Jo’s Monday walk : Hartlepool Story Trail

Fish Annie's song

Fish Annie’s song

I’ve been promising this particular walk for quite a long time.  I hope you like it!

The Hartlepool Story Trail follows a sequence of 18 signs, crowned by a monkey.  You’ll see why later.  It traces the history of Hartlepool back to AD640, highlighting local landmarks along the way.

It’s a walk that I often do, paying no particular attention to the signs because my eyes are focussed on the sea.  Hartlepool’s history is irretrievably mixed with the maritime and the walk starts midway along the promenade.  Why, I really don’t know!

It all begins with the 'Island of Harts'

No. 1- the ‘Island of Harts’

The hart is a symbol of Hartlepool and appears throughout the town

The hart is a symbol of Hartlepool and appears throughout the town

It will be fairly obvious, I think, that I took some of these photos on different days.  The sea is always a magnet to me, whether it’s thundering against the sea walls or softly licking the shore.

No. 2- Fairy Cove

No. 2-  ‘Fairy Cove’

A calm blue background today

A calm blue background for the monkey

This point marks the north eastern end of the town wall.   The ‘Fairy Coves’ were man-made circular excavations, 5 metres in diameter, about 12 feet above the shore, and intended as ‘places of concealment’ for humans.

No. 3-

No. 3-  Beacon and Town Moor

Today's beacon, on a better day!

Today’s beacon, on a bluer day!

No. 4-  Bandstand & Elephant Rock

No. 4- Bandstand & Elephant Rock

Elephant Rock, which collapsed in 1891

Elephant Rock, which collapsed in 1891

  • The bandstand still exists, though in rather dilapidated condition.  Gone are the days when it witnessed street theatre, boxing matches and even motor bike racing time trials. Elephant Rock, sadly, is no more, but there are still numerous smaller stacks along the shoreline.
  • No. 5-  Lighthouse and Heugh Battery

    No. 5- Lighthouse and Heugh Battery

    The first lighthouse on this site dates from 1847 and was one of the world’s first to be operated by gas.  It was dismantled during the First World War because its position prevented retaliatory fire from the Heugh Gun Battery, in the Bombardment of Hartlepool on 16th December, 1914.

    The current lighthouse dates from 1926

    The current lighthouse dates from 1926

You may have noticed the darkening sky, and my wonky photo, above.  Rounding the lighthouse one day last week, I was met by a storm of hailstones, and this!  Happily I wore a waterproof.

The sea was having fun!

The sea was having fun!

Lots of fun!

Lots of fun!  These photos are not in black and white.

As the sea lashed the promenade, I made a dash for the next sign, no.6- Cliff Terrace.

Some of the signs are quite weather worn, too!

Some of the signs are quite weather worn.  It’s no wonder!

No. 7,  just off the seafront and a little more sheltered, rather strangely comes in two parts- ‘a’ and ‘b’.  Billy Purvis, the subject of 7a and something of a jester, is buried in the grounds of nearby St. Hilda’s Church.

No. 7a-  Billy Purvis

No. 7a- Billy Purvis

7b is, of course, the church itself.

7b  of course, is St. Hilda’s church, dating from 1190.

Pretty in snow, isn't it?

Pretty in snow, isn’t it?

So far this year, there’s been no snow in the north east.  Hush!  Don’t even think about it.  Neither has it been paddling pool weather, but that’s where we’re going next.

No. 8-  the 'Paddling Pool'

No. 8- the ‘Paddling Pool’

One chilly monkey!  What's that saying?  Brass monkeys?

One chilly monkey! What’s that saying? Brass monkeys?

As the sign says, we once boasted a handsome paddling pool set into the rocks beneath this promenade.  I dimly remember it from my childhood, but in 1953 a tremendous storm hit the north east coast, and the damage was irreparable.  There is a much tamer version of the paddling pool set into the lower promenade, and it continues to delight small persons in Summer.

No. 9-  'Hartlepool Lifeboats'

No. 9- ‘Hartlepool Lifeboats’

Unthinkable that we could have a town without a lifeboat, and one has been in existence since 1803.  The first cost just £300 to build locally, and was propelled by 10 oars.

No. 10-  'Fish Sands and the Monkey'

No. 10-  ‘Fish Sands and the Monkey’

This is a crucial sign, and the one I started this post with, seen here on a hazy summer’s day.  The sign includes the tale of the monkey-hanging, which no self-respecting Hartlepudlian can fail to know, though it doesn’t reflect well on us.  Allegedly, during the Napoleonic Wars, a severe storm hit a French vessel off the coast of Hartlepool.  Following the wreck of the ship a sole survivor, a nautically attired monkey, was washed ashore on the Fish Sands.  Being unfamiliar with monkeys and naturally suspicious of the French, the people of Hartlepool decided to hang this “Frenchman” as a spy, and have been trying to live it down ever since.

No. 11-  'The Croft and Sandwell Chare'

No. 11- ‘The Croft and Sandwell Chare’, with St. Hilda’s in the background

The Chare- the prettiest bit of the town wall

Sandwell Gate, leading to the beach- the prettiest bit of the town wall

The Croft Gardens now sit below St. Hilda’s Church (but beside Verrill’s Chip Shop- another famous landmark!)  This was the site of the former old town, which was demolished in 1938.

'Chalybeate Spring' was a thriving Health Spa

No. 12-  ‘Town Wall and Chalybeate Spring’

Amazing to think that our pretty Town Wall, which has often been admired as my former header, has stood firm against elements and enemies since 1322.  ‘Chalybeate Spring’ was a thriving Health Spa, said to cure indigestion and other ailments.  Must have been the bracing sea air!

No. 14-  'Middleton & Ferry Crossing'

No. 14- ‘Middleton & Ferry Crossing’

Sadly I don’t remember the ferry, which stopped running in 1952, but I well remember Middleton and the dockland area.

The alert amongst you may have noticed a leap in the signs.  No. 13 is absent because I simply couldn’t find it!  Having got this far, in spite of inclement weather, I decided to terminate the walk.  I already have more information than you can readily digest and I don’t want to bore.

If you are interested and stop to read every one of the signs, the walk will take you no more than an hour or two.  There’s a map at the bottom of each sign so you can’t get lost.  On a nice day there are plenty of spots to linger and just watch the sea, and the boats heading for harbour.  If it rains I could recommend you to Mary Rowntree’s tearooms.  A former chapel, it has been beautifully converted, and you will pass it on your route.  Or you may be lucky enough to find St. Hilda’s open, and step inside.  For background history, if you can’t get here, this is an excellent article.

So what did you think of this week’s walk?  And, more importantly, do you have a walk you’d like to share with me?  If you do, I’d be delighted if you could leave a link in the comments below.  Or even link back to me from your post, if it’s a new one.  I look forward to an evening’s reading.

You can join in too!




    1. Karen, you’re a sweetheart 🙂 I had very little time to do my 6WS this week and I thought I should probably have included more details of the story trail. Thank you so much for taking the trouble to read this.


  1. Yes, poor monkey 😦 But I love the idea of the signposted story trail. Wish we had some of those. Your Monday Walk is a great theme Jo. Hope to be able to participate …occasionally 🙂


  2. Thanks for all the sea breeze and smell …. you have some beautiful walks in your area. Seen this “organized” walks at a couple of places is in UK, but I have always walked my own path.
    You know me – next time in Portpatick I will do it .. if the weather is good enough.
    You had a fantastic blue sky too … to share with us.
    Had a Monday walk to with flowers and art – here in Landskrona.
    Have to edit the photos a little.
    Lovely post, Jo.


    1. Thanks, Vivi 🙂 And for all your time, even with a sore ass!
      On Saturday I’m catching an early morning coach to Glasgow, just for the day (same as I did with Edinburgh). Got to get the restlessness out of my system somehow! I thought of joining an organised walk but I will only have about 5 hours so I will just follow my nose (and a map, but I’m rubbish with those). I know roughly what I want to see. Fingers crossed for the weather. 🙂
      The clouds are back and I must practise a little Polish. Big hugs, Vivi.


      1. Now I’m envy … Glasgow my favorite shopping city .. and great food. Remember to visit
        Princes Square – lovely place for something to eat and lovely small shops to check out. – it’s just in city … they have some nice ears … by the old hospital
        Glasgow Royal Infirmary – there is a small square where the burned all the witches once … so be careful.,_Glasgow.
        So so envy – both us .. the sorry ass would love to come along too. *smile


      2. Oh, I will be SO careful! I’ve never been to the city- only ever passed by. I mostly want to see the Rennie Mackintosh stuff but I’ll keep a lookout 🙂
        Back to my Polish studies- I never got there yet (again!)


    1. It took me quite a while because I have lots of photos of the signs (but often the same ones). Naturally I went back to fill the gaps on a rainy day! I’m much better on Hartlepool history now, though 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it.


  3. Lucky for us that you weren’t hypnotized by the sea during your walk, so we could get the grand tour of Hartlepool. And that monkey! I think every town has some sort of monkey legend to live down, don’t you? Enjoyed the walk!


    1. There is so much information on those signs, Elisa! Maybe too much for one post, but I’ll have to go back hunting for that unlucky number. My husband didn’t believe that it wasn’t there so he’ll have to pay the price and come too. Not today, though. It’s another ‘cats and dogs’ day 🙂


    1. It’s quite amazing the history of this town when I dig back. I should pay more attention!
      Glad you could come walking with me 🙂 One very wet week! Can only get better?


    1. Yeah! Rubbish old blue skies you can see any time. (I’m lying, Gem! I’m lying!)
      The rain is bouncing 🙂 On with the mac and wellies.
      I’m not sure if they deliberately don’t have a 13? But I will take Michael along next time. His eyes are better than mine. And I’ll find 15-17 too hopefully. Will make a mini post. This one was a marathon. Hugs, Gem! 🙂


    1. It’s a mac and wellies day again, today, Cathy! Funny how easy it is to ignore stuff that’s right in front of your nose. Some of these signs I hadn’t even read, and they’ve been there for years. Too busy looking at the sea. 🙂 Thanks for your e, hon. I need to experiment too, and set up my Menus, and practise my Polish. Saturday I’m having one of my madcap days away (to Glasgow) so need to research where I want to see. My list is nearly as long as yours. 🙂
      Stay well!


      1. I know what you mean, Jo, about ignoring the things right in front of us sometimes. Oh, can’t wait to hear about your trip to Glasgow. How long will you be there?


      2. Only about 5 hours 🙂 (similar to when I went to Edinburgh) On the bus at crack of dawn.
        It turned into an April showers day and was glorious for a little while this morning so I’ve had my fix of fresh air 🙂


  4. What a great walk Jo ..I just love the seaside … nice to experience the various weather conditions along there with you too 😉
    So good to see funds put into making an information trail such as this .. oh but the poor monkey :-/
    Loved all the history and the fact there is still a little bathing pool for the youngsters . Here’s to some paddling times ahead come Summer 🙂
    I had a mere stroll compared to yours …


    1. I know but it’s beautiful! I’ve just this second finished commenting on yours and am about to put it in my links at the bottom of my post. Thank you so much! 🙂


    1. Well, it is just folklore, AG, so I’m not sure that it really happened. You can buy postcards celebrating the event locally though! We’re a funny lot here in the north east 🙂

      I was just about to head for the shores of Como with you when your comment popped up.


    1. Those USA travels could take a long time, Jude, but I’m more than happy with you recycling older ones. And Ile de la Cite- I’m excited just thinking about it! 🙂 Cheers!


    1. It’s completely beautiful, Amy 🙂 Thank you so much!
      I’m adding all the posts to the bottom of my post each week, so they’re all together in one place. Makes it easier for people to visit. I’m also thinking of sharing them all on my Restlessjo Facebook page. Would that be ok with you? Thanks again!


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