Harrington Port and Parish

  > This parish extends about 2 miles along the sea coast, and is about one mile in breadth, containing the small Sea Port of Harrington, anciently called Bella Port, at the mouth of a rivulet called the Wyre, 2 miles S. of Workington, and 5 miles N. of Whitehaven. The first quay here was constructed by Henry Curwen, Esq., grandfather to H. C. Curwen, Esq., the present lord of the manor, and principal owner of the parish, which contains 2383 acres, of the rateable value of 5418 7s. The harbour, which is the property of the Curwens, was much improved by the late J. C. Curwen, Esq. In 1760, there was not one house here, nor one ship belonging to the port. In 1794, the number of vessels belonging to Harrington was about 60, averaging 100 tons burthen. In 1822, the number was 38, of an aggregate burthen of 4976 tons; in 1828, the number was 43, and their burthen was equal to 5479 tons; and in 1840, there were 44 vessels belonging to the port, and their burthen was 6052 tons. The port is under Whitehaven, and the principal trade is in exporting coals to Ireland, and lime to Scotland: the former are raised in this parish from the mines of Henry C. Curwen, Esq., and the latter is brought from the adjoining parish of Distington. Excellent ironstone was formerly got here, above the seams of coal, and about 2000 tons were for a length of time annually exported to Wales and Scotland. The Harrington colliery produces from 10 to 12,000 waggons annually, each waggon containing 50 cwt.1 of coal; and the price per waggon is 20s. The colliery consists of two pits, viz. the "John" and "Hodgson;" the former is 95 fathoms deep in the middle seam stone drift, and the coal is 4 ft. thick. This seam is the lowest of any in the neighbourhood, being only 30 fathoms above the great limestone deposit, which, in 1824, was partially wrought five fathoms lower, and is now extensively worked in quarries at Distington, Dean, and Brigham. Hodgson pit is 60 fathoms deep, and the coal 4 feet thick. The yard band, 33 inches thick, is 38 fathoms above this seam; and 30 fathoms below the four feet working is the middle seam of the John pit.

The town now consists of several streets, and near the harbour are two yards for ship building, a ropery, and a vitriol and copperas manufactory, (the "Harrington Chemical Company,") where upwards of 100 hands are constantly employed. Vessels can come quite into the town, and anchor safely before the houses. The Whitehaven Junction Railway has a station here, and the population of the parish has increased from 1357 souls in 1801, to 1934, in 1841. When there are 8 feet of water in the harbour, a light is shown on the outer pier, and the depth of water here is the same as at Workington. The harbour dues are 2s. 3d. for hemp, 1s. 6d. for tallow, and 3d. for every 120 mats, &c.

This manor was granted, soon after the conquest, to the family of Talebois, and held by them of the fee of Workington.

Harrington, formerly spelled Haverington, or Haverinqham, passed at an early period to a family of that name; of which house there were branches resident at Beaumont, in Cumberland; Witherslaik2, in Westmorland; Aldingham, in Furness, Lancashire; in Ridlington, county of Rutland; and the barons Harrington of Exton. The eldest of this family were lords of Harrington; one of whom married the heiress of Seaton, in the parish of Cammerton, below Derwent, and therefore confirmed Flemingby, or Flimby, to the abbey of Holm Cultram, "but he got not the lordship of Seaton, for his wife died in the grandfather's time, who gave the land to her uncle Patrick de Culwin." In the reign of Edward I, Robert de Harrington married Ellena, the heiress of William Cancepfield, whose father, Richard de Cancepfield, had espoused the heiress of Michael de Fleming. Sir Robert de Harrington was knighted at the coronation of Richard II, and was succeeded by Sir John and Sir William. The heiress of the latter married William, Lord Bonvil, and carried to him the estates of Harrington, Cancepfield, Fleming, a third part of Multon, and a moiety of Loring. The estates afterwards passed, by marriage, to Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, whose son Thomas died in the 22nd of Henry VIII, and was succeeded by his son Henry, who married Frances, eldest daughter of the duke of Suffolk, by his wife Mary, the French queen. The lady Frances' two brothers dying without issue, her husband was created duke of Suffolk, and had by her three daughters, Jane, Catherine, and Mary.

The duke being afterwards convicted and attainted of high treason, all his estates were forfeited to the crown in 1555. Philip and Mary, in the 3rd and 4th of their reign, granted the demesne and manor of Harrington to Henry Curwen, Esq., to hold in capite, by the fortieth part of one knight's fee, for all rents, services, and demands. The demesne is within the enclosure of Workington Park, which bounds this parish on the north.

The Church is a neat edifice, consisting of a nave and chancel, with a square tower at the west end, and occupies a picturesque situation on an eminence overlooking the port. The chancel was built in 1825, and is singularly out of character, being raised considerably higher than the nave. It was given to the Abbey of St. Mary, York, by Ketel, son of Eldred, son of Ivo de Talebois, but after the dissolution of the religious houses, it was granted by Henry VIII to Robt. Brokelsbye and John Dyer, who in 1543 conveyed it to Thomas Dalton, Esq., and in 1564, the advowson and right of patronage was conveyed to Henry Curwen, Esq., with whose descendant it has since remained. But in 1721, the lord of the manor being a catholic, the University of Cambridge presented to the living. The benefice is a rectory, valued in the king's books at 7 7s. 3d., and certified to the governors of queen Anne's bounty at 35., viz., glebe, 8; tithes, 25, prescription for Mr. Curwen's demesne, 2; Easter dues and surplice flees, 2. It was returned by the ecclesiastical commissioners as of the average annual value of 250 and is now possessed by the Rev. Peter Von Essen. B.A. In 1845, the tithes were commuted for a yearly rent charge of 239, besides which the rector has 23A. of glebe and a good dwelling, contiguous to the church. There being no church rate collected in this parish, the ancient peculiar custom of levying rates by Purveys is still practiced here. "In Cumberland the manner of laying public taxes and assessments is somewhat peculiar, by a rate called Purvey; which originally was a composition in money for the king's purveyance, or providing for his household, when he went on a progress in different parts of the kingdom. In some places it was paid in cattle; hence, in Lancashire, they have a manner of laying assessments still called Oxlay. Against king James' return out of Scotland, through Cumberland, in 1617, the Justices of the Peace were ordered to compound for the king's purveyance, at the rate of 108, which sum being paid through the whole county, became afterwards a rule for laying most other assessments, calling it one purvey. In 1605, for the more ease and convenience, the purvey was fixed at the precise sum of 100; so that where the sum of 100 is wanted, it is called one purvey; where 200, two purveys, and so on." - Burns, vol. 1, p. 13.3

The Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists have each a chapel, erected in 1828. The school, which was built here by the late C. Curwen, Esq., interfering with the line of railway lately formed, was taken down in 1845, and the present commodious house erected by the company. It is chiefly supported by voluntary contributors, of whom the rector is principal.

The commons of the parish were enclosed about the year 1770, and here are several detached hamlets, together with the old village4, which is about half a mile east of the town.


Mannix & Whellan, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland, 1847




1. cwt. is the abbreviation for hundredweight, of which there were 20 to the ton.
2. Witherslaik - a mis-spelling for Witherslack.
3. The description of "purvey" is inserted from another part of the directory.
4. I presume the "old village" is what is now referred to as High Harrington

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman