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Solway Plain - past and present


Mawbray is a very ancient settlement, the field pattern around the village suggests it was established in Anglo-Saxon times. It was certainly well established when the monks arrived at Holm Cultram in the 1150s.

Mawbray Village looking east
In this postcard view, from the 1920s, the Lowther Arms and the post office can be seen on the right.
The cottage on the left was the home of the Willis family.

It is a village of some 40 houses right on the Solway coast. In former times the inhabitants were mostly farmers and a few fishermen. Now the village has changed quite considerably; gone are the bacon and ham curer, the shoemaker, the blacksmith, the joiner and the dressmaker. Today, many villagers work with computers and include a journalist, an artist and a television presenter.

Mawbray village, looking west
Looking in the opposite direction, towards the sea, this 1950s postcard shows the bridge over Mawbray Beck.

Originally, most of the houses would be simple single-storey buildings, known locally as Clay Dabbins. The foundations of these were made from cobbles. On these a simple wooden frame was erected and the walls were made from a mixture of clay, small stones and chopped straw.

The barn in the yard at Sycamore Lodge seems of little interest but its modern rendering conceals what may be the oldest building in the village. The building is still largely a clay dabbin and was originally constructed around crucks with a thatched roof. It is difficult to date precisely but was probably constructed between 1550 and 1650. It has been extensively patched with cobbles.

Sycamore Lodge Barn Sycamore House Barn
Sycamore Lodge Barn. The view on the right shows an exposed section of the original clay wall and its subsequent patching with cobbles.

There are dates on several door lintels, one of the earliest, 1778, being that on the cottage next to Mawbray Farm.

Willis Family cottage with datestone

Now derelict, this was the home of the Willis family. Old Mrs Willis was a dressmaker. Her son and daughter, John James and Maggie were both born and both died in the cottage. John James was a tailor – he always called his iron his goose. Maggie used to sell small items of haberdashery from a small window in the gable end.

The Lowther Arms was mentioned in the 1847 Cumberland Directory and is still open for business. Between 1929 and 1968 the landlord was Tom Graham who was also the village blacksmith. Elsie Pigg was the host from 1976 until her death in 2005.

Scenes from the Lowther Arms
Tom Graham (left), Elsie Pigg at her 60th, and some of their customers.

The church and school stand at Holm St Cuthberts, known locally as Rowks, almost two miles (3Km) east of the village. The church was built in 1845 and originally had a wooden spire which was destroyed in a storm in 1919.

Holme St Cuthberts Church
The church with its original spire.
Holme St Cuthberts Church
A winter scene. The church today.
Audience in Cultram Hall
Opening of Cultram Hall.
Concert Party on stage
A 1950s Concert Party in the hall.

Mawbray today is a vibrant little community with a varied social life, centred on the fine village hall opened in 1951.

The Holme St Cuthbert History Group is one of many which meet in the Hall.
Here John Marshall, a visiting speaker, shows members some of his fine collection of antique writing instruments.
History Group Meeting

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