Allonby is a small village on the north west coast of Cumbria, between Maryport and Silloth, in a designated Area of Outstanding Beauty. It has a long sandy beach, with fine views across the Solway Estuary to the mountains of Southern Scotland. The Cumbrian Coastal Way passes through the village, and walkers can enjoy many miles of green sea-banks. Once a Smuggler’s Route ran through the village.
Despite its small size, the village has several splendid buildings including the Old Baths, North Lodge, Christ Church, and the ‘Reading Room’. The Reading Room was erected around 1862, partly funded by local donations, and partly by Joseph Pease, a Quaker Industrialist from the North East of England. It was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, famous for designing Manchester’s Town Hall, and London’s Natural History Museum.
The village has a long history of being a sea-bathing resort, going back to the 18th century, when the fashion for bathing, and even drinking sea water, was considered a health cure.
The village keeps much of its Georgian and Victorian charm, with cobbled lanes, curious corners to explore, and some interesting old houses. In what was once the main street stands an imposing colonnaded building (above), which was once the indoor baths where delicate Victorians could have their sea water comfortably warmed, in a suite of hot, cold, and vapour baths. The upper classes used one floor as a ballroom.
A little way north of the village, is North Lodge, built about 1840 by Thomas Richardson of Darlington. The central pavilion provided him with a summer home. At each side of this were three smaller cottages which were occupied, rent free, by local widows or spinsters each of whom also received a yearly pension of £5. The building is still owned by The Society of Friends and used as low-cost housing. A small burial ground is attached.
Allonby was once an important centre for herring fishing, and some of the old kippering houses can still be seen.
Today’s visitors can still enjoy the beach – a cleanliness and safety winner – and also take advantage of windsurfing and Twentyman’s famous ice cream, a well-known homemade treat.
Ponies used to roam on the green, grazing the sea banks and roadsides.
Christ Church was built in 1845, on the site of a 1741 chapel, in a cruciform shape, with a turret with one bell, and a stained glass, three-light chancel window.
Just south of Allonby, Milefortlet 21, a World Heritage Site, was part of the Roman defence system in the area. Nearby are the Saltpans of Cross Canonby, where, for almost 700 years, salt was extracted from seawater, by filtering the water into a lagoon, then boiling to extract the salt.
North of Allonby, about halfway between Allonby and Silloth, is Bank Mill Nurseries. As well as extensive nursery offerings, there is a small gift area, a coffee shop serving a variety of meals and snacks using local produce, a butterfly house, a reptile house, a nature reserve with ponds and picnic tables, flower meadows, and some Jacob sheep.
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Grid Ref : NY 080430