The Shutter Painting Project

Artwork to Shutters and Hoardings on Church Street

78 Church Street: This artwork depicts Ralph Ward Jackson and Sir William Gray.

Shutter project

Ralph Ward Jackson (1806 - 1880), railway promoter, ship-owner, and entrepreneur, was born at Normanby Hall near Middlesbrough on 7th June 1806.  He has gone down in history as the man who built West Hartlepool.

Ward Jackson saw potential in an area south of old Hartlepool which at the time comprised only a few houses and sand dunes. In 1844 he obtained Parliamentary authority to build a harbour and dock at what quickly became known as “West Hartlepool”. Later, Ralph would recall how he chased a rabbit across the dunes as the first sod was cut to begin its construction. This first dock was completed in 1847, and was followed by two more in 1852 and 1856.

Ward Jackson’s West Hartlepool Harbour and Dock Company owned large areas of land around the new harbour. They laid out the first streets, provided a sewerage system, and used the stone which had been cut away to make the docks as the raw material for building new houses and public buildings. These included Christ Church, today the Hartlepool Art Gallery, and the Athenaeum. 

As the population of West Hartlepool grew, it became obvious to Ward Jackson that other, better, facilities were also needed. He arranged for an Improvement Act to be granted in June 1854, officially setting up a Board of Improvement Commissioners, who had the power to order street lighting, enforce public health, and decide on planning decisions. As Chairman, Ralph Ward Jackson effectively became “The King of West Hartlepool”, remaining in this post until his retirement in 1870.

In 1868 Ward Jackson was elected as the first Member of Parliament (MP) for the Hartlepools. He held the seat for six years.

Ward Jackson died in London on 6th August 1880, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.  His statue stands at the top of Church Street.

Sir William Gray (1823–1898), draper, shipbuilder and ship-owner, was born in Blyth, Northumberland, on 18th January 1823.  After first founding a successful drapery and textile business in Hartlepool, Gray expanded his business by opening another shop in Church Street during the late 1850s, before changing direction and moving into building iron steamships at yards around the West Hartlepool docks in 1863.

An active Presbyterian, Gray used his fortune to fund good works and various charities, including donating money to build a new Chapel at Greatham, the land for the West Hartlepool Free Public Library, and money to build a hospital.

In 1887, William Gray became the first Mayor of West Hartlepool, the only person ever to have been Mayor of both Hartlepool (in 1862 and again in 1863), and Mayor of West Hartlepool.  In 1890 Queen Victoria knighted him for his services to the Borough of Hartlepool and to industry. That same year he was made the first Freeman of the Borough of West Hartlepool.

Sir William Gray died on 12th September 1898, leaving a fortune of £1,534,704, over £93 million in today’s values.

His statue stands in Church Square, just outside the entrance to the Art Gallery.

The Athenaeum

These artworks depicts some of the exhibitions which were held in the Athenaeum. 

The Athenaeum was built in 1852 by public subscription, and soon became the Headquarters of the West Hartlepool Literary and Mechanics Institute. Its original purpose was to promote public learning, and contained meeting rooms used by various societies and clubs, a school room for adult classes, a library, and a large hall for both public meetings and for popular entertainment. It hosted scientific conversations, popular lectures and talks on a huge range of topics, and public exhibitions.

William Hutton, an active member of the Mechanics Institute and a keen natural historian and geologist, took the lead on creating the first museum in West Hartlepool by establishing a collection at the Athenaeum. His Museum of Natural History was opened to the public in December 1858, and included examples of rocks and minerals, fossils, and stuffed birds and animals, which could be studied by both students and the general visitor. Hutton also included various unusual and weird items in his displays, including a living “Toad in a Stone”, which was later shown to be a fake, and most likely “The Hartlepool Merman”, a strange stuffed monkey with a fish’s  lower body and tail, which today remains on display at the Museum of Hartlepool.

Many of the natural history objects from Hutton’s collection eventually found their way into the care of the Museum of Hartlepool when the first official museum was founded in 1920.

22-23 Church Street

Shutter project      Shutters project

These hoardings reflect some of the modes of transport that have operated along the street over its history.  The most iconic of these was the electric tram service, which ran down the centre of Church Street for many years, before continuing on to Seaton Carew.  The artwork also shows a historic delivery van, horse and carriage, and buses from two bus companies: blue busses were based in Hartlepool, while red buses were based in West Hartlepool.

25-26 Church Street

Shutters project

This artwork shows some of the different people who have used the street over its history, as well as continuing the transport theme shown elsewhere.  The railway was very important for the development of West Hartlepool, transporting and exporting the coal that brought in the income to develop the docks, shipyards and the town. The original train station was on Mainsforth Terrace. The current passenger station was built in 1880, and brought visitors directly into the bustling centre of West Hartlepool.

These images include both those of the people who owned the shipyards, and the shipyard workers and dockers employed by them, as well as the people who lived and worked in Church Street.  It also includes an image of the famous Suffragettes Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst, who campaigned for “Votes for Women” and spoke publically in West Hartlepool in the years before the First World War.

Finally, the artwork also includes an image from the first film made by Ridley Scott, “Boy & Bicycle”, which he made in 1965 while attending The Cleveland College of Art and Design (now The Northern School of Art).  This short film features his teenage brother Tony cycling down Church Street to the beach near Seaton.

Also see our Church Street Revival home page for further detail about the project.