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



Tarns isn’t exactly a village or even an hamlet. It’s just a few farms grouped around the small lake from which it takes its name.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Barwise family occupied the farms at Lowsay and Low Tarns, just about half-a-mile apart. It is said that a secret underground tunnel was built between them and used by the Solway smugglers. This tunnel has never been found but there are blocked-up arches in the cellar at Lowsay and plenty of room there to store the casks of contraband liquor from Scotland. Sketch map of Tarns area

In the 1920’s the Tarn was a popular place to visit for a day out. You could hire a boat and enjoy a leisurely row around the Tarn followed by refreshments taken in the wooden pavilion on the lakeside.

Postcard Views of boating at Tarns in the 1920s

Polly and Annie Watson provided the refreshments. There was a wooden pontoon and boathouse where the rowing boats where kept when not in use.

In recent times Tarns has again become an area for entertainment. The annual Solfest music festival is held here, usually over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Stage and audience at Solfest

Tommy Carrick lived at High Tarns farm in the 1950s. He remembers that, on Monday afternoons, the local policemen from Silloth, Abbeytown, Aspatria and Allonby would all meet up at Tarns crossroads and lean their bikes against the signpost. They were quite a sight standing there in full uniform plus long capes. Their meetings lasted for well over an hour, during which time we assume they were comparing notes on local crimes. As the crime rate has always been low in this area, it is doubtful they spent all the time talking shop! Tommy was only fifteen at the time and frequently drove a tractor on the roads illegally, so he had to be extra careful on Monday afternoons not to be spotted.

Two shots from Marjorie Twentyman's family album, both taken at Tarns in the 1950s.
On the right, Marjorie is in the family's BSA three-wheeler and, below she is with her friend, Isobel Wilson.
BSA Three-Wheeler Car
Two young women on one tricycle
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