Ambitious plans to bring one of Maryport’s most historic buildings to life have been approved.
Christ Church, on King Street in the town, will now make way for the Maryport Maritime Museum after councillors voted in favour of its change of use during Allerdale Council’s development panel meeting last week. The museum will now move out of Queen’s Head in Shipping Brow and into the church.
The Grade II listed building, which dates to 1872, has sat empty for a number of years. It was acquired by Allerdale Council in 2020, which had the intention of restoring it and bringing it back to public use.
The project is being paid for by the Government’s Future High Streets Fund and will cost in excess of £1 million. Christ Church, sitting on the harbourside, is known as the Sailor’s Church and is shaped inside like an upturned boat.
The building is a prominent landmark in Maryport, sitting on the harbourside and has connections to the artist LS Lowry who featured it in his paintings during visits to West Cumbria, as well as in the work of Sheila Fell, his protégé, who was from Aspatria.
An LS Lowry picture of the church sold for £80,000. The building was listed by Historic England in 2020 and their report notes: “The church was originally referred to as The New Church, The Free Church and the Mission Church but by 1879 it was referred to as Christ Church.
“The spire was completed in 1874 and the clock installed by 1879, the latter donated by Mr. T H Ismay, formerly of Maryport, and the founder of the White Star Line. A secondary source describes the clock being visible across the harbour and reports it acting as a welcoming beacon for sailors.”
The Development Panel report also referenced the church’s history and location. It said: “It is very original, retaining its single glazed lancet windows and other features synonymous with Gothic style architecture that was revived in ecclesiastical buildings of the 19th century.
“It is a landmark whose appearance and setting has changed little since it was built. It was, and still is, a beacon that sits at the head of the harbour and highlights the older area of the town clustered around the water’s edge. This is as true for visitors and those returning from the sea as it is from the land.”
Now that planning has been granted, repairs will be carried out to the exterior of the building while inside, and preparations will be made to accommodate the Maryport Maritime Museum. This will include a timber pod with a mezzanine floor to house the current collections and future exhibitions and displays. The materials used will be traditional wood and glass, in keeping with the building’s interior.
The new visitor attraction is expected to open to the public by the Spring of 2024 while plans are in place to turn the existing Maritime Museum in Senhouse Street into an art gallery and accommodation for an artist in residence.
Councillor Mike Johnson, Leader of Allerdale Borough Council and Executive Member for Economic Growth, said: “This is a hugely exciting time for Maryport with lots of fantastic projects in the pipeline. We’re aiming to put the town firmly on the tourism map with new and better visitor attractions, and to give a new boost to the high street for those lucky enough to live and work here.
“The Christ Church project is one of the most prominent initiatives which I can’t wait to see it come to fruition and will bring to life our ambitious plans for Maryport.”