Woe betide the kids who faced the dunes

The zinc works
The zinc works

IT was known by two names. Seaton Snook and Canch End. And thanks to Arthur Glendinning, its history can now be brought back to light. In the second episode of our four-part series, Arthur tells us more of his research into a community which thrived on the edge of the North Sea.

HIS starting point was a desire to find out more about the place where his dad worked.

But soon, the study of Seaton Snook – the tiny community just miles beyond the boundaries of Hartlepool – had taken on a life of its own for Greatham man Arthur Glendinning, 76.

Arthur began the research on the place where his dad, also called Arthur worked, almost as soon as he took retirement.

But not long after he got down to study, he soon unearthed some great facts.

Seaton Snook may have been given that name because of the old English word Snoke.

Snoke means a tongue of land that becomes separated from the mainland at high water. Just as Seaton Snook did.

But there was another name given to the area.

The alternate name of Canch End might have referred to conch. That was the name for the likes of oysters and clams which lived in abundance in the area.

Either way, this was a village with its links to the sea. Seaton Snook first became a community when huts and houseboats developed in the 1800s, for people working in cockelling and “other fishing pursuits.”

Its heady days came later when The Central Zinc Co Ltd paid £5,300 to buy 52 acres of land. Soon, a works and plant to smelt zinc ore were developed.

Over the space of a few decades, a tiny community grew.

In 1861, one house called Snook Cottage existed in the area. Ten years later, a shepherd and his family lived there.

By 1881, there were two properties – one for a fisherman and his son, and the second for a general labourer.

But in that year, the Tees Conservancy Commissioners began building eight homes for its workers who would be involved in the construction of a breakwater – or a gare.

The new homes meant children now lived in the area and they faced a trek across dunes to get to school in Seaton Carew.

And at certain times of the year, they had to be allowed out of school early otherwise their journey home would have been cut off by the tides.

By 1901, TCC staff had extra workloads to install navigation lights and buoys.

And by 1911, 49 houses existed with the zinc works now under way.

And in amongst the population were ten Irish, one Australian, a Russian, three Prussians, four Germans and one Italian. And that did not include all of their families.

Yet while expert technicians from the likes of Germany and Belgium would have settled for a while, they would have eventually returned to their homeland.

While they were here, though, they helped to form a neighbourhood which included a shop, fish and chip shop, and other premises – and they were part of the tapestry which helped shape the Hartlepool area.

Next week – the heyday of a community.