Formerly – in the stirring times – Hartlepool kept its beacon ready for setting ablaze when requisite. On sight of a suspicious sail in the bay, it was fired and its red glare was instantly seen along the coast both north and south. The whole of the Tees Bay and Cleveland coast was thus informed the enemy was at hand. As soon as the ruddy glare was perceived through the darkness, the church bells were set agoing – The authorities astir, – the peasantry mustered in arms and the gentry on horseback in armour. Cattle were driven inland for greater safety and valuables removed etc. Whether the Hartlepoolites were a timorous people, is not stated, but it appears the beacon was fired too often, causing unnecessary alarm, and great complaints from the hardy Cleveland yeoman and others, who had the trouble of driving cattle for miles on several false alarms.
Complaints were made to government, and an order came down prohibiting Hartlepool from “firing any beacon in future.” The order like the generality of government papers, was hurridly written, and in addition to its poor calligraphy, the chief magistrate was an illiterate man, and read it as a prohibition of “Frying any bacon in future!” he duly considered the despatch, and to make sure of the order being obeyed, went round the town with a cart and took possession of all frying pans and gridirons and locked the collected articles up in St. Hilda’s Church!
The Whitby Repository. February 1st 1867