Hartlepool's Heugh Battery: Site of Britain's only WW1 battlefield given £500,000 to secure future

Kris Jepson has been to the site of Britain's only WW1 battlefield. Watch the full video on ITVX here.

The Heugh Battery Museum has been awarded almost £500,000 for urgent works on the Scheduled Monument part of the site.

The money to repair the gun battery comes from the Cultural Investment Fund and is to preserve the site of national archaeological importance.

Located next to the Hartlepool headland, the Heugh battery played a key role on 16 December 1914, when the town was bombarded by German warships.

It went down in history as Britain's only battlefield of the First World War

Tom Gledhill, from Historic England, said: "It's such an important site from the point of view of recording history and remembering the history of the First World War. It's really important to keep this place open to visitors."

Over the years, the saltwater of the coast and the amount of visitors to the battery has worsened the condition of the battery which was not built to last for over a century.

The structures at Heugh battery have been affected by saltwater damage over the years. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

"It is a very old building," museum manager Diane Stephens explained. "It was built of concrete, it wasn’t meant to last and it wasn’t meant to be a museum with all of the tread and all off the people who come around it and use it and touch it. 

"The weather, the salt water doesn’t help so it is just an ongoing battle.

"If we can stabilise the monument side of things and hopefully if we can get a new building we can get a lot more of our collection on show it will make it a much better visitor attraction.

"We have great plans for this place so watch this space and come and see us."

It is hoped the money awarded will help stabilise the concrete structures of the monument, repair drainage systems, improve ventilation and add extra safety features.

At least 130 people were killed during the battle on 16 December 1914, with hundreds more injured.

The site of Heugh Battery was known as Hell's Corner due to the bombardment it faced during WW1. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Dr Michael Reeve from the Open University said: "It was very devastating. You've got the shock that this could even happen and the enemy could fire on the town."

Scarborough was also affected by German bombardment but just 15 people died.

Dr Reeve continued: "The difference in reporting rankled with people in Hartlepool because they were affected really badly, in this really exposed part of the North East coast, Germany's not too far away, they were hit first, yet they didn't get any attention.

"Being the plucky working class town that it is, they kind of took it on the chin. Then people tried to make sense of what happened and rebuild from it."

A magazine is situated underneath the battery and would have housed around 500 shells which could be used.

One person who would have been familiar with it is Robyn Foster's Great-Grandfather, Bombardier John James Hope. He is believed to have fired the most rounds of shells at the German ships on the day and was one of the first to be awarded a medal for bravery for his actions during the bomb


Ms Foster told ITV Tyne Tees: "We're really proud of the fact he's part of our family and he's part of the Hartlepool history.

"It's brilliant that we're able to come to the battery to see what happened on the day and have the history of it. We've found out a lot of information about my great granda' from historians that are based here.

"They showed us his medals, what he was doing, which gun he was stationed at, who he was with on the day. It's amazing that we've got this facility here to keep his history and the story of the bombardment alive."

John James Hope was given a medal for his bravery for his role on the guns during the bombardment of 1914. Credit: Family photo

Ian Lightfoot's family members were one of many sheltering from the bombardment.

"They were all huddled in the cellar," he explained. "There was the mother, my grandmother her little brother and her two sisters.

"She [my grandmother] never wanted to talk about it but occasionally it came out. She told me they climbed out because the staircase no longer existed, and Uncle Billy developed a stammer which he had for the rest of his life."

The Heugh Battery Museum is central to helping tell the stories of those on the Hartlepool headland during the day of the bombardment. The funding provided will help to ensure that will continue to be the case for years to come.

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