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

John Ostle


John Ostle (1828-1890) was born at Newtown and later farmed at The Nook, Border Farm and, finally, at New Cooper.

He kept a journal in which he recorded the happenings, both momentous and mundane of a Quaker farmer's life.

His diary has become an important source of information for local historians.

This is his account of the opening of the Carlisle to Silloth Railway.

August 28th. 1856
There was a cheap trip from Carlisle to Silloth Bay; the line was opened. I think all the manufacturers and cotton spinners, tobacconists and what not was there. All the uppercrust chaps the Mayor Tobacco Jack and many other Barney St nuts and many just come out of pawn shop for the day. Two bands of musick, polka dancing that is coller and elbow or the height of impudence. One fellow saw his brother Joe there It was a donkey tied to a cart wheel. There was an excellent dinner at 3s. each and then for speeches about 3000 people came by steam and I think I may say about 1000 Holmes Dobbies landed upon the Green where the Goose got her breakfast. A slender fight or two in the evening as usual. Look further.

Poster for opening of Silloth railway line
Poster for opening of railway

September 19th
There is a bad road on the bank now. They have not got it made yet over the bridge but they are hard at work banking. This being Carlisle latter fair, a great number of passengers went by rail from Silloth. There is a splendid little station here and two Public Houses and one Tom and Harry. Several other dwelling houses and sod huts for ever. One steam engine driving piles four or five hard rams at work. This is what we call going ahead for the British and beat all the world and the Yankie, beat them. There is no station house at the Abbey yet but the engine takes in passengers and at Kirkbride too. They generally call at Causeway Head to quench the thirst of the Steam Horse. They pump the water out of the beck. Success to tripping and rail.

December 18th
I went to Carlisle by the Silloth line. The first time I have got. It is pretty easy but very slow, there is so many stops. The buildings are going on daily. Two steam engines driving piles. Last week the sea was very rough. It broke twenty-seven piles. There was a brig came on shore near Beckfoot. They call her the Derwent of Workington. She discharged at Draughrinhay in Ireland and put past Workington. They had about nine feet of water in her ballast. Twelve geese, three bantams. Several were drowned, Captain Hodgson and his wife, one prentice and five or seven Pats. They threw the ballast out and stopped up the holes and got off to sea with the aid of the steam tug from Maryport. She laid about one week, they escaped surprisingly.

A complete transcription of John Ostle's Journal can be found on the Ostle Family History Website.
The Ostle Website also includes an index of family names mentioned in John's Journal.
Click to visit the first page
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John Ostle