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

For such a tiny village, Allonby contains a remarkable number of interesting and historic buildings.

Allonby, postcard view around 1900

In this postcard view, from around 1900, the group of buildings on the left were originally the Fish Yards, operated by the Beeby family.  In the centre of the picture is the Reading Room and, on the right, with the balcony, are Allonby Baths.

Allonby Baths, front and rear view

The Baths were built by a group of wealthy Quakers in the 1830s. They have a fine, portico which faces into 'The Square' away from the sea.

Allonby, sketch of fish yards
A busy day in the fish yard.
Allonby Kipper Smoke House
The outline of the old smokehouse can still be seen; it is now a cottage.
In the fish yard, herring were gutted, salted and packed into barrels which were made at a cooperage there.

Some of the herring were turned into kippers. The Costin family ran this operation in their smokehouse, seen on the right. A wood-burning open hearth was located on the first floor. The herring could be hung in this room or, on the floor above in the roof space.

The chimney passed through both floors and flagstones could be removed from it to allow the smoke to belch out into either of the rooms as required. When the kippers were ready, the louvre shutters on the front of the building, bearing the family's name, were opened, allowing the smoke to escape.

Allonby Quaker Meeting House - Sketch
Sketch from David Butler's "Meeting Houses of the Lake Counties"

The Quakers formed a large and influential section of the local community. Their Meeting House stood at the north end of the village. It was originally converted from a cottage in 1703, extended in 1732 and continued in use until 1991. It is now a private dwelling.

A little further along the coast road stands North Lodge, seen below in its original state, around 1907.

Allonby, North Lodge, about 1907 Thomas Richardson - portrait
North Lodge was built in the 1830s by Thomas Richardson who had married an Allonby girl, Martha Beeby, in 1799. The central pavilion was to provide a holiday home for the Richardsons. At either side of this, were six cottages for local widows and spinsters who were to live there rent free and receive £5 per year from an endowment fund which Thomas provided.
Thomas Richardson, the builder of North Lodge was a Quaker banker and held shares in both the Stockton & Darlington Railway and Stephenson’s Locomotive Works. He was one of the original proprietors of Middlesbrough Docks and founded the nearby Ayton Friends’ School.

The building is still in use as low-cost housing and is operated by the Allonby Alms House trust.

Sketch of North Lodge Privy
At the back of North Lodge, there was a stone-faced, six-sided privy. Each resident of the cottages had their own door which admitted them to their individual earth closet.

Allonby Reading Rooms (below) opened in 1862. The construction was largely financed by Joseph Pease, M.P., a wealthy Quaker industrialist from County Durham who was a cousin and business associate of Thomas Richardson. Pease commissioned a 32-year old Quaker architect from Manchester, Alfred Waterhouse to design the building.

Joseph Pease
Allonby, Reading Rooms


Waterhouse went on to become one of the Victorian era's most celebrated architects. He designed the Natural History Museum in London, Strangeways Prison and Manchester Town Hall.

The Reading Rooms closed in the 1970s and fell into serious disrepair. They have recently been purchased for conversion to a private house.

Allonby Church

Allonby Church dates from 1845 and replaced an earlier building on the same site. The adjoining Sunday School was originally used as the village school. This rather plain, undistinguished building fits particularly well with its landscape.

Allonby, postcard view of The Square

In this postcard view of Allonby Square in the 1920s, the pediment of the Baths is just visible on the right. The old cobbled street was the original main road through the village.

Allonby, postcard view about 1900

Another postcard view, from the late 1800s, shows the Ship Inn, Allonby's main hostelry, on the right over the old cast-iron bridge which was destroyed when a traction engine ran into the brook in 1907.

The Twentieth Century
Sport on The Green
The Village Pubs
Three Allonby Characters
Mary Beeby's Memorandum
contains Beeby family history and some fascinating insights into Allonby's fishing industry.

version of this
'Visit Cumbria' - fine views of the village today
A walk along the coast from Allonby
More about Thomas Richardson

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Allonby and its buildings