Although not on the River Tees, Hartlepool nevertheless is an important town in the Tees region. As well as this, it plays a key role in the River Tees Rediscovered Landscape Partnership. Not only are some of our partners based there, but we have projects that link directly to the town. One of these, the North Tees Trail, will link up the rest of the region to Hartlepool. The town also has lots of fascinating buildings and situated on Hartlepool’s headland stands a key bastion against the elements - the Town Wall and Sandwell Gate.

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The town wall, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, serves to protect the buildings that stand behind it from the sea that can batter the coastline. Originally however, it was built as part of the town fortifications that surrounded the settlement and the harbour. Built in the 14th Century, they served to protect the town as its prosperity grew with the increase in trade – which can be reflected in the rest of the region. It made the town the only one of its kind to have fortified walls but no castle (Tees Archaeology). Almost all of the Tees Valley has at one point had a direct link with the sea and trade. It is defences such as these that protect the towns and ships at harbour from attack, or more regularly, from adverse weather. It is from the latter that the shipwreck on the sands outside Hartlepool met its fate.

Just off the coast of Hartlepool near Seaton Carew lies the wreck of what is thought to be a 19th Century east coast collier brig, a designated shipwreck by Historic England. These would have been a common sight along the coast, as they plied their trade to and from the region. Having only been discovered in 1996, there is no one who can remember or identify the ship, as there is almost no record of a ship of this type sinking in this location. The brig is thought to have encountered a storm and either run aground and wrecked or steered deliberately towards the higher beach. There is no foul play here however, as it is understood that doing this would have made it easier to salvage the cargo and would have given the crew the best chance of survival. The wreck had become visible when the levels of silt and sand dropped and coincided with the low tide. It can still be seen when these two occur, although they are very infrequent. There is an interpretation panel on the beach however, so if you are ever in the vicinity, it is worth having a look, and speculating what might have happened.

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The Town Wall and the shipwreck are both parts of the history of Hartlepool, as well of the Tees Valley. They are both an example of the importance of having a safe harbour, as well as an example of increasing trade. It was as this trade grew that the region developed. It is lack of war and an improvement in technology and engineering that has made town walls and shipwrecks off our shores an almost redundant feature and occasion. However, they still serve as a wonderful reminder of our past, so make sure you appreciate them whenever you visit anywhere in the region and discover the fascinating history behind so much of the buildings and other historical features. They were built for a reason, discover what that reason was.