Solway Plain - past and present by the Holme St Cuthbert History Group

In the first few years of the twentieth century, Allonby saw two events which might have proved major disasters. Luckily there was no loss of life in either case.

In 1903, the barque 'Hougoumont' ran aground off the village. She was bound from San Francisco to Liverpool but had been driven north by heavy weather.

Hougoumont aground off Allonby
The 'Hougoumont' aground.

The news soon spread around the district and crowds flocked to the village green to watch the drama unfold. Telegrams were sent to Maryport for the lifeboat to come and rescue the crew. The ship's fore topmast broke off and hung by the gear.

Crowds on the shore at Allonby
The crowd gathers . . .

Soon the shoreline was covered with cabin doors, seamen's chests, clothes, pictures, driftwood and hundreds of crates from the cargo.

Villagers inspect the crates washed ashore

The locals examined the crates. They contained tins of salmon, pears and peaches but there were no labels on them. The only way they could tell which was which was by shaking them. If the contents moved, it was fruit.

Crew of the Hougomont

Finally the lifeboat arrived from Maryport and the entire crew were rescued - including the Captain's wife who had been aboard all the time!

Hougoumont being towed into Maryport harbour
The damaged ship is towed into Maryport harbour for repairs.

Disaster No. 2

Allonby, Old Cast Iron Bridge

Since 1848, the turnpike road from Maryport to Wigton had crossed the beck at Allonby on a fine cast-iron bridge, seen in this postcard view.

On November 28th, 1905, the beck was very swollen due to heavy rain when a traction engine approached from the Maryport side, hauling three large wagons containing Caris and Foxe's Venetian Gondolas - a steam powered fairground ride.

The first part of the engine was almost over the bridge when it collapsed beneath the weight.

Traction engine and wagons on bridge after it collapsed

The engine fell over sideways, crashing through the railings and into the beck. The driver and his mate were able to 'let off steam' and jump clear.

Crowed viewing accident at bridge

P.C. Richardson was soon in command of affairs and directed other vehicles through the swollen waters. Mr Twentyman brought some planks from an old ship, which was being broken-up on the shore, to provide a temporary walkway over the remains of the bridge.

Workmen recovering engine

Work began quickly to recover the damaged vehicles but the bridge was beyond repair.

It was replaced by a fine stone built hump back structure which remains in use today.

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Disaster Strikes Allonby!