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24 September 2014

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You are in: Cumbria > Places > Features > Harrington, a forgotten town?

black and white image of old harbour

Harrington in its hey-day

Harrington, a forgotten town?

It might have been overlooked in the past but Harrington has a heritage to rival any of our West Cumbrian towns, and a future as bright.

Other than the grass covered slag heap a stone’s throw from Harrington Harbour there’s very little evidence of the industry and activity this small town has seen.


Harrington harbour today

Sitting in between Workington and Whitehaven, with fewer people, properties and employers, I’d argue people and councils could forget about Harrington. Locals however disagree saying plenty of people still come here to watch the sun set, and Allerdale Borough Council says forgetting to regenerate this part of the West Coast would undermine projects elsewhere on the coast.

black and white image of old ship

The launching of the "Ann Gambles"

On a blustery day the harbour looks small and silted up, there’s only one boat on the horizon, a far cry from how things used to be. In 1760 the quay was built, from then on Harrington became a busy harbour shipping coal and limestone to Ireland and across the country. This led to a thriving ship building industry.

Old photos of the time show the large ropery on the coast where lengths of rope were made for some of the huge ships built in Harrington. At its industrial peak it had five railway stations, iron works, brick works, coal mines, chemical works, sand pits and quarries.

old sailing ship

Harrington harbour

A decline in manufacturing meant the harbour's usage dropped. It was sealed off and used as a reservoir for a magnesium extraction plant that was set up in secret in WWII to help produce aeroplanes and bombs. Signs to the plant were deliberately wrong in case the Germans ever invaded Britain.

The plant had two by-products: one was warm turquoise water which local children enjoyed swimming in, the other a thick white dust that covered the town. The latter is less favourably remembered.

old street scene

Church Road in Harrington

About fifty years on the industry has gone but Allerdale Borough Council is hoping to take advantage of a blossoming market: the leisure industry. There’s a plan and some money in place to regenerate the harbour. Ben Brinicombe the Project Manager says repairs could happen later this year.

Long term plans include bringing in more boats, and potentially introducing a housing development. As ever that all depends on funding, it could come from the private sector. Local people say they’d be happy with a promenade and an ice cream van – surely that’s do-able?

old street scene

The Galloping Horse which is still there

But how many harbour towns does the West Coast need? Well Ben says there are plenty of boat owners who like short trips, so you never know, those who once travelled the Cote D’azur in open topped cars may opt for sailing trips between Silloth, Harrington and Whitehaven in the future.

last updated: 12/06/2008 at 08:34
created: 03/08/2007

You are in: Cumbria > Places > Features > Harrington, a forgotten town?

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