Port Carlisle

Port Carlisle

Grid Ref NY 241622


The village of Port Carlisle, originally known as Fishers Cross, was developed as a port in 1819 to handle goods for Carlisle using the canal link built in 1823. The canal was 11¼ mile long, and had 8 locks which were all built 18 feet wide.


From a wooden jetty, through the entrance sea lock and one other, the canal ran level for nearly six miles. Then followed six locks in one and a quarter miles, with a level stretch to Carlisle Basin.


Sailing boats made their way by the canal from Port Carlisle (about one mile from Bowness-on-Solway) to the heart of the City of Carlisle. Boats were towed to the City (taking one hour 40 minutes) enabling Carlisle to be reached within a day by sea from Liverpool. Barges collected the grain and produce destined for Carlisle’s biscuit and feed mills. The canal built specially for this purpose ended in the canal basin behind the present Carrs (McVities) biscuit factory in Carlisle.



Within a few years the canal ran into financial difficulties, and was closed, finally being drained in 1853.


The canal left the village heading north west following a similar line to Hadrian’s Roman wall. There are still a number of original canal bridges, but they all had their height altered to accommodate steam trains. Also on the route is a warehouse and a lock cottage.


The remains of the port and canal can be seen by the shore.


The canal was later replaced by a railway, which brought many Scandinavian emigrants through Carlisle on their way to the USA. The building of the Bowness-on-Solway railway viaduct altered the deepwater channels, causing Port Carlisle to silt up, and the railway was abandoned, but its course can still be traced. (see below)



 Illustrated above is one of four horse drawn ‘Dandy cars’ built by the North British Railway for use on the Port Carlisle to Carlisle railway. In 1854, just after the canal was filled in, a railway opened using the canal bed for its route from Carlisle to Port Carlisle. Freight services were withdrawn in 1899, but the horse drawn passenger service instituted in 1863 continued until 1914, when it was replaced by steam. In 1932 the branch line closed. The Dandy car was originally preserved at Carlisle, before being moved to the National Railway Museum at York.


Port Carlisle became a day tourist attraction to Carlisle Victorians. The site of the old sidings and the Dandy horse drawn carriage station platforms can be seen amongst the gravel at the Bowling Club car park.


Hadrian’s Wall Path passes through the village, to its western end at Bowness-on-Solway. There is a Roman altar built in above the doorway of the last building in the village.


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