Northward bound: Exploring Hartlepool

HARTLEPOOL

Sunday, May, 17, 2015

We had met some racers the night before at Hartlepool Yacht Club who invited us to join them for Sunday’s race. I gracefully declined while Max agreed to crew on BATHSHEBA, Stu and Sue’s boat.

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Located at Hartlepool Headland, it was a good forty-minute walk from the marina, which we were planning on doing anyhow in order to visit St. Hilda’s Church and the statue of Andy Capp (the comic strip’s creator, Reg Smythe, was born here).

We passed the construction of a humongous gas rig platform, a replica of the ones we passed sailing up the coast. Impressive. And, there was another one being built behind it. It is strange to come upon these manmade structures sticking out of the sea’s surface, like the wind turbines that populate these shores.

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While Max raced I walked to St. Hilda’s, a church still in use today. Like most of these larger, more substantial edifices, the current church, constructed at the end of the 1100s, stood where a smaller one had earlier resided.

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Peering into the main part of the church I was spotted by a church-goer who kindly asked if I’d like to come in. Figuring if I hadn’t been hit by lightening by this time, I and everyone one else in the church was safe, I said sure; and, for the first time in decades, I actually sat through a service not related to a wedding, christening, or funeral.

After it was over the woman at the end of my pew struck up a conversation. I told her I had just stopped in to tour the church, and she suggested I ask Tony for a tour. Her eyes widened when she found out my last name for, lo and behold, some Bruces built the church.

Back then, their name was de Brus, coming over from Normandy following the defeat of the last Saxon King, Harold, at the Battle of Hastings 1066. If they’re my ancestors, the de Brus family proceeded to atone, I’m sure, for their many transgressions by constructing some religious buildings.

Max and I later found the Brus’ also helped build Hartlepool; although, never studying any genealogy, my Bruce ties here could be a bunch of hooey. But, we’ll have to check with some friends, Doug and Dale, also with the surname Bruce, who may have better info. Whether or not my ‘Bruce’ came from here, it was fun to consider the possibility.

Tony happened to be the nice man who invited me in to the service. As we slowly walked through St. Hilda’s he showed me a tomb that history says might hold a de Brus (but probably not),

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some graffiti made by crusaders prior to leaving for the Holy Land,

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the typical wooden roof of that time (pre-flying buttresses so couldn’t support stone),

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and the remaining southern doorway from the first Normal construction.

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A christening was being held soon, so I exited the church promising Tony I’d be back with my nephew and his wife (coming the following week) if time permitted.

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Exiting into bright sunshine and stiff winds I started the walk back to the marina, passing by the Andy Capp statue.

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Nearing our pontoon I looked out just in time to catch a glimpse of what could have been BATHSHEBA finishing up her race. A perfect way to spend a sunny day.

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2 thoughts on “Northward bound: Exploring Hartlepool

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