Incomplete Timeline of the
Known History of Seaton Snook
(Further updates forthcoming) 
Depiction of the exhumation of St Cuthbert, 698CE.

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 ↗̱

1776
From The Newcastle Chronicle, 12th October 1776: Notice is hereby given, that application is intended to be made to Parliament the next sessions, for leave to bring in a bill to be passed into a law, for dividing and inclosing a certain open stinted pasture or common, called the snook or marsh, within the township of seaton carew, in the parish of stranton, in the county palatine of durham: dated the 18th day of September 1776.  R Preston, junior solicitor

The Newcastle Chronicle, 12th October 1776

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. 

1848

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. 

Land reclamation at Seaton Snook, utilising slag from nearby iron and steel works.

The Glendenning Archive, Hartlepool Library Services 

1866
Houseboats in Seaton Snook were huts built atop flat-bottomed boats called cobles. The gentleman in this photo did not exist.

Archivist's collection

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.

1868
Hurricane reported at Berwick, 3rd November 1868

Shields Daily News, 3rd November 1868

Report of the death of Timon

The Daily Post, 18th March 1868

Report of the first death of Jacob Cox's Horse

Yorkshire Post, 30th May 1868

Report of the second death of Jacob Cox's Horse
Report of the third death of Jacob Cox's Horse

Bedfordshire Mercury, 3rd October 1868

Lincolnshire Chronicle, 20th June 1868

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.

1868-1871

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

1872
Blacksmith Christopher "Kitty" Bell and three friends, hard at work. Well, two of them are hard at work.  The other two are just standing around.

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.

1873
Report: Prize Fight on Seaton Snook.  We are informed that on sunday afternoon a prize fight took place on seaton snook.  the prize was made up of so much a side, a ring was formed and the regular functionaries, such as bottle-holders &c., were nominated and agreed upon.  A large crowd witnessed the conflict, during which one of the combatants was severely lacerated.

Northern Evening Mail, 5th March 1873

A moonlight ritual on the beach involving two men fighting to the death was deliberately misreported to the press so as not to alert suspicion as to the combatants’ intentions.  

1875
Henry Smith Charity meeting: The Rev. E Shaw thought the mayor was three centuries head in his idea of building on the Warren, which was, besides, unhealthy.  He thought they might as well go to the Park at West Hartlepool, or, as a member suggested, Seaton Snook. (Laughter)

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.  

1892

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. 

 

Though not before Jimmy Walls blew his arm off shooting pigeons.

Cropped image of a report on the cholera outbreak at middlesbrough.
Cropped newspaper report confirming the taking-over of houses in Seaton Snook to provide room for a cholera hospital
Cropped report of the death of cholera victims
Cropped report of a suggested new hospital at seaton snook

Northern Echo, 13th Sept 1892

North Eastern Daily Gazette, 3rd Sept 1892

Shields Gazette, 17th Sept 1892

Leeds Mercury, 30th August 1892

Cholera Shields Gazette, Sept17 1892.png