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The maritime port of Whitehaven was once the third largest in the UK with trade links all over the world. The town’s prosperity was built on coal, developed by the wealthy Lowther family who also laid out the elegant Georgian town. The wealth of Georgian architecture led to Whitehaven being listed as a ‘gem town’

The historic 17th century harbour, enhanced by nautical sculptures, dramatic lighting effects and a brand new marina, is the focus for spectacular maritime events and activities including the occasional visit of tall sailing ships.

In the mid 18th century, Whitehaven was used as a template for the expansion of New York.

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Things to do

What's on

 June 2020>
There are a variety of events taking place in Whitehaven and the surrounding areas over the year. Why dont you check out the calendar and see what's on while you're here?

For events happening around the county, click below for our What's On page.

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Surrounding Areas

Egremont Castle, Whitehaven
St Bees Coast, Whitehaven

Culture and Heritage

Whitehaven Harbour
Whitehaven Market
Statue, Whitehaven

In 1600 Whitehaven was a small coastal village dependent on fishing, farming and salt-making, until the wealthy Lowther family began to capitalise on the rich seams of coal in the area. Several pits were sunk around Whitehaven to extract the 'black gold' and in some places the westerly dipping coal seams were followed under the Irish Sea for up to 5 miles.

The Whitehaven mines were among the most dangerous in the world for pit explosions - one of the worst being in May 1910 when 136 miners lost their lives at Wellington Pit.

The first quay was built in 1634 to export coal to Ireland but a growth in shipping between Europe, Africa, America and the West Indies necessitated the building of additional quays, or tongues, to cope with the burgeoning trade. By 1750 Whitehaven was the third most important port in the country after London and Bristol and plans were underway to create a gracious town with elegant Georgian houses, wide thoroughfares and new churches to reflect the town's wealth. Unfortunately, the American War of Independence (1775-1783) severely affected the important tobacco trade with Maryland and Virginia, and Whitehaven's sea merchants faced bankruptcy through contraction of markets and an increase in piracy on English ships. Although the war hampered trade, it fostered a major shipbuilding industry in Whitehaven that produced over 1000 wooden ships up to the late 19th century.

Coal mining continued as an important industry until the 1930s, followed by gradual closure of the pits. In 1943 the Marchon Chemical Works was built on the site of Ladysmith pit and became a leading producer of detergent powders. Its tall chimneys dominated the Whitehaven skyline for around 50 years until closure in 2005 and demolishment two years later. The flattened site is now earmarked for landscape restoration.

Today, improvements to the harbour area and sympathetic restoration of the town's Georgian buildings are part of an ongoing regeneration programme, the latest phase of which is to upgrade footpaths, cycleways and signage along the coast to St Bees and improve access to Haig Colliery Mining Museum, Saltom Pit and the RSPB reserve at St Bees.

Flags, Whitehaven

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