Port and coastal resort in Holm Cultram parish, Allerdale below Derwent ward, Cumberland. Silloth became separate CP 1934, its territory (1,324 acres [536 ha]), including old village of Skinburness, carved from Holme Low CP (q.v.), and Skinburness Marsh.
Origins and growth of the town. Silloth was creation of Carlisle & Silloth Bay Railway & Dock Co., established 1854 with intention of providing Carlisle with port for ocean-going ships. Railway linking Carlisle to Silloth built 1856 and wet dock constructed 1857-9. From early on, promoters recognised that Silloth’s potential as seaside resort could fill gap left by shaky revenues from port. New town was laid out on grid plan by 1860 and by 1871 Silloth was described as a ‘watering place [to which] many visitors resort during the summer months’. Floating dock and harbour, built 1857-9, not only enabled trade to grow but also linked Silloth to wider Irish Sea region: steamers daily to Liverpool (until 1917), and twice-weekly to Dublin (still operating 1929); as well as regular services to Isle of Man. New dock opened 1885 and port flourished between then and First World War. Early industries included salt-making, chemical works (from c.1868, processing imported phosphate and guano) and mineral water manufacture. Solway Chemical and Manure works, a second fertilizer manufacturer using imported phosphate, established 1878; closed 1962. Carr’s Flour Mill, built 1887, processing grain imported from North America, ensured port’s survival. Sand dunes along shore used for weapons testing at Battery from 1886 and marsh towards Skinburness used as training ground for Royal Artillery. By 1866 two hotels had been built on sea front: Solway Hotel and Queens Hotel. Public baths, drawing sea water by steam engine, opened 1856 and resort also sported pavilion on dunes and cricket ground. By 1899 there were bowling green, golf links, tennis courts and refreshment room on the Green (Silloth Cocoa House Co. Ltd). By 1901 there were 10 hotels and 117 lodging houses/apartments in Silloth and further tourist accommodation, including Skinburness Hotel (hydropathic hotel built in 1880s), at Skinburness. Population had risen to c.2,000. In its heyday in early 20th century, Silloth drew on middle-class visitors from border counties and excursionists from industrial workforce in West Cumberland and Carlisle. By 1951 town’s population stood at 3,081. Economic stagnation during 1950s and 1960s, as port declined and railway station closed (in 1964), resulted in fall in population to 2,662 by 1971. Port underwent revival in late 20th century, with increased flour imports, and revivals of cattle trade and fertilizer manufacture. In early 21st century it handled c.80 ships yearly, importing grain, raw materials for fertilizer manufacture, paper pulp and molasses for animal foodstuff. Tourism revived with growth of caravan parks along coast in late 20th century. Population rose again in later 20th century to stand at 2,932 by 2001.
Places of worship. Christ Church (Anglican) built 1869-70; tower and spire added 1878. Congregational church, Wampool Street, built 1862; closed 1952 and sold to Roman Catholics; now Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church. Wesleyan Methodist chapel erected 1875; now Silloth Methodist Church. Primitive Methodist chapel, Esk Street, erected 1877; closed c.1932 and used as church hall; sold 1970s; demolished 1983. St Andrew’s Presbyterian (now United Reformed) church, Solway Street, built 1886. Mission room, Solway Street, built 1887.
Schools. St Paul’s National School, Liddel Street, built 1857 (building converted into Solway Coast AONB Discovery Centre, opened 2002). Infant school built 1896; closed 1982 and converted into Silloth Community Hall. Silloth Primary School opened on new site 1982. Secondary school opened 1939; became comprehensive 1977-8; now Solway Community Technology College. Several private schools in earlier 20th century.
Other institutions. Silloth Baths opened 1856; closed after First World War and converted to tea room in 1920s and to amusement arcade in 1950s. Sanatorium for Cumberland and Westmorland (now Silloth Nursing Home) built 1862; children’s ward added 1882. Oddfellows’ Hall built before 1886; now converted to supermarket. Theatre, Silloth Pavilion, built on part of the Green in 1920s but demolished 1950s.
Images and maps (from Portsmouth University) on Old Cumbria Gazetteer
Silloth on Vision of Britain
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