Culture • Heritage • Architecture
For 2000 years Maryport has held a close affinity with shipping and the sea. Maryport entered the history books when local landowner Humphrey Senhouse obtained an Act in Parliament in 1749 to develop a new town and harbour.
Today contemporary Maryport boasts a fine deep water harbour, modern marina and unique town steeped in history.
The Elizabeth Dock opened in 1857, and was the first wet dock in Cumberland. Based here are the Maryport Fishing fleet alongside sea-going leisure craft.
The large Senhouse Dock opened in 1884, and is now a Blue Flag Marina with impressive boat repair facilities, slipway and chandlery. Visiting boats are always made welcome.
A brief history
Maryport is a delightful harbour side town situated on the beautiful Solway Firth. Its history covering 2000 years boasts a Roman Fort, Georgian buildings, Victorian docks, and industries which have included coal mining, iron making, shipping and shipbuilding and many fascinating links with famous men and historical events.
2000 Years Ago
Maryport entered the history books nearly 2000 years ago when the Romans arrived. Although people lived here in pre-history the first recorded occupant was a Roman officer called Marcus Maenius Agrippa. He was a personal friend of the Emperor Hadrian and commanded the Roman fort (believed to have been called Alauna). The fort was built in around 122AD on the Sea Brows as a command and supply base for the coastal defences of Hadrian’s Wall. The Roman fort was occupied for nearly 300 years, during which time a small town (called a vicus) grew around the fort where the soldier’s families lived alongside native people who traded with the Roman army. However, by 410 AD, the Roman army was recalled to defend Rome from invading Barbarians and the fort was abandoned.
Little is known about what happened to Maryport after the Roman army left but, like most of the coastal area of Cumbria, it would have seen invasion and settlement by Norse people we know as Vikings. To the north of Maryport can be found Crosscanonby Church, an early medieval building with a Viking Hogback grave-cover and a Viking cross-shaft.
At the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 Maryport and the surrounding area would have been part of Scotland and therefore did not appear in the Doomsday Book. In a bend in the River Ellen can be found Motte Hill, a 12 th century motte and bailey castle dating from the time when the area became part of England. This was abandoned in favour of Netherhall by the 14 th century. The manor of Alnburgh, as the area was known at this time, passed into the hands of the Senhouse family in the 16 th century. The Senhouse family is responsible for the building of Maryport and its harbour as we know it today.
200 Years Ago
At the beginning of the 18th Century Maryport was hardly more than a little fishing creek at the mouth of the River Ellen consisting of a few huts and a farmhouse (now The Golden Lion Hotel which hosted Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and George Stephenson). Maryport was a planned town and rapidly expanded with 20,000 inhabitants by the beginning of the 20th century. However by 1752 manufacturing was beginning with leases being granted in that year for building, quarries furnaces and forges.
In 1756 Humphrey Senhouse changed the name of the lands known as Ellenfoot to Maryport calling the new town after his wife Mary. This change of name was later to be confirmed in an act of Parliament in 1791.
Maryport continued to develop and grow with houses numbering 100 in 1774. The year 1784 saw the building of the first blast furnace, which rose to a height of 36 feet.
During the first half of the 19th century Maryport boomed. A gas supply was connected, the railway was built, ships were registered for the first time and the bonded warehouse was built in 1842.
The second half of the century saw Elizabeth 1857 and Senhouse 1884 docks opened and the Maryport and Carlisle railway, which was planned by George Stephenson, in 1845. The harbour was founded mainly for the export of coal to Ireland; however other exports included steel rails, stone bar bolts and cast iron from the Solway Iron Works and collieries based in Ellenborough, Flimby, Dearham and Aspatria. Shipbuilders’ yards were a common sight, with Maryport having the largest docks on the west Cumbria coast until 1927.