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Early Modern

With the dissolution of Holm Cultram Abbey in 1536 the area lost its principal economic and social focus. Despite piecemeal enclosure, some of it generated by the market in Holm Cultram‟s lands, social and agricultural development slowed.

Times became more peaceful in the 17th century when farmers began to reap the profits of their own endeavours. The small fields carved out of the wetlands now produced earnings that could be ploughed back in to farm investment.

From around 1650, many farms were built or enlarged, showing off the new wealth and status of their owners with more elaborate architectural features.

Unfortunately, this marked the beginning of the end of the humble clay dabbin, built in medieval times, with many cottages demolished or allowed to decay.

Other industries sprung up with buildings to serve them – windmills and watermills, forges, tileworks and breweries.

The investment in the ports continued. The Senhouses established docks at Maryport in 1749 while, further south, Workington and Whitehaven were expanding too. Silloth followed suit after the arrival of the railway in 1856.

The growth of Carlisle during the early 1800s precipitated a need for improved ways of importing raw materials and exporting finished goods and local produce. An Act of Parliament in 1819 allowed the construction of a canal from Carlisle to Fisher’s Cross, latterly known as Port Carlisle, the nearest navigable point on the Solway Firth.

That also resulted in the development of planned towns, like Silloth and Port Carlisle, to accommodate a new tourist trade, as well as an influx of people moving here for work.

Sadly, the canal didn’t attract enough business and it was drained and replaced by a railway in 1854 but that led to further development for Sillloth.

The Senhouses of Maryport created a new dock there and work began on laying out a gracious seaside town on a grid pattern, fronted by a village green. This marked the start of Silloth’s heyday as a popular holiday destination and its elegant layout still remains today.

It was in the early modern era that the regulation of the grazing of the saltmarshes began, attaching shares or ‘stints’ to the common land.

The system of lanes and track which existed across the Solway in the 1700s would very closely resemble the routes we use today. Sunken lanes constructed up to a metre below the surrounding fields are a characteristic of the area.

The Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century added new impetus to the ongoing process of agricultural improvement and land drainage. Modernisation continued with the development of a railway system that helped the growth of a dairying industry in the coastal plain, while simultaneously bringing to an end the centuries-old pattern of cattle-droving.