For centuries the Ferry was the quickest way to travel between the Headland and Middleton. The earliest written record of a ferry at Hartlepool dates back to 1600. At its peak it carried thousands of workers to the shipyards at Middleton.
In 1918, Hartlepool Corporation bought the ferry rights from the Hartlepool Ferry & Harbour Company for £500.
It finally closed in the 1950s, when more convenient ways of travelling made it redundant.
Hartlepool Ferry 1853, For Regulating the Working of the Boatment (sic)More detail »
Hartlepool Ferry, application sfor employment notice, 1853.More detail »
An unusual view of the Hartlepool to Middleton Ferry. The steps are not the ones we normally associate with it. The men on the end of the jetty seem to be fending something off with a pole whilst those in the boat are looking in that direction.More detail »
The old town of Hartlepool, on the north-east coast of England, is built on a spur of land which is connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. For centuries an important means of local transport was the ferry. It was the quickest way to travel between the Headland and the mainland. At its peak it carried thousands of workers to the shipyards at Middleton. It finally closed in the 1950s, when more convenient ways of travelling made it redundant.
Hartlepool ferry transported its passengers from the Headland to Middleton, West Hartlepool. The map shows how useful the ferry was. The route by land went around the marshy area known as the ‘Slake’. The ferry saved travellers a walk of at least a mile (1.6 km). The distance across the water was less than 100 m (109 yards).
The ferry existed for several hundred years before West Hartlepool was built. A written record, dated 1600, reports that money was paid to William Porrett for providing a “fferriboote”. In early times this connected the Headland with the old coast road, which went along the sands to the nearby town of Stockton.
In the early 19th century the ferry was operated by former local fishermen, who were paid by Hartlepool Corporation. Richmond’s ‘Local Records of Stockton and Neighbourhood’ (published in 1868) describes them as “decayed or infirm fishermen and pilots”. This means that they had become too old or frail to work on the fishing boats.
A new ferry was started by the Harbour Commissioners in 1852 to connect Hartlepool Headland with the new and rapidly growing West Hartlepool. They spent a large amount of money on new boats, uniforms for the boat crew, and building new landing stages. The boats were built by the local firm of Pounders and could carry up to sixty passengers. They were crewed by two men, or four in bad weather.
For many years the two ferry services ran side by side. There was some rivalry between them, but the support of the local people ensured that the fishermen’s ferry kept at least as many customers as the grander new ferry. The original ‘Old Ferry’ ran north-east to south-west across the harbour. The ‘New Ferry’, ran east to west. The routes met in the middle, and since the boats carried no lights, night-time collisions with each other, or larger vessels, were always a possibility!
The ferries became very important in the mid 19thcentury when the docks were built, as they brought workmen from the Headland to the Middleton shipyards and engineering works. During World War I, when the yards were building warships, they carried over a thousand men a day. The demand became so great that the two services together couldn’t cope. The Harbour Commissioners decided to return the running of their ferry to the Corporation in 1918.
Although the ferry had been popular it was very expensive to run and began to lose money. The boats were open to the weather. As safer and warmer ways of travel became available demand for the ferry fell off. In 1939 the Corporation handed their boats over to the fishermen. The fishermen closed their own service and continued running the new ferry. It finally closed in 1952. The last ferryman was Thomas Boagey, who died, falling down the ferry steps. This was the end of a centuries old tradition of fishermen taking passengers across Hartlepool Bay.More detail »