|Businesses in Maryport||Towns and Villages of Cumbria|
Maryport lies at the mouth of the River Ellen on Cumbria's western coast. The natural harbour was used by the Romans as a port for troop supplies. They built a fort on high ground to the north of the town as one of a chain of coastal defenses against the barbarians to the north of Hadrian's Wall. The fort, called Alauna, was in use as late as the 5th century when the Romans withdrew from Britain.
During 18th century excavations of the site many altars were uncovered. This collection, the largest from one site in Britain, is now housed in the Senhouse Roman Museum along with displays on the Roman occupation of the area and Celtic religious sculptures. Everyday life of the Roman outposts is explained in the museum, which is housed in an 1885 Naval Reserve Battery.
Another Roman fort, Deventio, was constructed at Papcastle, a mile from Maryport where the Roman roads from Maryport, Carlisle, and Penrith converged. At the southern end of the town is Castle Hill, the scant earthwork remains of a pre-Norman motte and bailey castle.
Maryport was part of a smuggling route used by the ‘Solway Smugglers’ who transported their goods from here to Ireby.
The town was home to two famous men. Fletcher Christian, of mutiny on the Bounty fame, was born here at Ewanrigg Hall, the family's home. Thomas Ismay, founder of the White Star Line of which the Titanic was one vessel, grew up here. A 90-minute Ismay trail touts the town's connections.
The Maritime Museum contains photographs of the ship's wreck made by Dr Robert Ballard's expedition. Further exhibits in the Maritime Museum include objects, models, and paintings illustrating the town's maritime history, including information on the harbour and docks. The museum is housed in the former Queen's Head pub, an historic building.
Another nautical museum, the Maryport Steamship Museum, tells of the shipbuilding industry and offers tours of two ships. One is the Flying Buzzard, a River Clyde tug, and another is the Vic96, a WW II supply ship. A 1908 steam yacht and a trading schooner complete the picture.
Lovers of sea life will enjoy the Lake District Coast Aquarium with a large range of native Cumbrian sea creatures on display. Manta rays, tub gurnards, sharks, eels, and many more are on view. There are feeding demonstrations and educational displays. A fishing tradition is part of the picture in Maryport, and fresh catches are sold in local shops.
Two miles north of Maryport on the B5300 are reconstructed 18th century salt workers cottages. There once were salt settling tanks here at the appropriately named Saltpans. The government men who collected the salt tax were based at Netherhall, the manor home of Humphrey Senhouse. Formerly known as Ellenfoot, he renamed the town after his wife when he extended it in 1749, laying the streets out in a grid pattern.
Maryport came into its own during the exploitation of the West Cumberland coal fields, when Senhouse built the harbour to carry coal from his mines to Ireland. In 1777 three shipyards were at work, and the port saw up to 80 vessels at anchor. Newly built ships were launched sideways into the river because the channel was too narrow for traditional launching methods. In 1784 a blast furnace went into operation. The rail line was extended from Carlisle in 1845.
Buildings include the 1847 red sandstone St Mary's Church, rebuilt in 1890-92. The tower of the first church remains. In the older part of town narrow cobbled streets compete with sea views and Georgian architecture in Fleming Square. The Golden Lion Hotel, a former farmhouse, hosted Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins.
A large shipbuilding centre to the end of the 19th century, Maryport declined with the onset of the 1930's depression, and the harbour was closed to shipping in 1961. The harbour is now a popular marina and anchor spot for fishing boats.
Sand beaches and clifftop paths beckon walkers. A walk along the Solway Firth seawall opens up sea vistas as far as the Galloway hills of Scotland, and, apparently, much more. The promenade is one of the prime sites in Britain for spotting UFO's according to an investigator of extra terrestrial sightings.
Originally a small hamlet of fishing cottages, Maryport is now restoring and reviving its maritime and industrial past for the visitor.
Maryport is 6 miles northeast of Workington on the A596/A594.
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