Incomplete Timeline of the
Known History of Seaton Snook
(Further updates forthcoming)
The exhumation of St Cuthbert, 698CE
During the Middle Ages, Seaton Snook was a settlement known for salt production. Seawater would be evaporated over fires in ceramic - and later iron - pans. Salters would use blood as a coagulant to separate some of the unwanted impurities, which was a common enough practice.
However, the methods of obtaining this blood became tied up in more and more cryptic rituals, which seemed somewhat unsavoury to people from outside the settlement. A scrap of paper found at Lindisfarne dated from around 700CE specifies the need for salt “ex usquam nisi Snuk” (Trans: From anywhere but [Seaton] Snook”). This aversion to the area would explain why, in an age when salt was a much valued commodity, Seaton Snook failed to profit or grow from its industry.
More on ancient and medieval salt production can be found at the Salt Association website ↗̱
It was proposed to enclose Seaton Snook from the sea, which resulted in the salt marshes being reclaimed. Snook Cottage was the first brick building on the land - little more than a croft - and once sufficient grassland had been grown, what later became known as the “Wide Open” was used for cattle grazing.
During this period, on May Day, farmers would gather their cattle at the extremes of the Wide Open, and stintage was assessed to make sure each farmer was assigned a fair share of the grazing land.
The Newcastle Chronicle, 12th October 1776
A new rail line from South West Durham to West Hartlepool via Seaton Snook brought more people, more money, and more business. Seaton Snook started to grow from a few farmsteads and fishermen’s cottages to a small town.
The Glendenning Archive, Hartlepool Library Services
The appearance on Seaton Snook beach of Mr John Wills, known widely as “Timon of the Tees”. Wills would die two years later. The above photograph is of a houseboat similar to that of Mr Wills.
March: The death of John Wills.
May, June and September: Jacob Cox's horse strays into the sea at Seaton Snook, cart and all. The horse drowns and is discovered by local fishermen. The incident occurs three times in total.
October: The wreck of the Dorothea
November: A hurricane sweeps the north east coast, causing massive damage to the homes and businesses of Seaton Snook. The incident is only reported in relation to the town of Berwick upon Tweed.
Shields Daily News, 3rd November 1868
There are wrecks almost every week for three years after the deaths of Jacob Cox’s horse. The survivor of one wreck claims his boatswain John McGill became hysterical, ranting about being able to hear the neighing of a horse before the hull of the boat inexplicably and spontaneously began to split.
Other incidents include a rabies outbreak which killed 12 people, and the shooting of a Mr George Shore in an apparent accident at the social club shooting range.
Northern Evening Mail, April 22 1870
Shields Gazette, Nov 24 1870
Evening Gazette, June 5th 1869
Manchester Evening News, May 2, 1871
Christopher "Kitty" Bell (Left)
Using the rabies outbreak as an excuse, the Tees Conservancy Commission takes the decision to restrict movement in and out of Seaton Snook by means of an iron fence. They commission Seaton Carew blacksmith Kitty Bell to begin work on a tall fence along the north and western sides of the Wide Open, leaving the only way in and out of the town (by land) as the gate at the top of Cinder Road, later Zinc Works Road. The trains no longer stop at Seaton Snook station. The fence was never completed, locals dismantling the barrier as quickly as it was being set up, as well as Bell's own distaste with the project, but the psychological impact of the proposed fence remained strong: people of Seaton Snook were very much outsiders, to be shunned and avoided wherever possible.
Northern Daily Mail, 3rd January 1875
A meeting of the Henry Smith Charity to decide on the site of a new school in the Hartlepool and Stranton area. A report from the meeting (above) indicates that Seaton Snook was little more than a joke to the politicians of the Hartlepools and Teesside.
The school was eventually built on Hartlepool (now The Headland). Seaton Snook composer Gaynor Leigh would begin her secondary studies there in 1904.
The cholera outbreak of 1892 hit the North East hard, and the remaining cottages at Seaton Snook were evacuated and used as a hospital for patients.
In the quarter of a century between the death of John Wells and the cholera outbreak, Seaton Snook had languished, all but forgotten, decimated by tragedy after tragedy... but its fortunes were soon to change.
Northern Echo, 13th Sept 1892
North Eastern Daily Gazette, 3rd Sept 1892
Shields Gazette, 17th Sept 1892
Leeds Mercury, 30th August 1892