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Hartlepool Town Wall

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Hertepol; Hartilpol; Hertelpole; Hertilpole; Hertilpol; Sandwell Gate

In the civil parish of Hartlepool.
In the historic county of Durham.
Modern Authority of Hartlepool.
1974 county of Cleveland.
Medieval County of County Palatinate of Durham.

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ527336
Latitude 54.69474° Longitude -1.18384°

Hartlepool Town Wall has been described as a certain Urban Defence.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


The builder of the haven and town walls is said to have been Robert de Brus I, but no references to the walls have been found earlier than the grants of murage in the reign of Edward II, and the evidence seems to show that they were built by the townsmen as a protection against Robert de Brus VII in the Scotch wars. In 1315, when the latter invaded England, James Douglas plundered the town and wasted all the east coast. The manor had been forfeited by Brus in 1306 for the murder of Comyn and had been granted to Robert de Clifford; Brus therefore had a grievance against the place, and the inhabitants were panic-stricken: there was a tradition that they fled to their ships and left the town to the Scots. A quantity of coins of Bishop Bek and Edward I, discovered at Hartlepool about 1841, were probably hidden in the face of this danger. Soon afterwards, however, the townsmen began to take active measures for defence. A petition from the mayor and commonalty in 1328 stated that Robert de Brus had granted a truce to all the bishopric except the town of Hartlepool, which he proposed to burn and destroy in revenge for the capture of a ship laden with arms and victuals, and that the community had inclosed a great part of the town and were building a wall to the best of their power. They asked the king to grant them for the purpose 100 marks due for food bought from the late king by Robert de Musgrave. The request was granted, and the king ordered that the work should be hastened.
Only that portion of the wall on the west side of the town now remains, and of this a great deal near the north end has been rebuilt and most of its original features lost. The existing wall is about 450 yards in length and runs in a north-westerly direction from the rocks near the pier to the modern ferry, at which point there was formerly a round tower. From here the original wall ran in a north-easterly direction across the inner harbour to the opposite shore, where it was continued over the isthmus. Large portions of this north wall were standing in Hutchinson's day, and his description of it, together with Sir Cuthbert Sharp's illustrations and notes of the changes wrought before 1816, is the only trustworthy record remaining of the ancient defences of the town.
The length of the wall across the isthmus was over 300 yards, and it is stated by Hutchinson to have been strengthened at intervals by demi-bastions, some rounded, others square. From the edge of the cliff where the wall began the ground gradually fell towards the harbour, and at about half its length the wall formed an obtuse angle 'guarded with a turret or bastion from whence is a kind of horn work projecting into the field for a considerable distance, of an angular figure, having two terraces one above the other, with the remains of a glacis.' To the east of this were three bastions, the middle one rectangular and the two outer rounded. To the west were the remains of a sally-port and a third round bastion. The wall terminated next the harbour in the great land gate, or chief entrance to the town, which was 34 ft. in width and projected 16 in. in front of the main wall. The opening was 11 ft. 3 in. wide with a segmental arch of two rings, 13 ft. in height. The gate-house probably formed originally a strong tower, but the upper part had gone in Hutchinson's day. 'The whole wall, tower and gateway,' he says, 'are of excellent masonry, built of limestone which is won in the sea banks,' but before 1816 two of the bastions had disappeared.
From the land gate the wall was continued in a direct line across the haven, the water at high tides coming up to the gate. This wall was over 8 ft. thick, faced on each side with dressed stones 'with a parapet guarded by a breast wall and embrasures,' and was pierced by a low pointed water gate for small craft. In Sharp's time the water gate was blocked in the lower part, and the superstructure, the remains of which suggested to Hutchinson a watch-tower, had disappeared. Further west the wall was broken in its length by two rectangular bastions, the entrance to the harbour being further west again, between two round towers 36 ft. apart. In Hutchinson's time one of these towers was 'very perfect save the parapet and embrasures,' but only the 'facia and foundations' of the other remained. Sharp (1816) states that 'the most perfect of the two towers was a few years ago 32 ft. high,' and that at various parts the remains of quays had been traced, showing that in all probability they extended entirely round the harbour. The harbour was nearly 12 acres in extent, but was inclosed for agricultural purposes in 1808 and the tower at the entrance destroyed. The entrance was then blocked and 'every vestige of antiquity which could be converted to profit' was removed. Five years later, however, the harbour was restored to its original use, but was silted up in 1832. It now forms part of the Victoria Dock.
The existing western wall faces the outer harbour, and formerly had bastions at intervals and a sally-port at about half its length, but these have disappeared. Near its south-east end, at rather less than 150 ft. from where the wall abuts upon the rock, is the old gateway known as Sandwell Gate. It stands at the end of Sandwell Chare, a narrow thoroughfare running from Southgate Street to the beach. The wall here is 8 ft. 3 in. thick and about 18 ft. high, and is pierced by a wider modern opening immediately to the south of the gateway. The top of the wall with plain parapet and chamfered plinth its whole length now forms a promenade. Towards the beach the gateway opening is 8 ft. in width with a pointed arch of two continuous chamfered orders, flanked on either side by angular buttresses carried up the full height of the parapet. On the town side the entrance has a segmental barrel vault carried by two chamfered ribs, the outer one forming the arch. The gateway is of plain and massive character and appears to be part of the original early 14th-century work. (VCH)
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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:48

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