HISTORY EVENT: Cath Maddison and Derek Sims prepare the signal flags that form part of the HMS Trincomalee exhibition at The Fitzhugh Library.
HISTORY EVENT: Cath Maddison and Derek Sims prepare the signal flags that form part of the HMS Trincomalee exhibition at The Fitzhugh Library.

PEOPLE in the dale can look forward to a number of exhibitions at Middleton-in-Teesdale’s Fitzhugh Library, including the world’s oldest floating ship and rare Hannah Hauxwell items never previously seen in public.

Following a successful exhibition about Women of the Dale during Heritage Open Week last year, the library is currently hosting a display about HMS Trincomalee – a museum ship in Hartlepool.

Derek Sims, of Fitzhugh Library, said: “HMS Trincomalee is the last surviving frigate from Nelson’s navy. It is also the oldest ship floating in the world, except for one that is in dry dock in America.”

The exhibition came about after Hugh and Ruth Turner, of the Friends of HMS Trincomalee group, moved to Middleton and donated various items to the library.

The ship was built in Bombay during 1817 before sailing to the port of Trincomalee, in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where it got its name.

Later it would be involved in an Arctic search in 1854 and the Crimean war.

Mr Sims said: “They were going to break it up in 1897 but Nelson’s flagship the Foudroyant was wrecked outside Blackpool, so the guy who owned the Foudroyant, Geoffrey Cobb, bought it as a replacement.”

It continued to be used as a training ship and was still active in the 1960s before being towed to Hartlepool where it underwent extensive restoration.

Sam Turner

The exhibition, which runs until May, includes photographs, signal flags, a sailor’s hat and other interesting items from the ship.

The library, which is above The Village Bookshop in Market Place, is open on Mondays and Tuesdays between 10.30am and 2.30pm.

Cath Maddison of the library revealed that people this summer can expect to see an interesting display of items left to the Fitzhugh by Hannah Hauxwell, including a large box of her fan-mail and television scripts featuring her handwritten notes.

The hoard of items were only recently delivered to the library.

Ms Maddison said: “It is a huge gem of information about the dale’s families. We are still working through it.We have all of her fan mail and we have agricultural records going back – it is absolutely amazing.

“We have correspondence going back to her great-grandmother. It is absolutely incredible.”

Other interesting items that might make part of the display is a gas mask owned by Ms Hauxwell’s mum, Green Shield stamps and Co-op tokens.

The library is looking for more volunteers to help out. Anyone interest can contact Mr Sims on 01833 640074.