The day Seaton Carew had its own Jaws - shark warning emptied Hartlepool beach of 70,000 sunbathers

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Just when you thought it was safe to go in the sea at Seaton – along comes a shark.

The real-life story of a shark which vacated a beach of more than 70,000 visitors happened in 1951.

Historian and researcher Graeme Harper tells us more.

The summer of 1951 was a bumper one for Seaton Carew.

Seaton at its sunny best.Seaton at its sunny best.
Seaton at its sunny best.

On one gloriously sunny Sunday, an estimated 70,000 to 90,000 visitors poured into the resort to enjoy fine weather and Seaton’s golden sands.

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The Northern Daily Mail reported: “The beach was crowded with families enjoying the sun – temperatures reached 76 degrees - and the sea air.

Cars lined the entire length of the Front and back streets were used as extra parking grounds.’

Twenty one trains stopped at Seaton, according to the station master Mr Cooper, and around 3500 tickets were collected. Station staff helped parents to handle 150 prams.

A busy scene at Seaton Carew in the 1950s.A busy scene at Seaton Carew in the 1950s.
A busy scene at Seaton Carew in the 1950s.

Local traders hoped for record takings. Beach huts and deck chairs quickly sold out.

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Everything was going great until mid afternoon when the atmosphere suddenly changed. Swimmers and paddlers emerged from the waves in panic, parents grabbed their children, and everyone fled towards dry land. Announcements were made warning bathers to vacate the sea without further ado.

There was a shark and it was heading towards Seaton. Bathing was suspended as news spread.

Whether the local Jaws made it as far as Seaton is not known - people didn’t hang around to find out - but the day quickly went from bad to worse.

An archive aerial view of Seaton Carew.An archive aerial view of Seaton Carew.
An archive aerial view of Seaton Carew.

The Mail reported: ‘Gathering clouds and a nip in the air warned of the approaching storm but there were still many thousands who were caught without shelter when the deluge came. Many people tried to protect their heads with tea cloths or picnic baskets.’

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Bus stops and the train station saw long queues as soaked day trippers cut their losses and decided to go home.

And that wasn’t all. The St Johns Ambulance had been exceptionally busy, especially with an influx of youngsters who had been cut by broken glass in the children’s bathing pool. Luckily, no shark bites were reported.

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Seaton's south shelter, bus station and roller coaster.Seaton's south shelter, bus station and roller coaster.
Seaton's south shelter, bus station and roller coaster.

But the presence of a large shark didn’t deter future visitors from making their way to Seaton the following week.

‘Yet another record was broken yesterday at Seaton Carew when the railway station had its busiest day in living memory,” said a Mail report.

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"More than 5000 tickets were collected by the station staff and throughout the day 35 special trains called each packed with trippers from Teesside and the collieries.’

With temperatures peaking at 72 degrees on the Saturday it was another glorious sunny weekend.

The Mail added: ‘There was no suspected shark in the sea to spoil the fun this weekend and the beach early assumed the ‘’Blackpool look ‘‘crowded with bathers and sunbathers. ‘

The ‘suspected shark’ was likely to have been a basking shark – completely harmless and shy and have no interest in chasing holidaymakers.

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How the Mail reported the shark incident.How the Mail reported the shark incident.
How the Mail reported the shark incident.

Or how about the time when Hartlepool had an annual week dedicated to rats.