Book Review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
“Sunshine is so prevalent that the mean average temperature is, in fact, higher than many places in the south of England. This, combined with the almost complete absence of fog, renders Silloth a particularly desirable place for invalids.”
The visitors came to Edwardian Silloth for fresh air, sea bathing and long walks. They might stay in one of the large hotels or one of the numerous boarding houses. Mrs Over, at 3 Esk Street, had two double and one single room to let.
They might choose to have their photo taken at Annie Gibb’s Photographic Studio, with its large window to make the most of the Silloth light. Her carnival pictures show young girls enjoying dressing up as the queen or Britannia or forming small groups of gypsies or geishas.
They might visit the Happy Valley and watch the ever popular Pierrot Show. They had begun in 1901 when David Fuller, George Worthington and Arthur Court donned their white costumes and pushed a piano across the Green before entertaining anyone who would listen to their songs and their jokes. Their numbers increased – there were nine Pierrots in 1910 – and they became a special feature of a Silloth holiday.
The visitors might also enjoy a round of golf. The club was formed in 1894 and the original clubhouse bought secondhand from Dlaston Tennis Club was superseded by a fine new clubhouse within ten years.
But Silloth was also a port handling cargoes of coal and timber, slate and wheat, a busy place, the gateway between Carlisle and the Irish Sea.
In August 1914, the Edwardian Summer holiday ended. The war started. Marines came to Silloth to guard the Battery. Foreigners were suspected of spying and Fredirich Oderich and his wife Lillee, waiter and cook at the Hydro Hotel were “arrested after a chase through the woods at Abbeytown”.
Lads from Silloth fought at Gallipolli. Duncan Chisholm, son of the captain of the Silloth tug, William Richardson and Thomas Stanwix of Blitterlees survived and returned home. Samuel Borthwick, Stanley Browqn, Joseph Brown, Edgar Swan and John Jefferson Underwood were killed. At the end of a single track railway in the sand hills at Blitterlees a high wooden palisade hid the Battery. It was here that Armstrongs, the munitions manufacturer in Newcastle, brought their guns to be tested by firing them out over the Solway.
Posters encouraged everyone. Some called on women to join the Land Army and others proclaimed that “The Kitchen is the Key to Victory”.
Twenty years later railway posters were promoting first class tennis and golf at Silloth on Solway.
Peter Ostle and Stephen Wright and their friends of the Holme St Cuthbert History Group have assembled a third kaleidoscope of life among the Plain People. Here is the life of the ordinary folk at any time in the last century. “Pop” Carr gives a thumbs-up as he stands outside his garage in Waver Street. Bill Brown and Noreen Littleton pose in front of the Ritz Café in Station Road. The class of 1948/49 stand and smile for the camera. William Longcake in his white apron prepares to serve yet another ice-cream. Young Albert Weir can be seen leaning proudly on the wheel of his Fordson tractor in 1947.
Joan Palmer remembers a little boy drowning in an emergency reservoir. Driver Jackson and Fireman Pearson died on 23rd October, 1950, when the 1.12 from Carlisle to Silloth “plunged through a fence and buried itself eight feet deep in a boggy field”.
Ethel Fisher offers a tribute to “Sunny Silloth”. She calls on everyone to “Try oor Solway Breezes an git yer lungs weel fillt.”
Peter Ostle and Stephen Wright have done an excellent job in ensuring that this treasury of Silloth and Solway life in words and photographs is really “weel fillt”. It must be the Solway breezes and the Silloth sunshine.