Bringing family history to life

A scene from Stranton, provided courtesy of the reference library, York Road, Hartlepool
A scene from Stranton, provided courtesy of the reference library, York Road, Hartlepool

“IT was the hub of Hartlepool.

“And a lot of people will find their family history relates to this part of the town.”

They’re the words of Sandra McKay, the reference services officer at the Central Library, in York Road, Hartlepool.

Time and again she has advised readers to make their family tree interesting by looking in to the background of the neighbourhood in which their ancestors lived.

“You need to bring family history to life. It is okay to just tick boxes and find out who your great-great-great-great grandfather was, but where did he live and what was the area like?

“That is what gives you the real history of your relative. It’s the way that they existed and what they would have been doing.”

The extensive Central Library files show that Stranton was a village which existed in the 12th Century. Its name is believed to mean the village on the sea-shore – or Strand-ton.

In days gone by, it was very much a seashore community as most of the land east of Stockton Street (the area on which Hartlepool College of Further Education and other buildings stand) was sand dunes before 1847.

Its formation came about when Robert de Brus gave the churches of Hart and Stranton to the Priory of Guisborough in 1129. The parish included three new townships which were Stranton, Seaton Carew and Brierton.

Stranton remained a small parish for centuries to come, but it did cause plenty of quarrels in the meantime.

The rows were caused by the fact that Stranton was by the seaside – and everyone wanted a claim on the booty which was washed up on the seashore, known as the Right of Wreck.

It led to an incident in the early 13th century where Peter the Brus got his servants to collect a boat which had been washed ashore.

Word got back to the Bishop of Durham who fined them 50 shillings each at the Sadberge Justices. But it led to Peter the Brus sending one of his men to arrest Gerard de Seton who had given evidence in support of the bishop.

He was hauled off to Skelton Castle where he was clapped in irons and put in a dungeon.

The bishop retaliated by ex-communicating everyone who had been involved in the arrest and the prisoner was set free.

But Peter de Brus was also fined £20 for his actions and the whole dispute was only resolved when two barons from Darlington came to a meeting.

Peter de Brus was excused his fines but only on the basis that he agreed that the bishop should have the Right of Wreck.

Right of Wreck was a topic which came up again in 1457. Debris had come ashore at an area called Newburn Rawe – the first time that Newburn Rawe had been mentioned.

The new burn was the stream which flowed through Stranton and went through marshes to the sea.