Monday 24 August 2015

Allonby Disasters

In the early years of the twentieth century, Allonby saw two events which might have proved to be major disasters. In both cases the village had a lucky escape.
In March 1903, the barque 'Hougomont' ran ashore. She was bound from San Francisco, via Cape Horn, to Liverpool. She was driven north by heavy weather and was standing off Maryport when she dragged her anchors and was swept into Allonby bay.
Crowds of spectators gather on the shore
The Wigton Advertiser reported: “Telegrams were sent by the postmaster and Mr Twentyman for the lifeboat from Maryport. . . heavy breakers landed with awful crash over the decks and rigging of the helpless barque. . . the surging mass of storm-driven billows presented an awe-inspiring spectacle, never to be forgotten . . . the main topmast and fore topmast broke off . . . the men hung on for dear life but no lifeboat could be seen.” Eventually the lifeboat arrived and the crew were all rescued. 
The cargo was washed ashore, it included 32,000 cases of tinned pears and peaches plus 24,000 cases of salmon. The locals examined the crates, the tins had no labels. The only way they could tell which was which was by shaking them. If the contents moved it was fruit!

Crowds arrived from the surrounding towns and village to see the spectacle and help themselves to a few tins too.
The ship was later towed into Maryport docks for repair.

Two years later, there was another near disaster. Until then the beck had been crossed by a iron bridge built as part of the Maryport-Wigton turnpike road.
The old bridge
On 28 November 1905, a traction engine approached the bridge hauling three large wagons containing Caris & Fox's Venetian Gondolas – a steam-powered fairground ride.

The beck was swollen at the time due to recent heavy rain and, when the engine was half-way over, the bridge collapsed. The engine crashed through the railings into the beck. The driver and his mate jumped clear and nobody was hurt.
Sometime later, a new stone bridge was built and this still carries the coast road over the beck.

Click on any of the pictures for a larger view

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