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The Robert Wood Collection

Robert Wood was a West Hartlepool-based local historian who acquired a collection of local ephemera (posters, leaflets, etc.) in 1958. This came into Hartlepool Museums Service’s collections in 1977 after Robert Wood’s death. Along with the ephemera, there are other books that contain the results of some of Robert Wood’s research. He also passed on items to Hartlepool Reference Library, which are now in the Library’s collection.

He was a teacher by profession, becoming the headmaster of Rossmere Junior School, West Hartlepool, during the 1950s and 1960s, retiring in 1973.

Robert Wood collected the ephemera from Ord’s, a local printing firm. The firm had been storing all the paperwork from a 19th century printer, John Procter. Originally this had been stored in Mason’s printing works at old Hartlepool, (F. Mason took over the works after the deaths of both Procter and his son). Ord’s took over the firm from Mason. They had been ordered to remove it during the Second World War, because it was a fire hazard.

According to Robert Wood, the then owner of the printing works had taken all the paper out of the attic, and left it in the back street. Some people took away posters, to frame up and hang as decorative items. So the owner removed the remaining paper into a shed at the rear of the printing works, where it stayed until he had a conversation with Robert Wood. Mr Ord told Robert Wood he was welcome to take away all the old papers. By the time Wood rescued the collection, some of it was in a very bad state. However, the papers three or four layers down had been protected (the roof of the shed leaked) and there were still many fascinating items that had survived. Wood said he would take the collection off the printer’s hands, and from then on Robert Wood spent the rest of his life sorting through the enormous collection (about 40,000 items).

After Robert Wood’s death, the theatre posters were bought for a theatre and music hall museum in Sunderland. That project was short-lived, all the theatre posters are now in Newcastle Archives. All of the remaining collection, including all handwritten items, came to Hartlepool Museums. Many are on display in the Museum of Hartlepool.

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