Towns told that two into one would go

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FIFTY years ago this week President John F Kennedy was assassinated and The Beatles played a gig just down the road at Stockton’s Globe Theatre.

But ANDREW LEVETT discovers that for many in Hartlepool there was a bigger story in the pages of the Mail – and one that has fuelled almost as much debate since as what really happened in Dallas the day JFK was shot.

A STORY stretching back hundreds of years began a new chapter on Wednesday, November 20, 1963, when the Local Government Commission recommended merging West Hartlepool and Hartlepool into one county borough.

Hartlepool Council leader Coun F Jacques was furious, telling the Mail: “We will formally object to the Minister. We are not going to let it rest.

He disputed that it would be amalgamation but rather an extinction and added that Hartlepool “would be saddled with all of West Hartlepool’s troubles”.

However E J Waggott, Town Clerk of West Hartlepool, described himself as “fully satisfied” with the proposals going forward to minister of Housing and Local Government Sir Keith Joseph.

He said amalgamation would put the town “in a better position to enter and continue the struggle to restore the area to prosperity”.

It wasn’t just Hartlepool – now often referred to as the Headland – which planned to object.

Coun W Spedding, chairman of Greatham Parish Council, predicted higher rates and told the Mail: “We are quite happy with things just as they are.

“We have fought all along to keep Greatham and the steelworks out of West Hartlepool and we will continue to fight.”

But Mr Waggott responded: “By having control we can better protect the character of Greatham village.”

Mr G Davison, an 88-year-old Freeman of the Borough of Hartlepool warned of becoming “the back alley of West Hartlepool” and being “grossly outnumbered on any subsequent council.

He added: “At the moment Hartlepool is a Royal Borough and I don’t know if we would still be able to call it a Royal Borough if we amalgamated with West Hartlepool.”

But the authors of the report insisted “nothing we read or heard shook our view that the two Hartlepools are, in fact, one community”.

As well as the Hartlepools and Greatham, the commission proposed including Seaton Carew, Brierton, Dalton Piercy, Elwick and Hart in the new county borough, which eventually came into being in 1967.

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.