A history of town shipbuilding

MARITIME enthusiasts will soon be able to check out stories of every ship built in Hartlepool at the touch of a button.

Called Hartlepool Built – Ships, Crews, Community, the website aims to create a record of the life of every ship built in Hartlepool over the past 170 years through the stories and photographs of the people involved.

>> Click to view the Hartlepool Built - Ships, Crews, Community website

The project is led by the Nautical Archaeological Society North-East and funded by English Heritage.

Hartlepool has a long and distinguished 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.

The yard made over 1,100 ships between 1874 and 1963, when the closure signalled the end of shipbuilding in the town.

Yards started building wooden ships in the 1800s, moving onto iron and steel built vessels.

The Wingfield Castle paddle steamer, which remains berthed at the Historic Quay, is one of the most famous vessels to be built in Hartlepool.

Gary Green, North-East regional co-ordinator of the Nautical Archaeological Society, said: "Hartlepool ships travelled and were lost right around the world, and there are some fascinating stories about them.

"Using our existing records as a starting point, we aim to create comprehensive "sea histories" for all the vessels involved, including technical data, voyage details and crew lists.

"The website will be a marvellous free source of information for anyone with an interest in Hartlepool's maritime heritage – from historians to family researchers.

"We are particularly keen to record the human stories behind the ships and we'd like to hear from anyone who can contribute to them.

"They might have worked in one of the shipyards or served on one of the ships or had a relative who did.

"Perhaps they had a descendant who emigrated on one of the vessels, or if they enjoy diving as a hobby, maybe they have dived on one of the wrecks."

The project is supported by a range of organisations including Tees Archaeology, Hartlepool Library Service, Port Cities Hartlepool, Hartlepool Heritage and Museums Service, Teesside Archives, the Teesside Branch of the World Ship Society and Renaissance North-East.

People are being encouraged to get in touch with staff if they have any memories or mementoes which could be used for the site, while a series of roadshows promoting the initiative are being planned for later in the year.

Contact Hartlepool Built team member Gary Green on (01429) 523457 or e-mail gary.green@hartlepool.gov.uk, or reference librarian Diane Marlborough on (01429) 263778 or e-mail diane.marlborough@hartlepool.gov.uk