Silloth - the birth of a new town
In 1855, John Ostle, a local farmer, wrote in his journal: “ Silloth Bay is a very wild place in dry and windy weather. The sand blows very little short of the deserts of Arabia. There is now at present four farm houses, that is all there is at Silloth”.
Grandiose plans were made for a port and a sea-side resort which would rival Scarborough as a watering-place for the upper classes. The ‘Carlisle Journal’ issued a special supplement to publicise these.
Within just five years, the new town had begun to
take shape, laid-out on a regular grid-iron pattern. The Ordnance Survey map of 1860 shows the first streets to be built. The original farms can still be seen in the top right-hand corner of the map, marked ‘Old Silloth’. Christ Church was still to be completed.
The farms can be seen on this 18th Century map; little had changed in the intervening years. Over the next ten years the scene was to change completely. In 1856, the railway from Carlisle arrived and work began on a deep-water dock. A new town was born.
|In 1861, the first census of the town was conducted. Ten years earlier, there had been only four households in Silloth. Now there were 128. Most of the residents came from the local area, the old parish of Holm Cultram and the Aspatria and Wigton district. There were many from Carlisle, West Cumberland and the Lake District. Around 20 per cent came from Scotland.
Almost all of the Scots were employed in shipping or on the newly opened docks. They included the Dock Master, William Carruthers and William Geddes who was the Superintendent of Lights and Buoys in the shipping channel. Thomas Geddes, 84, must have been a relative. He was the Light House Keeper and lived there all alone. One lonely Scotswoman awaiting the return of her husband from sea was Isabella Gowan, 30. Her husband was the Mate on the Packet Ship.
Maps and newspaper images courtesy of County Records Office, Carlisle.
|The new town, briefly, had its own newspaper and, in 1870, Joseph Wood
published the first of his guides to the fashionable resort.