Coordinates: Middleton is a place in County Durham, England. It is situated on the North Sea coast between the centre of Hartlepool/West Hartlepool and The Headland (or Hartelpool/Old Hartlepool/East Hartlepool).
History and Etymology
In the medieval era it has long been believed to have served as part of both the sea and military defence for the harbour. However as Hartlepool went into decline, and the town's fate was compared with that of Ancient Tyre, Middleton gradually lost its significance; by the late 18th century half of neighbouring Victoria and Commissioners Harbour was recorded as being half-filled in and used as a cornfield.
However in the early 19th century, Hartlepool's fate changed as the town began to industrialise, and the Greys, the Swansons, and the Jacksons began investing in the new docks that would emerge to the South, as the Dyke House Marshes where drained. Gradually Middleton re-emerged becoming more or less an island, in the centre of the new dockyards. Due to its prominent position, it seemed for some to be the ideal place to establish shipyards. At its height in the late 19th century, the island had three shipyards and two engineering works based on the Island of Middleton. Middleton was itself a community in its own right, consisting of three streets of terrace houses and a number of pubs. It was also home to a "Rocket House" which was used for signalling ships.
In the 1940s, this area of Hartlepool was home to many decommissioned or mothballed Royal Navy ships, as well as ships of Axis Powers, waiting to be refitted or dismantled. These included one of Adolf Hitler's yachts.
From the end of the Second World War the dockyards in Hartlepool gradually fell into decline, partly due to the moving of several key industries, the declines in export of coal. For Middleton it was particularly hard hit by a decline, in the commission of ships built in British shipyards, as well as the fact much of the Dockyards at Hartlepool were gradually considered unsuitable for the modern container ships (until the improvements made to Central Dock, which now serves as the main port of the town). This and a combination of the highly polluted, dirty and derelict environment of Middleton, gradually led to the site's depopulation, to a point where by the late 1980s the only inhabited part was a surviving pub. Most of the buildings with the exception of several derelict buildings, mainly belonging to the Engineering Works, warehouses and the modern buildings of Greys Shipyards, had been demolished.
From early 1990s onward, the entire Docklands area of Hartlepool received funding from the Regional Development body, to regenerate and redevelop the entire area. Since then the entire site except for the pub has been leveled to the ground. Much of the surrounding dockland has been filled in, but due to its position by Central Dock and Commissioners Harbour, and the use of Union Dock to the South as a Yachting Harbour, have in essence kept it an island. Currently a large portion of Greys Shipywards remain, though they are rarely commissioned to do anything else except build parts for oil rigs and dismantle ships. Dismantling the "ghost ships" itself causing controversy.
Since 2003 a series of new apartments, have been completed, which roughly covers the site of the terrace houses. Despite being very modern and having some excellent sea views, these Apartments have proved difficult to sell, mostly due to their isolation on the island, and distance from the town centre. It also has not helped the fact that they are so close to a site of industry, what with both the container port and the shipyard on its doorstep. However Hartlepool District Council has plans to redevelop the neighbouring Industrial sites as part of their redevelopment plans. However this itself, has caused controversy, as understandably neither the Shipyard or the Port desire to move. The decisions of the District Council have also angered many people who work at the two sites. Public opinion remains divided, with some desiring the full re-generation of the area, and others who are upset at the idea of Hartlepool once again losing its port. Some[who?] question the sustainability of the planned regeneration of the site, given what some see as the council's existing failures with regeneration in other areas of the town. Some also take a view that redevelopment of the port would lead to a number of local businesses having to consider moving out of Hartlepool. It remains a complicated issue, which is still being resolved.