Maryport is a town within the Allerdale borough of Cumbria, England, in the historic county of Cumberland. It is located on the A596 north of Workington, and is the southernmost town on the Solway Firth. It is in the parliamentary constituency of Workington.


Roman times

The town was first established as the Roman fort Alauna in around AD 122 as a command and supply base for the coastal defences of Hadrian's Wall at its western extremity. There are substantial remains of the Roman fort, which was the last in a series of forts from Hadrian's Wall to prevent the wall being avoided by a crossing of the Solway Firth. Recent geomagnetic surveys have revealed a large Roman town surrounding the fort. A recent archaeological dig discovered evidence of a second, earlier and larger fort next to, and partially under the present remains. After the Roman withdrawal from Britain the town was soon reduced in size and importance.

Georgian times

For many years the town was named Ellenfoot but the name was changed by Humphrey Senhouse as he began developing the town as a port, following the example of Whitehaven. In 1749 an Act of Parliament was passed to allow the creation of the present town. Humphrey Senhouse named the new town after his wife Mary. The Senhouse family were the major landowners in the Maryport area and they were responsible for the development of the town and excavation of its Roman past. It was during this period that the town's lighthouse was built.

Victorian times

The town quickly developed as an industrial centre throughout the 19th century with an iron foundry and coal mines opening. The port also developed as did shipyards, such as Ritson's, which were famous launching ships broadside into the River Ellen because it was not wide enough to allow ships to be launched the usual way. The Maryport & Carlisle Railway railway to Carlisle was built in the 1840s with George Stephenson as its engineer and handled heavy coal traffic at the Maryport end. Maryport docks were exporting over 340,000 tons/yr of coal by 1857 - about triple the exports at the end of the 1830s. (And the railway paid exceedingly good dividends - 9 to 10% - for much of its first 50 years)

Modern times

By the beginning of the 20th century the town was suffering an economic decline. All but one of the shipyards had closed and trade declined because the newly built dock was not wide enough to accommodate new ships. During the 1930s depression, adult unemployment peaked at over 50%.

The town had a brief recovery during World War II but its status as an industrial port was never recovered. The decades after the war saw further industrial decline with many of the primary sources of local employment, such as the coal mines, closing down. The final open-cast mine closed in 2000. Today, after a series of major regeneration projects, prospects for the town are looking better.


The town is a mainly Labour voting area although far right parties such as the British National Party have tried and failed to make inroads.


Tourism is now the main business in Maryport. Maryport railway station is on the Cumbrian Coast Line. There is an aquarium, a maritime museum and a Roman museum. The latter houses numerous Roman artefacts; most notably a series of altars to Jupiter Optimus Maximus which were excavated in the 18th century from the parade ground of the Roman fort.


The town is a major name on the blues scene, holding a popular 3 day music festival every summer, which has previously attracted names such as Jools Holland, Dionne Warwick, Elkie Brooks and Buddy Guy and last year's festival featured Van Morrison as the headline act. Local band Broken English have played the festival twice and have built up quite a following around Cumbria. This year's festival will once again be featuring Jools Holland.

Notable people

Notable past residents of Maryport have included:


  • Biggins, J. A. and Taylor, D. J. A., 2004b, The Roman Fort and Vicus at Maryport: Geophysical Survey, 2000 - 2004, in R. J. A. Wilson and I, Caruana (eds.), Romans on the Solway, CWAAS for the Trustees of the Senhouse Museum, Maryport, 102-133.

External links

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