What county is Hartlepool in? We look back at 800 years of the town's heritage to find out

It shouldn’t be a difficult question to answer - it didn’t used to be - but what county is Hartlepool in.

Sunday, 25th August 2019, 8:00 am
Clouds over Hartlepool Marina

In simpler times the answer was Durham. Today the question is removed from pub quizzes. It would cause ructions. Here’s why.

After a few hundred years of non-commitment, the land on which Hartlepool lies was coveted in the 12th Century by the Bishop of Durham. King Canute said “Oh, go on then” and the settlement(s) was duly hoovered up by the county.

Hartlepool and West Hartlepool were county boroughs until they amalgamated in 1967; but always in County Durham.

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Hartlepool's magnificent St Hilda's Church stood in County Durham for 800 years - until the county moved.

The town was happily minding its own business, content with the arrangement until 1974, after the Local Government Act brought joy to precisely no-one. Hartlepool became part of Cleveland. Along with neighbouring towns, it remained in that “county” until its abolition in 1996.

Now? County Durham is “Land of the Prince Bishops” with huge historical, cultural and religious significance. “Land of the Unitary Authorities” doesn’t sound quite so swashbuckling.

Yet officially that’s what Hartlepool is. A unitary authority. It stands alone.

Anything involving ceremony, perhaps the Queen coming to town, will see the appearance of the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham as that remains Hartlepool’s ceremonial county. But it’s not quite the same.

Hartlepool United. The pride of County Durham - or where?

Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside are historically part of Durham too, but are now metropolitan district or borough councils.

How to get clarity? Not by examining postcodes. Hartlepool has a Teesside (TS) postcode, which doesn’t go down well with everyone.

Again, confusion reigns across the North East and Royal Mail hasn’t helped. Peterlee is in County Durham, but has a Sunderland (SR) postcode. Parts of Sunderland have Durham (DH) postcodes, South Shields has a Newcastle (NE) postcode; and so on.

So what’s the answer? Which county is Hartlepool in? Some maintain it’s part of County Durham and care nought for legislation, technicalities and red tape that says otherwise. Technically, it isn’t in a county at all. It’s just Hartlepool.

HMS Trincomalee. One of the greatest tourist attractions in the country of ... er ...

Got all that? Don’t feel bad about being confused. Some folk in Westminster aren’t entirely certain which country it’s in either.