Whitehaven Brickworks

Whitehaven Fire Brick Co. opened in the 1850's on Low Road in Whitehaven. It was started by James Dees, born at Meldon near Morpeth, Northumberland, on 14th March 1815.

Having chosen the profession of civil engineer, he went in 1845 to Whitehaven, as Resident Engineer of the Whitehaven and Furness Railway then being constructed under Mr. George Stephenson, Mr. Robert Stephenson, and Mr. Longridge.

After completing that line, extending from Foxfield to Whitehaven, and also the Whitehaven Tunnel connecting the Furness line with the Whitehaven Junction Railway, he was appointed engineer of the first wet dock at Maryport, which he successfully finished.

He was one of the promoters of the scheme for making a railway from the haematite district in that neighbourhood, which resulted in the opening in 1856 of the Whitehaven Cleator and Egremont Railway, Mr. Dees being chief engineer and subsequently a director.

About 1853 he commenced the Whitehaven brick and tile works, of which he was sole proprietor; and he was one of the most energetic promoters of the Solway Junction Railway, of which he was a director and deputy chairman. He was also a partner in the Parkside Mining Co., whose extensive operations are well known. He was also a magistrate for the counties of Cumberland and Northumberland. He died at his residence, Riverdale, Bellingham, Northumberland, at the age of 60. In 1856 John Mathews is listed as manager. In 1869, Dees and Mathews.

Mathews was succeeded by John Gibson Dees as manager in 1869. The works operated under a number of names including, the Whitehaven Firebrick and Sewage Pipe Works and the Whitehaven Brick and Pipe Works. The works appear to have stopped work in the 1870s, but was re-opened in 1912 as the Whitehaven Brick and Tile Co.

During the Second World War the BBC used a building on the site as a low powered transmitter for the local community. the 'Home service' was transmitted on a frequency of 1474 KHz. This arrived from London over special equalised Post Office Landlines. The aerial was slung between the two brickworks chimneys.

All the low level transmitters around the country were tuned to the same frequency. This stopped enemy aircraft from using them for navigation as they did not know which transmitter they were receiving. Also there was a makeshift studio on the site which could broadcast locally in times of emergency. Today, the Whitehaven Brick and Tile Company has ceased to be.

Whitehaven Brickworks c1930


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.

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