remaining empty for many years.

It is hoped to bring it back into use as the centrepiece of a development of the surrounding area.

The Wesley Church also escaped demolition, with the Middleton Grange development stopping on the other side of Victoria Road, though it too is currently empty.

The Central Stores was eventaully restored into 50 apartments, with the civic society marking the work in 2008 by awarding the Rose Bowl for Conservation to Dewj’oc Architects.

What are your memories of the chequered histories of these iconic buildings?

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.