Historic find’s on the button

AN archaeological excavation has provided a fascinating glimpse of Hartlepool’s rich history.

The investigation was carried out by Tees Archaeology as part of a project by Hartlepool Borough Council to strengthen the sea defences on the Town Wall.

Trial trenches were dug along the walkway which runs along the top of the Town Wall, from Sandwell Gate at its east to the ferry landings at its west, to find out more about the structure.

The Town Wall was built in the early 14th Century as protection from Scottish attacks and until the 19th Century it extended from the coastline to the north of the Headland southwards across the peninsula and the harbour before turning eastwards to finish at the limestone cliffs.

Robin Daniels, archaeology officer for Tees Archaeology, said: “Our excavations revealed that the Town Wall has seen extensive and continual alteration and maintenance over the course of its 800 year life.

“We found pottery ranging from the time the wall was built right through to modern times, as well as clay tobacco pipes and the remains of kitchen waste including fish bones.

“A particularly interesting find was a copper-gilded brass button which we uncovered on a section of the wall which had seen intensive rebuilding.

“The button would have adorned the uniform of a member of the Hartlepool Volunteer Artillery and dates from between 1797 and about 1812 – a period when there was the threat of invasion from Napoleon’s forces and there was much re-fortification of Britain’s coastal towns.”

After the French Revolution in 1789, the Lords Lieutenants in England and Wales were authorised to raise volunteer forces for local defence, particularly in coastal towns.

Together, these forces were among the largest voluntary movements in Britain and in 1804 they were formally organised into militia.

The local gentry were often given positions as officers in these volunteer forces.

Charles Spearman, of Thornley Hall in County Durham, was appointed the first Major-Commandant of the Hartlepool Volunteer Artillery.

He had previously been Mayor of Hartlepool in 1790.

His son, who was also called Charles, would later die in the battle of Waterloo as a 20-year-old Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery.

Many of the officers in the Hartlepool Volunteer Artillery had been, or would later become, Mayors of Hartlepool, including William Vollum, William Sedgewick and also Carr Ibbetson, who was Mayor a total of three times during his service in the Volunteer Artillery.