The end of a 99-year Hartlepool era - and it happened 60 years ago this year

It was a sad day in the history of Hartlepool and it happened 60 years ago.

Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 11:24 am

The year of 1962 was the year that the mainstay of the town’s employment source disappeared. Shipbuilding was about to come to an end.

And with the news that Gray’s was going to close, it meant a 99-year tradition was finishing.

Chris Cordner reports.

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A sad day for shipbuilding in Hartlepool.

The Hartlepool Mail headline told how 1,400 people were going to lose their jobs and the first paragraph of the story told it all.

"The Hartlepools shipbuilding industry is dying in its centenary year, " it said. "Gray’s are closing down completely."

In fact, the whole process was expected to be completed by Christmas that year.

The story added: "An estimated 1,400 men and women must begin to look for new jobs.

How the news unfolded about Gray's.

"Employees of the firm go on their annual holiday tonight for two weeks but 400 men from the ship repairing department will not return. Their jobs finished today.

"The rundown has begun."

At the time, Hartlepool had two town councils for its different areas of West Hartlepool and Hartlepool. Both reacted immediately.

The Mayor of Hartlepool Coun OF Bradshaw said in 1962: "I hate unemployment and I hope some of the Gray’s men will be able to find employment at Haverton Hill.

A ship built by the shipbuilders at Grays shipyard heads down the slipway following its naming ceremony.

"The people of the town can be sure I will do all in my power to improve the situation."

Coun RF Trotter, President of the Hartlepools Chamber of Trade, said strenuous efforts were being made to help those affected.

Shipyard bosses cited a reason of the "absence of a sufficient volume of profitable orders" and said that was the reason for bringing the business to an end "at the earliest possible date consistent with existing commitments".

The front page story came with a photograph of the Etnefjell, one of the last ship conversion orders to be undertaken by William Gray and Co.

Maypole dancing at Golden Flatts School Infants Department on Commonwealth Day in 1962.

It also warned that, if the people laid off failed to find alternative work, Hartlepool’s unemployment rate would "rocket to ten per cent or more".

The first 400 who were laid off immediately took the town’s jobless rate to 6.2 per cent.

Talks were being held with the unions who represented the shipyard men but as one Gray’s worker, who had been there for a long spell, put it at the time: "We have seen this coming for years."

Do you know someone who worked in the Hartlepool shipyards? Tell us more.

What are your memories of 1962 in town. Perhaps this next tale will give you a reminder.

It was in 1962 that storms saw nine men flee from a collapsing factory chimney which had stood 80ft high before it was felled.

A shipyard scene.

That same day, bricks fell on to a bed in a house in Reed Street where two brothers had been sleeping moments earlier.

Also in 1962, Lynnfield School lifted the town’s school football trophy and Commonwealth Day was celebrated at Golden Flatts School with dancing round the Maypole.

Does any of this bring back memories for you? Share your memories by emailing [email protected]

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Lynnfield FC, pictured at the Victoria Ground, receiving their trophy from the officials after winning the town's school football competition.