At the beginning of the C18 Maryport, (then Ellenfoot), was hardly more than a fishing creek at the mouth of the River consisting of a few huts and a farmhouse (Valentine’s farmhouse of c1718 which was later incorporated into The Golden Lion Hotel). In 1747 there were only 64 families living in the village. Humphrey Senhouse (1705-1770) secured an Act of Parliament in 1749 to develop a new town to be laid out on a grid street plan and served by a harbour. The grid street plan enclosed a series of rectilinear blocks of land, each of approximately two acres. The 1749 Act was entitled “for repairing, enlarging & preserving the harbour of Ellenfoot in the county of Cumberland”. Voluntary subscriptions were sought for works, including the erection of a pier.
In 1756 Humphrey Senhouse II changed the name of the village known as Ellenfoot to Maryport, renaming the new town after his wife, Mary (nee Fleming). Mary Fleming was the Bishop of Carlisle’s daughter. This change of name was later to be confirmed by Act of Parliament in 1791. Pennant, visited the town in 1774, and records - “Maryport is another new erection, the property of H. Senhouse, Esq., and so named by him in honour of his lady.”
By 1774 the number of houses had increased to 100 with a population of 1,300. By 1792 the town had approximately 200 properties. Hutchinson, writing in 1795, observed “Within forty years last past, this place has risen to importance; being before that time the mere resort of fishermen, who had a few miserable cabins along the beach.”
The Napoleonic War produced a short recession in the early C19, evidenced by the closure of many businesses, notably the glassworks, and cotton factory in 1817. Food shortages in the winter led to rioting which was quelled by troops. The planned town of Maryport continued to expand rapidly throughout the C19 from a population of 2,932 in 1801 to 12,536 in 1891. The population had grown to 20,000 inhabitants by the beginning of the C20. The population is shown below:
The town had an important association with master mariners, 91 of which are listed in the 1856 Town Directory. There is a cluster around Fleming Square. The Royal Naval Reserve station (‘the Battery’) opened in 1886 and trained up to 200 reservists annually. The battery also housed the coastguard station. The town has an important association with shipping magnate Thomas Henry Ismay, founder of the White Star Line and the Titanic. Ismay was born in 1836 at Ropery House, Ellenborough Place, Elizabeth Dock.