History of Maryport

If history is your thing then Maryport is definitely a place to visit.

Stretching back to Roman days, known then as Alauna, Maryport was one of the farthest flung outposts of the Roman Empire but strategically important because of its proximity to Hadrian's Wall.  

Next to the Roman fort, which has ongoing excavations,, are the remains of a civilian settlement, currently the largest one that has been found along Hadrian's Wall.

Roman Maryport remains important today. Not only does the Senhouse Roman Museum boast the largest collection of altars from a single site in Britain but the continuing archaeological digs are turning what we thought we knew about Roman military religion on its head.
When the Romans left they took the name with them and Alauna became Ellenfoot - aa tiny hamlet on the banks of the River Ellen.

The name Maryport was only adopted in the 17th Century when the Lord of the Manor, Humphrey Senhouse, initiated an Act of Parliament to have the town named after his wife, Mary.

Coal exports, ship building and the railways came next and were the main drivers of Maryport's growth. This town became a thriving industrial hub. The ship building and its associated industries were the life blood of the town.  
So pivotal was the town that George Stephenson, the Father of Railways, came to the Golden Lion hotel in Maryport  to sign the contract which formally set up the Carlisle and Maryport Rail Company.

That, by the way, is allegedly why Maryport station has only one platform. Trains came here and then returned to Carlisle and there was no thought given to travelling any further south!
Incidentally, rails were exported from Maryport to build the Canadian Pacif Railway.

Maryport was the birthplace of Thomas Ismay, owner of the White Star Line under whose flag the Titanic - was built. His childhood home at Ropery House still stands today. His commitment to the town through charitable donations to local welfare organisation lasted his entire life.
Here, too, are memories of Fletcher Christian, the Bounty mutineer who was born in a nearby village but spent much time in this harbour town, especially at Ewanrigg Hall, his family seat.

Coal and steel and an amazing array of factories producing everything including shoes, food, buttons and babywear helped the town thrive for many years.
Maryport is also a fishing town and the trawlers in the harbour are still an attractive site - and the fish bought in the harbourside "Catch of the Day', run by the local fishing co-operative is a delight to taste!
In recent years the larger industries have gone and Maryprt has reinvented itself as a tourist destination.

People visiting here will find plenty to see and do but wherever they go, they will not leave the echoes of our proud history behind.
Maryport is located on the west coast of Cumbria, approximately 30 miles south-west of Carlisle. The town is situated approximately 6 miles to the north of Workington and 6 miles west of Cockermouth. To the south, the coastline is dominated by large C20 industrial complexes. To the east are gentle hills in the foreground with the more dramatic Cumbrian fells in the distance.

The town is on the north bank of the River Ellen on an elevated peninsula overlooking the Solway Firth and south-west Scotland.
The River Ellen meanders to the south of a bluff which has a degraded cliff line to a height of 55m A.O.D. The highest point of the topography occurs approximately 750 metres to the north of the River Ellen, at Sea Brows. The town is set astride the peninsula with C19 docks to the south-west within an area of reclaimed land adjoining the Ellen estuary.

The conservation area is defined in the south by the southern bank of the River Ellen, as it meanders to join the sea at the Old Harbour. The western boundary is drawn around the Old Harbour and the quayside. To the north of the Old Harbour, the boundary follows the base of the cliff line. The northern boundary is drawn to include the Alavna Roman fortress. It is surrounded by open landscape which is tenuously linked, by mostly C20 development, to the south. The conservation area extends into wooded open countryside to the west of the town to include the remains of Netherhall, the former country house and park of the Senhouse family. The boundary in the extreme west is defined by the former parkland walls.
The fort lies 55m above sea level and 750 metres north of the mouth of the Ellen. The Fort was occupied for nearly 300 years and a small town (vicus) grew around the fort where the soldier’s families lived alongside locals who traded with them. In 410 AD, the Roman army was recalled to defend Rome and the fort was abandoned.
Two regiments are recorded at Alavna: the First Regiment of Spaniards and the First Regiment of Dalmatians. The Spaniards (cohorsIHispanorum) had been in Britain for approx 40 years. The regiment contained 4 squadrons of cavalry (128 men) as well as 480 infantry. They stayed in Maryport for 17 years. The Spaniards were replaced by a regiment from Dalmatia (now Croatia), which was in Britain at the time of Hadrian’s AD 122 visit. This regiment (cohorsIDelmatarum) had been in Maryport for about 20 years. The first regiment of Dalmatians was transferred from Maryport in the mid - late 160s, and then went to Chesters, on Hadrian’s Wall. In the early C5, Alavna was abandoned.

A vicus or garrison town developed around the roads to the north and east of the Fort. Sources suggest that some of the Roman town could still be seen in the C18. Contemporary historians described the ruins as having paved streets, open-fronted shops, and stone built houses, some of which were painted pink, with slate roofs. The ruins also showed stone-backed hearths, tiled doors and glass windows. Both the town and Fort had sewers. Nothing of the vicus can be seen today. The stones from the fort and the vicus were used to build the new town of Maryport.

Sea trade brought people from all over the Roman Empire to Maryport. It is likely that migrants settled and integrated with the native Celts to produce a Romano-British culture. This is illustrated in the archaeological record which shows an impressive range of religious beliefs, with the Roman gods, Mithraism, Christianity, private devotions, and the cults of at least four Celtic deities.

The first documented resident of Maryport is Marcus Maenius Agrippa, a Roman Army officer. He was born into an influential family in Camerinum in Italy between AD 80 & 90. Agrippa was a friend of the Emperor Hadrian, and accompanied him to Britain in AD 122. He spent 4 years at Maryport as commander of the first regiment of Spaniards. He later commanded the British fleet and became Procurator (finance officer) of Britain.