Maryport's Great Shipbuilding Yards & Ships Introduction


The shipowners, shipbuilders, and seamen of Maryport made a great contribution not only to the town’s maritime achievements but also to British maritime heritage. Maryport’s shipbuilding industry and her shipwrights attained great renown, not only for the number of ships they set afloat but for the high standard of workmanship and excellence of design and though most of the men who fashioned them and all their old ships have gone, the fame of the honest builders is untarnished and the exploits of stout ships they erected must never be forgotten, and in these days when so much attention is focused on the ships of the past it is surely fitting that I tell the tales of many of the ships and men who gave birth to Maryport’s great Maritime History.

Ship building commenced in the late 1700’s and continued into the early 1900’s and its history is revealed in the number of industries carried on in the town and appertaining to the shipbuilding trade, for in 1858 the town had three rope and twine manufacturers, one sail maker, two ship building yards, four ship smiths, one ship tank maker, four timber merchants, and three wheelwrights, and of its men there were eighteen shipowners, and forty six master mariners. In 1883 there were three sailmakers, one rope spinner, two shipbuilding yards, five ship brokers, five ship chandlers, five timber merchants, three marine store dealers, three nail makers, two iron and brass founders , two engineering firms, twelve colliery proprietors and merchants, twenty three ship owners, and fifty nine master mariners.

The names which applied to the type of vessels were sloop, smack, snow, schooner, brig (brigantine) and ship, and the following definitions may be found useful.

Sloop, a small one masted fore and aft rigged vessel, with a jib stay and standing bowsprit.

Smack, a small single masted sailing vessel, fore and aft rigged like a sloop.

Schooner, a small fore and aft rigged vessel, with two masts, but in later usage often with three or four masts and carrying one or two top sails.

Snow, a small vessel resembling a brig, carrying a main and fore mast, and a supplementary trysail mast close behind the main mast.

Brig (brigantine), a vessel with two masts square rigged like a ship’s fore and main masts, but carrying also on her main mast a lower fore and aft sail with a gaff and boom.

Ship, a large seagoing vessel, having a bow-sprit and three masts, each of which consists of a lower top and topgallant mast. 

Compiled by Miss Annie Robinson, M.B.E., J.P. for 

Maryport Maritime Museum.

The museum’s eclectic collection consists of items and information relating to the rich maritime, industrial and social history of the town.  Many exhibits were donated by local people, including the museum’s founder, local dignitary Miss Annie Robinson.

The site on which the museum stands was the first plot to be leased by Humphrey Senhouse in in the ‘new’ town of Maryport in 1759.  At first a private house, it is listed in the Directory of Maryport 1856 as ‘Queens Head Public House’, owned by Jane Bryce.  It continued as the Queens Head well into the latter half of the 20th century until it became the Maritime Museum in 1975.  Miss Robinson was the driving force behind its inception, donating many items from her personal collection and encouraging other townspeople to do the same.  These donations and loans form the mainstay of the current collection.

Miss Annie Robinson founder of Maryport Maritime Museum
Miss Annie Robinson MBE JP founder of Maryport Maritime Museum accepting gifts for the Maryport Maritime Museum. Source Robinson p1

Visit Maryport Maritime Museum

The best way to experience the special maritime history of Maryport :

Visit Maryport Maritime Museum 

The collection is temporarily at the bottom of Senhouse Street on the corner with Curzon Street.  One of the model ships is made from … , well what would you do on a sailing ship if you were becalmed and had just eaten the last chicken and had time (and imagination) on your hands. Visit to find out.  

The Maritime Museum will soon be housed in the church by the harbour, watch for news of its opening! (this website is independent, not part of, the museum)

Foreword by Author Miss Robinson MBE JP 

To research into the history of Maryport’s shipbuilding yards and the hundreds of vessels built from the late 1700’s to the early 1900’s has been a formidable task, though never the less one of great challenge. The story is by no means complete owing to the lack of records, but I trust that this omission will not diminish the readers’ enjoyment of learning more of the great Maritime History of Maryport, and may they feel as ” John Masefield” the poet when writing the following –

“I touch my country’s mind, I come to grips
With half her purpose thinking of these ships,
They mark our passage as a race of men,
Earth will not see such ships as these again.”

May I accord my most grateful and appreciative thanks to the following who have assisted me in the compiling of Maryport’s great shipbuilding history.
Allerdale District Council.
Lloyd’s List – London.
Mr. Ken Nicholson – Cumbria Tourist Board.
The Archives – Carlisle Castle.
Miss Mary Keay – Liverpool.
Mr. & Mrs. Cullen – Bowmont – Port Oregon, U.S.A.
Miss Jean Davidson – Maryport.
Mr. Sydney Logan – Maryport.
Mr. lan Waite – Maryport.
Mr. Jeffrey Nixon – Maryport.
Mr. Frank Carruthers – Gt. Broughton.
Mr. Richard Harrison – Maryport.
Mr. Keith Fidler – Maryport.
Mr. L. C. Jarman – Braithwaite.

Compiled by Miss Annie Robinson, MBE JP for Maryport Maritime Museum – Adapted for online appreciation by Peter Nicholson

Midas The Barque Midas built by Ritson in 1896 and lost in 1898
The Barque Midas - launched in 1896 was last heard of February 14th 1898 and lost with all hands during a passage from Nagaski to Portland Oregon. A brass tablet in memory of the Officers and Crew hangs in the Maritime Museum - Maryport Source Robinson p12