Who put the Mary into Maryport? (Background: Maryport)

Bowen's map of Cumberland and Westmorland 1760

When Humphrey Senhouse of Netherhall decided in 1749 to develop a new town and port at Ellenfoot, he named it after his wife Mary.

Developing the West Cumbria coalfields really began in the 1620s, when Christopher Lowther began mining at Whitehaven, developing the town as a port for exporting coal, particularly to Ireland.  Probably not long after coal had started to be worked at Whitehaven, Mr Fletcher of Moresby Hall, to the north, began doing the same; and from 1680 the family extended the harbour at Parton for exporting coal. By about 1650 the Curwen family had begun to dig for coal too, and to develop Workington as their coal-port. A little later, Humphrey Senhouse (1705-1770) inherited the Netherhall and Ellenborough estates, and began looking at developing his own coal trade, via the little harbour at Ellenfoot, where the River Ellen met the sea.

Humphrey had in 1731 married Mary Fleming, daughter and co-heir of Sir George Fleming of Rydal.  In 1749 he promoted a parliamentary bill to improve Ellenfoot, and a new town was laid out there, named ‘Mary Port’ after his wife, with more than 100 plots sold upon which to build. In 1755 he took out a joint lease on the Broughton Colliery, and began mining there.  Senhouse founded St Mary’s church in the town in 1763:  by the mid 1770s, some 340 families lived in the town, and 70-80 vessels were based there, shipping out coal to Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Bowen’s map of Cumberland and Westmorland, from his Large Atlas of 1760 shows ‘Elenborough’ – but does not yet have Maryport on it.

Angus J. L. Winchester, Senhouse, Humphrey (1705-177), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)

Text by Bill Shannon