Bowness on Solway

Ancient parish in Cumberland ward, Cumberland, containing townships of Anthorn, Bowness (including village of Port Carlisle), Drumburgh (with hamlets of Easton and Glasson) and Fingland (including Whitrigg).


11,176 acres [4,523 ha], including extensive areas of former moorland and moss. Parish was divided between constituent townships thus: Anthorn: 3,034 acres [1,228 ha], including 2,000 acres [809 ha] of commons enclosed 1842; Bowness: 2,985 acres [1,208 ha], including 1,500 acres [607 ha] of commons enclosed 1810; Drumburgh: 2,964 acres [1,199 ha], including Glasson commons (400 acres [162 ha]), enclosed 1816 and Drumburgh commons and moss enclosed 1890; and Fingland: 2,194 acres [888 ha], including Whitrigg common and marsh, enclosed 1837 and 1850. Some mossland remains registered as common land, including Drumburgh Moss (247 acres [100 ha]); Whitrigg Marsh and Moss (302 acres [122 ha]) and peat moss at Bowness (97 acres [39 ha]).


estimated at 830 in 1688; rising from 825 in 1801 to peak of 1,488 in 1841, reflecting growth of Port Carlisle. In 1841 population was divided between townships as follows: Anthorn: 207; Bowness: 624; Drumburgh: 470; Fingland: 187. After subsidiary peak of 1,369 in 1881, numbers drifted down to around 1,000 by 1930s, apart from temporary (probably War-related) peak of 1,812 in 1951, to stand at 1,221 in 2001.


manor of Bowness held of barony of Burgh by Brun (de Feritate) family until death of Robert le Brun (c.1395), when divided between heiresses. Seems to have been reunited with barony by purchase by Thomas Dacre in 16th century, though part descended to Grahams of the Fold until 1633, when George Graham released his rights in Bowness and Cardurnock to Thomas, earl of Arundel, then lord of Burgh barony.


predominantly farming and fishing (including traditional ‘haaf net’ fishing in Solway estuary) until growth of trading and coastal resort functions in early 19th century. PORT CARLISLE (formely Fisher’s Cross) developed as small port: harbour built 1819; canal opened 1823 but closed 1853 and replaced by Port Carlisle Railway, opened 1854 (closed 1932). Success proved to be short-lived after railway to Silloth opened 1856; trade had ‘entirely collapsed’ by 1873. Bowness and Port Carlisle had developed as small coastal resorts by 1840s, with genteel bathing and lodging houses. Caledonian & North British Railway opened 1854, with Solway viaduct (closed 1921) giving direct link to Scotland. Despite contraction of transport links, parish still retained services such as shops, hauliers, lodgings and tennis club in 1938. Other industries included gravel extraction and brick- and tile-making in 19th century; peat extraction from late 19th century. Chemical works built at Whiteholme on Drumburgh Moss 1857, making sulphuric and other acids and distilling tar; in later 19th century (as Cumbrian Manure Works) making artificial manures; continued until mid-20th century. Nearby was an asphalt works in 1860s. Large naval air base (HMS Nuthatch) constructed on Cardurnock peninsula during Second World War, opening 1944; closed 1959; radio transmitter masts erected on site 1964.

Places of worship:

medieval parish church of St Michael in Bowness village; restored 1891. Mission rooms at Drumburgh, Longcroft and Cardurnock in early 20th century. Wesleyan Methodist chapel at Port Carlisle built 1861 (now Solway Methodist Church), and Wesleyan Home Mission chapel in Bowness built 1872 (closed). Primitive Methodist chapel at Glasson built 1844; closed 1966. Congregational chapel at Anthorn, erected by subscription in 1869 (closed).

Schools and other institutions:

Rev. Thomas Pattinson’s charity (endowed 1785) supported schools at Bowness and Drumburgh and schoolmaster at Anthorn. Parish school at Bowness, enlarged c.1835 but closed after Board schools opened. Drumburgh school built 1834; re-built 1859. School at Fingland built ‘a few years’ before 1847; re-opened 1895. School at Easton had closed by 1860. Board schools built at Bowness (now Bowness Primary School) and Anthorn 1875. Village halls at Bowness (Lindow Hall, built 1910), Anthorn and Port Carlisle.