Harrington

HARRINGTON: a parish and township in Allerdale above Derwent ward, Cumberland. 

The northern part of the parish was transferred to Workington MB in 1934; the remainder was re-named Lowca CP.

Acreage of administrative unit: 

the ancient parish and township covered 2,360 acres [955 ha], of which the parts which became Lowca CP contained 1,093 acres [442 ha].

Date of Enclosure: 

Harrington and Lowca commons, totalling 534 acres [216 ha], were enclosed in 1761.

Population: 

estimated at 485 in 1688. Stood at 1,357 in 1801, rising to over 2,000 by 1851.  Between 1871 and 1921 the population almost doubled (from 2,294 to 4,371); it had dropped slightly by 1931, the last census year before boundary changes, when it stood at 4,128.

Land ownership: 

the manor was held of the fee of Workington by the Harrington (or ‘Haverington’) family in the 13th and 14th centuries.  It descended by marriage to Henry Grey, duke of Suffolk, executed 1554.  In 1556/7 the Crown granted Harrington to Henry Curwen of Workington; thereafter it descended with Workington.

Economic activity: 

coal mining in Harrington Park, valued at £100 per year in 1688, when there was also a salt pan at Lowca.  Coal mining expanded in the later 18thcentury.  Ships were using the small haven at Harrington Beckfoot by the early 18th century and trade increased after Henry Curwen built a new quay there c. 1760. The port was known as ‘Bella Port’ (probably in honour of Curwen’s daughter and heiress, Isabella).  A new town on a grid of streets beside the harbour appears to have been laid out by John Christian Curwen from the 1780s.  Shipbuilding and associated industries such as ropeyards and sailmaking were established by 1800.  In the 19th century Harrington was a port of some importance, exporting coal to Ireland and bringing in iron ore.  In 1865 the coal mines were taken over by Messrs Bain, Blair and Paterson of Harrington Ironworks, who sank new pits from the 1870s.  By 1905 only one pit remained open.  A further pit, sunk in 1910-11, was worked until 1968. The port of Harrington closed in 1928.  Much of the planned town around the harbour was demolished in 1966.

Ironstone and fire-clay were mined at Harrington in the later 18th century.   An iron foundry had been established at Lowca by 1804; in the 1840s it supplied engines for Maryport & Carlisle Railway. It closed in 1921. The arrival of the railway in 1843-5 encouraged further industrial expansion: blast furnaces were built at close to the harbour in 1857; by 1900 Harrington Iron Works employed 250 men. The ironworks were demolished in 1937.  Harrington Brickworks had been established near the coast by mid 19th century; later, extensive brick works opened at Micklam; they closed 1976. 

Other industries included a copperas works or ‘chemical works’ at Copperas Hill, built 1798; it was sold on the bankruptcy of the owner in 1835 and was disused by 1860.  There were a tanyard and brewery in the village by the mid-19th century.  During the Second World War a ‘Magnesite’ works was built on the shore by the Ministry of Aircraft Production in 1940, to extract magnesium from seawater; it closed 1953.  Wind farm along the coast at Lowca; became operational 2000.

Places of worship: 

medieval parish church, with a modern dedication to St Mary; rebuilt 1634. A large eastern extension added 1807-8, producing a profile which gave it the nickname of ‘the snail church’. The present church dates from 1884-5; tower rebuilt 1905-7.  Roman Catholic chapel built for the Catholic school 1874; rebuilt as St Mary’s R C church, 1893.  Presbyterian Church (now United Reformed church), built 1881.  

Wesleyan Methodist chapel built 1828, ‘supplemented’ by a chapel in the Gothic style in Victoria Square, built 1886 (closed; now Wesley House). Methodist chapel (Primitive), Ellerbank, built 1891.  The Victoria Hall was used by the Salvation Army in 1901 and by the Plymouth Brethren in 1938. Methodist chapel at Lowca, built 1910; closed 2007 (converted to a dwelling).

Institutions: 

there was a school near Hall Green Farm by late 18th century (graffiti from 1791). Board schools were built in Church Road in 1875 and 1897; replaced 2005 by Beckstones Primary School on a new site.  Board school at Lowca (now Lowca Community Primary School).  St Mary’s Catholic schools.

Victoria Hall built 19th century; housed Literary Association and library in 1901; demolished 1960s.  Victoria Orange Hall, Primrose Terrace, built 1897.  Reading room at High Harrington, converted from a smithy.  High Harrington Community Centre, opened after Second World War in a former nissen hut.

Additional sources used: 

Richard Newman, ‘Harrington: Cumberland’s lost town’, Trans. CWAAS 3rd ser. 9 (2009), 159-67; Kelly’s Directory of Cumberland & Westmorland, 1938; O Wood ,West Cumberland Coal 1600-1982/3 (1988); E Hughes, North Country Life in the Eighteenth Century II (1965).

Harrington Local History Group website: http://www.harringtonhistory.co.uk/

Compiled by:  AJLW, with assistance from Harrington Local History Group.