Reviving memories of Greatham Creek

A forgotten piece of the region’s little known history has been brought to life on the big screen by a Teesside University academic.

For around a century, Greatham Creek near Hartlepool was a base for fishermen and their families from across the region who would set up temporary homes in houseboats and cabins along the river where they fished for salmon during the summer months.

Warren Harrison, associate dean (international) at Teesside University Business School, has created a documentary which recaptures those days. His film The Creek, will be screened at ARC, Stockton, on Monday July 1.

The documentary focuses on the people who settled each summer from as early as the 1900s, until the location eventually became abandoned in the early 1980s.

The engaging story about the salt-marsh landscape and unique community which flourished for almost a century is told through interviews with former residents, archive photographs and location filming.

Warren spent three years working on the documentary, gathering memories from those who spent time there themselves or could share relatives’ stories about life along Greatham Creek.

He said: “Although people spent time living there for nearly 100 years, knowledge of it is very generational with just a handful of people aware of the Creek community.

“It was a unique community which deserves to be understood as an important and little known part of Teesside’s history.”

Warren added: “Many of the houseboats and cabins remained there until the 1980s until they eventually started to fall into disrepair as they became no longer used.

“The documentary looks at the community who lived there while also considering why they were there and how it came to an end.

“It was a place which was very much of its time, but very little has been documented to look at why people lived there and why did they eventually leave.”

The area was documented visually during the 1970s and 1980s by photographer Ian McDonald, with photographs from that time featured in his book Images of the Tees. Ian also features in the film; discussing his photographs of the Creek as well as his reflections on what made the place so important to many families.

Book tickets to see the film: