VIDEO: Shipshape and bristling with history
Perhaps it's the Pisces in me (writes Chris Page). Maybe a penchant for telling time by bells not o'clock. Likely the piratical one eye. Perchance patronising Nelson Inn local.
But, whatever the reason, the call of water in general and the sea in particular has always enticed as alluringly as any rock-strewn siren’s song.
Hartlepool-berthed HMS Trincomalee - named after the Tamil heartland where my dear departed dad saw Fleet Air Arm service - was therefore a treat to behold as our party stepped aboard a vessel steeped in historical heritage.
Indeed the world’s oldest floating warship, albeit a temporary “elder lady of the sea” elevation during closest rival’s dry dock refit, first set sail in the year Austen’s Persuasion was posthumously published and Constable painted Flatford Mill.
Since that 1817 maiden voyage times and tides have ebbed and flowed from warfare to restoration to training for a 46-gunner that has for 27 years enjoyed pride of place on Jackson Dock’s quaint quayside.
Admiral Lord Nelson’s final frigate, she fought for our Empire in the Far East while also helping combat slavery. Bombay-built for the princely sum of Â£23,000, the teak ship’s travels also included Alaska, Pacific, West Indies and its eponymous Ceylonese port.
Frigates were key to Britain’s seafaring supremacy. Trincomalee and 46 sister ships were pick of the fleet, their Leda Class name referencing swan-like Greek mythology.
No lesser an authority than Nelson himself quoth: “Were I to die at this moment, want of frigates would be found stamped on my heart.”
As general manager cum meet and greeter David McKnight suggests the ship “certainly has some tales to tell of life on the high seas”.
Such briney yarns are expertly told on shore through the medium of award-winning walk-through AV show and video presentation gallery.
Press ganging was not needed to entice us to walk well-worn boards of this mean, lean fighting machine, most advanced of her age.
Visitors are transported back among a breed of hardy Age of Sail seamen, whose survival and indeed deaths were inextricably connected to life on the ocean waves. Wooden ships and iron men indeed.
Enthusiasm and encyclopedic knowledge are shared as we weave, heads cowered below low-level timber beams, mid tour from quarterdeck, waist and forecastle to hold via gun deck, mess deck and orlop.
Ship’s tour unlocks an edifying and entertaining (examples featured) A-Z, from above board to whole nine yards, of common phrases coined, amid cannonballs and storms, above the waves.
Then visit highlight, literally, climbing mast rigging to Fighting Top vantage point, affording breath-taking vistas of coastal industrial heartland, sadly slipping into wasteland with decline of communities’ traditional industries. Sixty foot Jacob’s ladder climb is probably not what the physiotherapist ordered for a 57-year-old anterior cruciate ligament osteoarthritic knee. But it is just what the doctor ordered in terms of adrenaline.
What a buzz. What a view. What better way to then celebrate scaling such heady heights than with nautical but nice 19th century Captain’s Cabin lunch, feasting on traditional fare alamode beef and jam roly poly.
As David enthuses: “She is a very prominent and iconic landmark in Hartlepool whom the people of the area and indeed the region have taken to their hearts.”
Since 2014 the charity trust owned and maintained vessel has rightly enjoyed National Museum of the Royal Navy heritage fleet standing alongside likes of HMS Victory.
Fifth rate its construction classification may be, but as a tourism attraction, this shipshape & Hartlepool fashion floating icon is simply first rate.
HMS Trincomalee, www.hms-trincomalee.co.uk, [email protected], 01429 223193
Where to stay
Wynyard’s winning combo:
classic meets contemporary
Wynyard Hall is a winner when it comes to exquisite classic charm combined with contemporary comfort.
Nestling within 150 tranquil acres of Tees Valley, the striking four-star hotel offers an exceptional experience.
Special occasion spectacular function rooms can seat up to 240 guests while Grand Marquee accommodates 650.
“The North East’s most loved destination” is also perfect base for couples keen to explore nearby attractions.
Wynyard Golf Club, Yarm Village, Durham Cathedral and Saltholme Nature Reserve are all easily visited. As is Hartlepool Maritime Experience’s superb recreation of an 19th century seaport, complete with historic quayside and authentic period shops.
Exclusive accommodation includes three elegant cottages alongside 19 bespoke bedrooms and suites.
Relaxing lakeside Spa allows visitors to indulge in variety of beauty and body treatments.
Service with a smile meets success on a plate in renowned two AA rosette restaurant. The Wellington provides an ever changing menu of British fare from locally sourced ingredients.
Historic heritage is central to an estate, initial leased by King Edward I in 1230 before the hall’s 1846 completion.
Wynyard glories in French and Italian marble. Spanish mahogany, stone from the family quarry and exquisite stained glass complete interior design.
Elaborate and extravagant in equal measure, the building has hosted royalty to writers.
After inheriting the title in 1955 aged 18, the 9th Marquess became unable to maintain the Londonderry family seat.
1987 saw him sell it to property magnate Sir John Hall, then owner of Newcastle United FC.
His goal was to restore the investment to former glories with Â£8.5 million facelift scheme.
Further Â£3.5 million cash splash from his daughter Allison completed impressive renovation.
For a seamless mix of modern and retro there’s no finer place to make your tourism base.
Wynyard Hall Country House Hotel, Tees Valley, TS22 5NF - 01740 644811
Where else to visit
The UK's only WW1 Live Battlefield is somewhat of a secret well worth revealing.
Who knew Heugh Battery Museum's marvels on Hartlepool's Headland?
Not us, for sure, as we approached along rugged roads familiar as prime time TV tec Vera's seaside backdrop.
The hidden attraction is certainly less well known than legend of 19th century locals hanging shipwrecked monkey they believed was a Napoleonic Wars French spy.
The military historians' mecca is a tribute to a fateful December day in 1914.
And a tragic testament to those whose lives were lost at 8.10am on the 16th.
Defence munitions repelled German warships in North East Bombardment that alerted UK to First World War.
Faithfully restored, the 19th century coastal base boasts unique history as only area to see ship-to-shore combat.
Divided across three levels, the site features parade ground and original barrack room, now visitor’s centre.
Underground magazines, artillery and observation point tower, providing panoramic North Sea views, also star.
But it is enthusiastic hosts who breathe life into an historic area, decommissioned 60 years ago by MoD chiefs.
Memorabilia includes home front weapons, literature, photos, books, artefacts and original documentation.
Gun parades, display teams and drill competitions number among regular family-friendly special events.
The volunteer-manned museum encourages visitors to understand a personal war and world conflict.
A must-see for young and old alike keen to comprehend Churchillian advice “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.
But word to the wise, if asking directions, the trust charity site is pronounced "Yuff".
Heugh Battery Museum, Moor Terrace, Headland, Hartlepool, Cleveland, TS24 0PS, [email protected], 01429 270746