Pigot & Co, 1828

WHITEHAVEN, the principal sea port in Cumberland, in the parish of St. Bees, and in the ward of Allerdale above Derwent, is 320 miles from London, 41 from Carlisle, 35 from Penrith, 15 from Cockermouth and Maryport, 8 from Workington, and 6 from Egremont. The town is seated in a remarkable creek, overlooked by high ground on three sides.

From the south: the town makes the best appearance, commanding a view of the interior of the streets, the harbour, and the castle belonging to the Earl of Lonsdale, which form fine objects in the landscape. Descending by an excellent road from the north, between two small eminences, the traveller approaches the town by a fine arch of freestone, decorated with the arms of the Lowther family.

In the year 1556 this town is said to have had only six houses, subsequently, being supported by the fostering hand of the Lowthers, it has risen to wealth and consequence; being at present the most eminent port in the coal trade except Newcastle.

Two acts of parliament, passed in the reign of Queen Ann, couferied great advantages on this port; by virtue of which, the harbour was considerably improved Whitehaven is a regular and well built town, for the most part, the streets being broad and spacious, cross-ing each other at right angles, and the houses built with some display of taste.

The government of the town is regulated by an act of the 7th of Queen Ann, which vests it in 21 trustees, called " the trustees of the port, harbour and town of Whitehaven," elected trienially, 14 by the inhabitants carrying on trade and paying harbour dues; the lord of the manor for the time being having the appointment of six other trus-tees, and which, with himself, makes the number (21) enjoined by the act. The present lord of the manor is the Earl of Lonsdale, who holds a court leet annually: a court baron is also held-monthly, for the recovery of debts under 40s; and petty sessions are held Thursdays and Saturdays.

Here are three chapels ofease to the mother church at St. Bees, viz. St. Nicholas, of which the incumbent is the Rev. Andrew Huddleston; the Holy Trinity, the Rev. Thos. Harrison;  and St. James's, the Rey. Win. Jackson; they are all perpetual curacies in the gift of the Earl of Lonsdale. The other places of worship are, Scotch, independent, methodist, anabaptist, Roman catholic, and society of friends' meeting houses.

The other public edifices and institutions are the dispensary, the house of industry, the marine school, national and Sunday schools, the theatre, the public office, Lowther-street, custom house, baths, subscription. library, philosophical so-ciety's room, harmonic society's concert room, a savings' bank, and mechanics' institute. In the market place are two neat buildings, one of them appropriated for the sale of corn, flour, meal, &c. the other for fish, both of which are amply supplied; there are also two markets for shambles meat.

Upwards of 200 sail of vessels are employed in the export of coals. There are also a considerable number built for the American, the West India, and the coasting trade, and many are employed in the East India trade. The lighthouse, which is not very lofty, is constructed upon a novel and most useful plan, and has a pretty appearance. The port enjoys the advantage of a 20 feet tide at springs, is perfectly dry at low water, and is defended by three batteries of cannon level with the water.

The principal manufactures of this town are linen, sail cloth, checks, ginghams, sheetings, thread, twine, ca-bles, tobacco, &c. Here are also some chemical works, anchor foundries, and two breweries.

The coal mines at Whitehaven are perhaps the most extraordinary in the known world, and have five principal entrances, called "Bearmouths" three on the south side, and two on the north side, by which horses can descend; the mines are sunk to the depth of nearly 150 fathoms, and penetrate under the sea to a great extent. These are the deepest coal mines that have hitherto been wrought below the surface of the sea. These mines are, at all times liable to the destructive effects of fire damp, but which danger, is now in a great measure obviated by the use of the safety lamp ; while steam, engines of extraordinary power keep the mines clear from water. Some idea maybe formed of the importance of this great article of commerce, when it is stated, that in certain periods of great demand, upwards of 1500 tons per diem are brought down to the shore for the purpose of exportation. Besides the mines of coal there are rich ones of iron ore, about three miles from the harbour, and a lead mine near the Ehen, at Kinniside 'great quantities of fine lime are shipped in the course of the year to the Galloway coast and fish are cured and exported annually to a considerable extent.

A fine piece of mechanism, deserving the attention of strangers, is the " patent slip," by means of which ten or twelve men can draw the largest ship out of the water into the yard for the purpose of repairing. The river Ehen passes within 4 miles of the town, upon which are placed various mills, for spinning, paper making, grinding of corn, &c. A fine new pier is erecting on the south of the harbour, at a considerable expense. The general appearance of the country in this neighbourhood is hilly, and in many places mountainous, exhibiting a variety of pleasing views, including a distant view of the western coast of Scotland, of the Isle of Man, and inland over a fertile and well cultivated country. A fair is held on the 12th of August, and there are three weekly markets, viz. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the principal being on Thursday. In 1821 the population of White-haven, according to the parliamentary returns, was 12,431, exclusive of 8,000 sailors, which were not classed with the actual inhabitants by that census.

HENSINGHAM is a township and pleasant village, in the same parish and ward as Whitehaven, one mile from that town. It contains one chapel,and a national and a Sunday school. About 860 inhabi-tants are in the township.

MORESBY is a parish and township, with a small harbour and village, rather more than two miles north of Whitehaven. Here is a small church, an endowed free school, and a Sunday school. An iron foundry is in the parish, and the inhabitants derive some profit from a little coasting trade : the number of persons in the township is about 450.

PARTON, which is a small sea port and fishing village, adjoins the south-east end of Moresby, in which parish it lies : a great quantity of coal is shipped here for the Irish ports. It contained, in 1821, about 500 inhabitants. 

Pigot & Co. Commercial Directory, 1828.


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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