Whitehaven is situated on the west coast of Cumbria. In the mid 18th Century Whitehaven was the third largest port in Britain, after London and Bristol. The town is mainly Georgian and was built by the Lowther family during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Many of the period buildings can be seen on the street still bearing the family name. This is one of the few towns in Britain that was built on a grid system.
The wealth of Whitehaven was derived principally from the export of coal from the mining areas of the north west of England and also from the import of tobacco and rum from North America and the West Indies. Today the town has only a small fishing fleet. The harbour area is a conservation area and the West Pier was built by Sir John Rennie, a Scottish engineer. The area around the harbour has been developed in an attractive way with new promenades and sculptures.
The Beacon is a heritage centre, which overlooks the harbour on the West Strand, and is of great interest to visitors to Whitehaven. There are various displays and exhibitions about the town’s history and also houses a sophisticated weather station. This centre also features some of the notable people who have lived in the town. One of these was the grandmother of George Washington, Mildred Warner Gale, who lived in the town and is buried in St Nicholas’s Church.
The church of St Nicholas was built in 1883 on the site of an earlier church. In 1971 the church was almost completely destroyed by fire. Today a garden surrounds the ruins now. The Georgian church of St James was completed in 1753 and has a fine interior and with an interesting Memorial Chapel. St Begh’s Church is also a 19th Century building, which is an interesting structure.
Whitehaven holds a twice weekly market on Thursdays and Saturdays. In addition there are plenty of traditional shops in the town and a large antiquarian bookshop, which is quite well-known. Lowther Street is a particularly interesting street. There are several restaurants and cafés in the town and plenty of accommodation for the visitor.
The Coast to Coast walk and the C2C Cycle Route both begin in Whitehaven and cross the country to Newcastle. The cycle trip starts from the harbour and the spot is marked by a metal cut out. The walk begins at the lighthouse on St Bees Head, a few miles south of the town. Whitehaven also offers public transport links to various places within the Lake District and the surrounding area.
There are various local memorials to the mining industry that once dominated the area. On the cliffs outside the town is the Haig Colliery Museum. The mine was the last deep coal mine in the area, closing in 1986. The museum displays the restored winding engines and provides access, by arrangement to the ruins of Saltom Pit which was the world’s first undersea pit, constructed in the early 18th Century.