In ancient times, the peninsula upon which Hartlepool stands was often called Heortnesse and sometimes this name was applied to the town itself. ‘Hart’ is a Teutonic name, signifying a forest, and that a forest did formerly exist here is indicated by the discoveries of large oaks, etc., buried in the earth in this neighbourhood. With the addition of ‘in-pol’ – in or near the pool or sea to distinguish it from the more ancient neighbouring parish of Hart, we have the present name ‘Hartlepool’. Trivial? It’s not, if you want to fully appreciate our next episode.
In 1879 a bunch of enthusiastic players and officials unsuccessfully tried to form a football club in the two towns of Hartlepool and West Hartlepool. In these days it was easier to walk across the bay because Rugby Union was the game, both in the North East as a whole as well as just in the Hartlepools. However, these gallant gentlemen were undaunted and the soccer code continued to gain support until in 1881, when West Hartlepool Amateur Football Club was formed. The first soccer club in town played its first competitive season in 1881-82 in the Northumberland and District Association. Two seasons late the club was a founder member of the new Southern Section of the Durham Football Association.
In 1900 they won their first significant trophy – The Durham Challenge Cup, and progress was maintained as they grew to become one of country’s leading amateur sides. In 1904/5 they won the FA Amateur Cup by beating the favourites, Clapton, at Shepherd’s Bush in London. This distant and apparently unlikely triumph inspired the town and in 1908 a group of founding fathers got together with the intention of forming a professional football club. Their idea was to bring West Hartlepool together with some of the smaller teams that had started to spring up in the ‘old’ town, so they called their club Hartlepools United. The new team took over the Victoria Ground from West Hartlepool rugby club. The ground was a former rubbish tip made into a sports ground in 1886 and named after the Queen, who celebrated her Golden Jubilee in the following year.
Hartlepools United continued to be a feature of the Saturday pools results until in 1968; just after a manager by the name of Brian Clough had left they changed their name to Hartlepool. In 1977 the club resumed use of the United suffix, but this time attached to Hartlepool.
From those early years to the present day the team has always sported blue and white, colours inspired by the proximity of Hartlepool to the sea. Firstly as stripes, followed by a rather stylish blue shirt with a large white ‘V’ in the mid-Twenties. Later in the 1930’s a plain light blue shirt was worn. Blue shirts with a broad white panel and sleeves were introduced in the late Fifties, to give way for all blue in the Sixties.
The club have experimented with variations of the blue and white theme, including a spell in the Eighties of white shirts and blue shorts. During the early Nineties when many clubs tried kits that now are viewed as being garish, if not downright awful, Hartlepool devised a rather neat chequered design in dark-blue, light blue and white. It wasn’t a bad effort for the time, but ultimately gave way to the more classical stripes.
United’s present nickname is ‘The Pool’ and in former times they were called ‘The Dockers’ after the traditional shipbuilding industries in the area. However outside the town they are known by a different nickname, which may not be greeted so enthusiastically by the inhabitants. The tale is that during the Napoleonic Wars a French ship was wrecked on the coast off Hartlepool, the only survivor being a monkey. The good inhabitants of that town took the monkey and questioned it intently. Getting no reply that they could understand they came to the conclusion that the monkey was a French spy, and accordingly hanged it. Hence, the “Monkeyhangers”.
West Hartlepool’ s coat of arms served as the club’s first insignia. The town adopted a device consisting of a blue shield with a silver fess (a horizontal band) charged with a running hart between two anchors. Above the fess is a gull and below a ship under steam and sail. These symbols are appropriate to a port. The hart, of course, refers to the name. It also appears in the crest, supporting an anchor. The motto ‘E mare ex industria’ means ‘From the sea and from industry’.
The first emblem actually worn on shirts was the 1959/60 quartered shield, containingthe letters HUFC. A hart, standing in a pool with a deerhound springing on to its haunches, is the device on the seal of the town of Hartlepool. It became the second emblem, never worn on shirts though but used on club officials’ blazers and on the team’s promotion suits. By 1974 the cruel deerhound was left out of the next, triangular shaped crest, with the same hart, now joyfully enjoying the absence of its assailant until 1978.
In 1985 Hartlepool United came up with a horrendous design, a football and in it the contours of what looks like the head of a hart, half eaten away, probably by our deerhound. In 1990 it was followed by an even more hideous example. It’s what designers can do insult the corporate image of a club. We see our beloved hart, now shamefully deformed and set against the blue and white club colours with the addition HUFC 1908.
In 1995 Hartlepool United disposed of its traditional punning icon to make way in a return to the maritime theme with a representation of a red ship’s wheel, surmounted by a football. It was the result of a public competition shortly after the then chairman Harold Hornsey took over the club in 1994. Beneath the badge is a scroll bearing the words “The Town’s Club”. Not exactly high-powered corporate speak with its implication that the local football club belongs to the community. But you know something? We like that!