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history of maryport...

The area around Maryport was largely uninhabited until the arrival of the Romans circa AD 70. Hadrian's Wall was begun in AD 122 to secure the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. It started as a turf wall, stretching from across from the mouth of the Tyne to the Solway Firth, and at a later date was converted to stone. The Romans stayed for around 250 years before being recalled to Rome around AD 410.

Thereafter, the area was left to Romano-British tribes, later colonisation by Viking settlers who infiltrated rivers along the coast and founded settlements such as Flimby and Crosscanonby and the Normans, who built the beautiful churches at Dearham and Crosscanonby. Both churches display stone carvings that portray the transition from pagan cults to Christian worship.

The town of Maryport owes its existence to the mining of coal and the foresighted patronage of Humphrey Senhouse of Netherhall. In the early 18th century, the area was little more than a fishing hamlet at the mouth of the river Ellen, known as Ellenfoot, owned by the Senhouse family. In 1749, Humphrey Senhouse obtained an Act of Parliament to develop a new town and harbour to rival Whitehaven, which he named ‘Maryport' after his wife. The town expanded rapidly in a planned way that incorporated elegant features such as cobbled Fleming Square surrounded by graceful Georgian architecture. By 1800 the town had 3000 inhabitants and 90 ships.

Maryport was built to capitalise on the discovery of nearby coal deposits. Initially the coal was brought in by packhorses to be loaded onto ships for export. The 19th century saw completion of the Maryport to Carlisle railway and new ship docks, Elizabeth and Senhouse Docks, which enabled large quantities of coal, iron ore, steel rails, timber, cotton, cattle and other goods to be brought in and out of the port. In the peak year of 1845, over 300,000 tons of coal were shipped out of Maryport. Shipping and shipbuilding were primary industries and many master mariners lived in palatial Georgian houses near to the docks. Between 1765 and 1914 over 280 ships were built in Maryport's shipyards. The town was the birthplace of Thomas Henry Ismay, one of the great shipping magnates of the time and owner of the White Star Line, which built the ill-fated Titanic. Other local shipping names include the Hine Brothers, who founded the Holme Shipping Line in 1873, and the Ritsons who constructed the first iron ships at Maryport. The town is also associated with Fletcher Christian who led the Mutiny on the Bounty.

By the late 1920s, the shipping trade was in severe decline. Although there was a revival during World War II, to ship coal brought in from the northeast, this was short-lived and Maryport has since had to find alternative sources of income and employment in new industries and tourism. The sole surviving traditional industry is fishing, with the Maryport & Solway Fishing Co-operative selling fish straight off the boats at ‘The Catch' on Elizabeth Dock.

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