Pow Beck

The Whitehaven to which Sir Christopher Lowther came in 1630 was a village lying mainly on the west bank of a river called Pow Beck (formerly Poe Beck). The river flowed through the centre of the town, and was crossed by a series of bridges. One such bridge was adjacent to the Golden Lion.

Another public house in Whitehaven with links to the river is The Dusty Miller. It got the name from the fact that in the days when Pow Beck ran openly through the market place, it powered an old undershot water mill.

St Bees head is known to have once been an island, called Preston Isle, and Pow Beck is believed to be the survivor of a sea channel. It was possible at one time to sail a small boat into the heart of Whitehaven.

Pow Beck was covered over in 1764 following abandoned plans to create a deep canal from St. Bees to Whitehaven for fully laden ships to sail within, if winds were in a unhelpful direction.

Pow Beck flows in a southwesterly direction to the village of St Bees where it flows into the Irish Sea. Despite rising only 0.62 miles (1 km) south of Whitehaven Harbour, the stream flows south for 2.8 miles (4.5 km) to the coast at St Bees. The present course of the river was much altered by the Furness Railway in 1849 to improve the drainage of the valley.

In 1686, Dutch painter Jan Wyck captured a scene in Whitehaven, which shows the Pow Beck flowing into the sea. Much has changed since then.

Whitehaven, 1686. Painting By Jan Wyck
Whitehaven - 1686


Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

Total Views: