Bombardment: Annie and Flo’s place in town’s history

IN FOCUS: Mark Simmons, the Hartlepool museums manager
IN FOCUS: Mark Simmons, the Hartlepool museums manager

HARTLEPOOL was suddenly in the media spotlight after the German attack which left scores of people dead. But what was our town like in 1914?

A huge range of occupations abounded in Hartlepool in the early 1900s - and it had huge implications on the ranks that men signed up for when they went to war.

Hartlepool Museums manager Mark Simmons

Hartlepool Museums manager Mark Simmons

In some of the areas worst affected by the Bombardment, there was evidence that Hartlepool was a rich source of work.

In Northgate for example, residents held down jobs including piano selling, draper, tobacconist, building society secretary, confectioner and watch maker.

And in the home of the Kay sisters - in Cliff Terrace - one held down a very important job.

Florence Kay, 32, ran a warehouse for baby linen which was a vital trade in the days before disposable nappies.

The names of Annie, 34, and Florence Kay are written into the Hartlepool history books. One of the first shots fired at the Hartlepools hit their home and killed them.

The fact that Florence ran a successful business was one example of the variety of employment in the town.

Hartlepool museums manager Mark Simmons said: “The population of the borough was something like 68,000 but the number of people coming in and out of Hartlepool was 10,000 to 20,000.

“People were travelling in to work in the shipyards.

At the time, Gray and Co offered really good wages and workers, particularly from Scotland during the 1880s onwards, came in.

“Grays was known for winning the blue riband for six years. It was awarded to the shipyard with the highest production.”

Yet even the best paid worker would have found it difficult to rise through the ranks once they were called up for service.

People could only become guard officers if they could afford the £500 cost of uniform and equipment which had to be paid for by the individual, said Mr Simmons.

“It is why ordinary men did not get to become officers,” said Mr Simmons.

Even skilled workers would probably not have earned enough to reach that rank.

“It was a strongly divided society,” said Mark.

A trained professional would earn around £50 a year but a doctor around £500.

It meant the rank and affordability of officer status in the Army went to a chosen few.