Castle Hill was built in 1785 as the residence of Captain William Currey, a Maryport Ship owner. It stands at the top of Mote Hill on the southern end of High Street looking down on the River Ellen and with spectacular views across the Solway Firth. From 1789 to 1934, Castle Hill was a private residence of the Senhouse and Addison families. When the late Miss Addison died, the house became vacant and stood empty for three years prior to being acquired by the Friends Society for use as the Maryport Educational Settlement.
The Maryport Educational Settlement opened in 1937, and from 1940 to 1959 housed the Maryport Infant School, following the bombing of the British School by a Luftwaffe Bomber on 27th July 1940, mistaking it for an army barracks. The economically depressed state of West Cumberland during the early 1930's led to a number of central government initiatives designed to alleviate the poverty experienced by the residents of West Cumbrian towns including Maryport. The Education Settlement arose from these initiatives.
The regular weekly classes and events included a wireless discussion group, university extension courses in Drama and "Central Government", a Musical Appreciation group and classes in Art and Speech Training. Over the years, many eminent speakers came and many exhibitions mounted. LS Lowry had an exhibition in 1962 and Sheila Fell in 1964. Percy Kelly, a relatively unknown local painter met Norman Nicholson, a relatively unknown Cumbrian poet, while attending an exhibition of French Impressionists in 1957, and a lasting friendship was formed.
In 2006, the building was sold to the Cumbrian Local Education Authority with the understanding that the building continue to deliver educational provision in the town of Maryport. Ownership transferred to Maryport Educational Settlement Ltd (MES). When MES was wound up in 2018, the assets were transferred to Castle Hill Trust CIO.
We have hosted two major art events:
In 2017 a 2-day event was held to commemorate that meeting between Kelly and Nicholson and involved over 200 local schoolchildren, each of whom produced a piece of art-work for display. Visitors from all over the UK attended.
In 2019, the format was repeated, this time featuring the famous local artist William Mitchell.
The exhibition planned to celebrate the life of Maryport-born miner, climber and artist Bill Peascod in 2020, the centenary of his birth, was cancelled due to Covid-19, but the organisers Dolly Daniel and Linda Wyatt decided to ask Cumbrian performer and media producer Steve Wharton to bring their festival to life on screen. The result was a feature-length documentary “At Home in the Steep Places”, released in 2021. https://youtu.be/Lh9pteudfDk
A local artists exhibition is now an annual event and we have regular ‘Makers Markets’.