A look back at disasters in the docks

Published Monday, 4th March 2019

The misfortunes which have beset Hartlepool’s docks over the decades will be recalled in a special event later this week.

Local history enthusiast Steve Robbins will be giving a talk called ‘Disaster In The Docks’ at Community Hub Central in York Road on Thursday 7 March from 2pm to 3.30pm. The event is part of the Hub’s regular ‘CHAT Group’ – an adult social group which meets to chat about various topics.

Steve’s talk will start with the famous match factory fire of August 1954, when the docks of Hartlepool were lit up when the match factory near Swainson Dock caught fire. The factory had been established since the 1930s and employed 150 men and women.

The match factory fire.

The match factory fire of 1954

The fire broke out at about 4am and quickly grew into a major blaze – it was so great that 16 ships in the reserve fleet which were in the docks were being prepared to be moved out to a safer area.

Crowds gathered to watch the fire, many paying for platform tickets onto West Hartlepool Railway Station to get a better view.

Steve’s talk will end with the closure of Gray’s shipyard in 1961 after 80 years in operation. 

Admission to the talk is £1 per person and places must be booked in advance by contacting Community Hub Central on 01429 272905 or emailing central.library@hartlepool.gov.uk