Allonby History in the twentieth century
Solway Plain - past and present by the Holme St Cuthbert History Group


In the first few years of the twentieth century, Allonby saw two events which might have proved major disasters. Luckily there was no loss of life in either case.

In 1903, the barque 'Hougoumont' ran aground off the village. She was bound from San Francisco to Liverpool but had been driven north by heavy weather.

Hougoumont aground at Allonby
The 'Hougoumont' aground.

The news soon spread around the district and crowds flocked to the village green to watch the drama unfold. Telegrams were sent to Maryport for the lifeboat to come and rescue the crew. The ship's fore topmast broke off and hung by the gear.

Crowd on Allonby Green
The crowd gathers . . .

Soon the shoreline was covered with cabin doors, seamen's chests, clothes, pictures, driftwood and hundreds of crates from the cargo.

Wreckage on Allonby beach

The locals examined the crates. They contained tins of salmon, pears and peaches but there were no labels on them. The only way they could tell which was which was by shaking them. If the contents moved, it was fruit.

Crew of the 'Hougoumont'
Crew of the 'Hougoumont'

Finally the lifeboat arrived from Maryport and the entire crew were rescued - including the Captain's wife who had been aboard all the time!

Then, on November 28th 1905, when the beck was very swollen due to heavy rain, a traction engine approached the old cast iron bridge from the Maryport side. It was hauling three large wagons containing a steam powered fairground ride.

The first part of the engine was almost over the bridge when it collapsed beneath the weight.

Traction engine on its side 

The engine fell over sideways, crashing through the railings and into the beck. The driver and his mate were able to 'let off steam' and jump clear.

Traction engine in beck 

P.C. Richardson was soon in command of affairs and directed other vehicles through the swollen waters. Mr Twentyman brought some planks from an old ship, which was being broken-up on the shore, to provide a temporary walkway over the remains of the bridge.

Workmen with traction engine 

The old bridge was beyond repair. It was replaced by a fine, new stone-built one which is still in use today.

 Allonby, old and new bridges
Allonby's old bridge (left) and its replacement.

After these two near disasters, things got back to normal in the village . . .

Allonby, herd of cows passing congregational chapel 

. . . the cows headed home, past the congregational chapel, at milking time and visiting children had a great time on the beach.

Allonby, children on the beach 

Throughout the Edwardian era, Allonby was a popular destination for school trips . . . 

Allonby, cars on green 1930s 

. . . and, by the 1930s, had become a favourite place for motorists but, sooner or later everyone ended up on the green or the beach.

Families on the green and beach 

By the 1950s, the first caravan sites had appeared and this is where most visitors still stay.

Foster's caravan site, 1950s 

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Allonby in the twentieth century