The parish of Whitehaven has, within the past twenty years, increased from an area of only 267 acres to one of 1,620 acres, with a ratable value of - land, £2,287; buildings, £73,060. The population in 1801 was 8,742; in 1851 it had increased to 14,190; in 1881 the number was 19,717; and in 1891, 19,003. It is included in Allerdale-above-Derwent ward and petty sessional division, and gives name to a deanery, a poor law union and rural district, and, with Millom, forms the basis of a district for county court business. The manor of Whitehaven was one of the many possessions belonging to the priory of St. Bees. At the dissolution of monasteries it was seized by the Crown, but was subsequently purchased by Sir Christopher Lowther, second son of Sir John Lowther, of Lowther, in Westmorland, and in the possession of this noble family it still remains. Sir Christopher took up his residence at Whitehaven, in a mansion which he erected near the harbour. His son removed the manor house to the more eligible site now occupied by the castle. The next heir, Sir James, first Earl of Lonsdale, commenced the building of that magnificent baronial pile, which forms such a striking feature of the town, and at which the family still occasionally reside.
WHITEHAVEN CASTLE, the seat of the Earl of Lonsdale, at Whitehaven, is a large quadrangular building, pleasantly situated near the south-eastern entrance of the town. It occupies the site of the manor house called The Flat, built by Sir James Lowther. The principal part of the present mansion was erected by James, first Earl of Lonsdale. The castle is surrounded by a fine lawn, with pleasure grounds and ornamental gardens, and the front, which is towards the town, has a handsome appearance. In the entrance hall are a Roman altar and a centurion stone, the former of which was found at Ellenborough, and is said to be the largest discovered in Britain, being no less than five feet in height. The centurial stone was found at Moresby by the Rev. George B. Wilkinson, who presented it to the Earl of Lonsdale. The staircase and apartments of the castle contain several fine paintings by eminent masters.
LOWTHER FAMILY. - Of this ancient family, who are intimately connected with the history of both Cumberland and Westmorland, the first on record occurs in a deed to which William and Thomas de Lowther were witnesses, in the reign of Henry II, but it is supposed they were noted before the conquest, and took the name from the river Lowther, or Loder (in the British language, Gled-dwr), signifying a limpid stream. The supposition that the name is of Danish origin, from Loth and Er, meaning pertinent stock of honour, is considered as one of those flights of the imagination in which antiquaries sometimes indulge. The names of Sir Thomas de Lowther, Sir Gervase de Lowther, Knight, and Gervase de Lowther, archdeacon of Carlisle, occur in the reign of Henry III; but the regular pedigree commences in the reign of Edward I, with Sir Hugh de Lowther, who was the attorney-general to that monarch, and subsequently justice-itinerant and escheator on the north side of the Trent; and in the 5th of Edward III was made a justice of the King's Bench. From this reign till that of William III the Lowthers filled various offices of trust and honour in the law, and also as knights of the shire of Cumberland and Westmorland, and as sheriff of the former county. In 1569, Sir Richard Lowther, Knight, was deputy warden of the west marches, and conveyed the persecuted Mary, Queen of Scots, from Cockermouth to Carlisle Castle, and, on her way to Bolton, entertained her at Lowther Hall. Sir John Lowther sat as knight of the shire for Westmorland, and was succeeded by his son, Sir John, who was created a baronet of Nova Scotia, 1640. He suffered much in the royal cause, during the civil wars, but was one of the knights of the shire for Westmorland in the Parliament which restored Charles II. Sir John Lowther, second baronet, his grandson, distinguished himself, during the revolution of 1688, by securing the city of Carlisle, and causing the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland to appear in favour of the Prince of Orange, afterwards William III. For this service he was constituted vice-chamberlain of his Majesty's household, made one of his privy councillors, and lord-lieutenant of Westmorland; and in 1696, was created Baron of Lowther and Viscount Lonsdale. In 1699, he was made Lord Privy Seal, and was twice one of the Lords Justices of the kingdom, during the absence of the king. He died in 1700, aged 45 years, and was succeeded by his second son, Henry, third Viscount Lonsdale, who died unmarried, in 1750, having passed through several offices of state with honour and dignity. In this nobleman the peerage became extinct, but the baronetcy descended to Sir James Lowther, who, in 1755, succeeded to the immense property of his kinsman, Sir James Lowther, of Whitehaven, which was estimated at, £2,000,000. In 1784, he was created Baron Lowther, Baron Kendal, Baron Burgh, Viscount Lonsdale, Viscount Lowther, and Earl of Lonsdale; and, in 1797, Baron and Viscount Lowther, of Whitehaven, with remainder to the heirs male of his third cousin, the Rev. Sir William Lowther, of Swillington, Bart. He died without issue, in 1802, when the titles of 1797 descended to Sir William Lowther, Bart., the late earl, who succeeded as Viscount Lowther in 1802, and was created Earl of Lonsdale in 1807. In 1808, he printed a journal written by John, Viscount Lonsdale, entitled "Memoirs of the Reign of James II." He died, March 19th, 1844, aged 87 years, and was succeeded by his son William, F.R.S., second Earl of Lonsdale, Viscount Lowther, and Baron Lowther. He was lord lieutenant of the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, and died 4th March, 1872. He was succeeded by his nephew Henry, third Earl, who was born 27th March, 1818, and married in 1852 Emily Susan, eldest daughter of St. George Francis Caulfield, Esq. He died 15th August, 1876, and was succeeded by his second surviving son, St. George Henry, who was born 4th October, 1855. He married Lady Gwladys Herbert; and died 8th February, 1882, leaving issue one daughter. He was succeeded by his brother, Hugh Cecil Lowther, who was born in 1857, and married in 1878 Lady Grace Cecilia Gordon, third daughter of the Marquis of Huntley. He is therefore the fifth Earl of Lonsdale.
THE TOWN. - Whitehaven is a large and important seaport, market town, and municipal and Parliamentary borough on the Irish sea, about three miles to the north of the lofty promontory of St. Bees Head. The town is built round a small creek or inlet, which forms the harbour, and is overlooked on the other sides by green hills, which rise abruptly from the outskirts of the town. It is situated in 50° 33' north latitude, and 3° 35' west longitude. Its distance from London by road is 294 miles, and by rail via Furness, 296 miles; it is 41 miles from Carlisle, and 46½ miles from Barrow.
The origin of the name Whitehaven has given rise to much conjecture. Some writers have attributed it to the whiteness of the rocks on the east side of the harbour; but whatever may have been their pristine colour they are now far from white. Others assert that it is indebted for its appellation to an old fisherman of the name of White, who resided here about the year 1566, at which time the town is said to have consisted of six houses; but whether these were the town or the fishing station would now be difficult to determine, for its eligibility as a fishing ground, when the tides ran nearer the meadow than at present, would doubtless attract the attention of the monks of St. Bees long before White, the fisherman, was born. The thatched cottage, supposed to have been built by him in 1592, was situated near the fish market, and fell down in 1815. But there is a total absence of anything like white cliffs in the vicinity of the town; and the fact of its being denominated Whittofthaven, Quitofthaven, Wythoven, Whyttothaven, Whitten, &c., in the register of St. Bees and other ancient records, evidently shows that it is a place of greater antiquity than has been generally ascribed to it; and some fragments of tradition still extant seem to countenance this opinion. Tradition has preserved the memory of an ancient ruin, which is said to have stood on the spot now occupied by the Castle - probably some Druidical remains where it is supposed the Witan or Witanagemot was held. According to the "Annals of the Four Masters," a remarkable Irish document, written by the monks of Monasterboice, in Louth, some ten hundred years ago, the district around Whitehaven was noted for the abundance of the withy or willow trees which grew there. About the year 930, it appears that one of the Irish princes, or chiefs, accompanied an expedition to this place for wood; and the inhabitants, who were assembled at the Witan, not liking this intrusion into their territory, fell upon them, and took the prince and several of his company prisoners. This abundance of the wythe or withy tree may have given name to the haven.
We learn from an old history of the county of Durham that Whitehaven was a resort for shipping in the 10th century; and when the Nevilles, of Raby Castle, were called upon to furnish their quota of men to accompany Henry II to Ireland, in 1172, they were brought to Wythop-haven, or Witten-haven, and transported thence in ships to the Irish coast. When Edward I was traversing Scotland with his victorious army, in the 14th century, he found a ship belonging to this place, in which he sent a cargo of oats to be ground by the monks of St. Bees. But so insignificant was the place in the latter part of the 16th century, that Camden does not mention it; and about the same time we are told in a return made to the Privy Council, "there was one vessel of nine tons, called the Bee, belonging to the port."
In 1633 Whitehaven was still an obscure village of some nine thatched cottages, whose name was scarcely known beyond the precints of the parish. It was about this period the manor became the property of the Lowthers of Westmorland, and they were not slow to detect the value of the immense beds of coal in the locality. The little hamlet began to prosper by the working of this mineral, and in 1685 the port was possessed of a fleet of 46 vessels, the largest of which, named the "Resolution," 94 tons, traded with Virginia. The population was now rapidly increasing, and in 1713 there were about 800 families in the town. Its wealth and importance were becoming widely known; and in 1778 the notorious Paul Jones regarded it as a prize of sufficient value to attempt its capture. His vessel, named the Ranger, carried 18 six-pounders and 6 swivels, and had been fitted out for this hostile expedition at Nantes. Early on the morning of the 23rd of April in that year, he landed, accompanied by about thirty armed men, for the purpose of destroying the shipping. The desperadoes managed to set fire to three of the ships, but were betrayed by one of their companions, who fled into the town and alarmed the inhabitants. This timely notice brought willing hands to the defence of the port and shipping, and Jones and his followers, after spiking all the guns in the nearest battery, precipitately retreated to their vessel and sailed away in safety. This daring attempt of the American privateer revealed to the inhabitants of Whitehaven a very weak place in their defences. A sum of £857 was subscribed in four days, which was spent in strengthening and equipping the batteries. Since the time of Jones a great deal has been done for the improvement and protection of the town and harbour, which will be noticed at a subsequent page.
Whitehaven owes its rise and importance entirely to the presence of the valuable beds of coal beneath the surface. Several bands or seams show themselves on the sloping sides of the hills surrounding the town. The first to develop this important branch of industry was Sir John Lowther, who obtained a grant from Charles II about the year 1666, of all the land between high and low water mark for a distance of two miles. At first the coal was worked after a very primitive fashion; but soon improved methods were adopted, and machines worked by horse power superseded manual labour in drawing both coal and water from the mines. The introduction of the steam engine was the next advance. Sir James Lowther prosecuted with energy the plans of his father, and Whitehaven during his lifetime rose rapidly in the scale of importance. There was now a fleet of 260 ships, averaging a little over 100 tons each, carrying coals to the various ports along the coast; and Sir James's income rose from £1,500 a year to £16,000. Several pits were sunk, and to increase the facility of loading, the coal piers were built, and Whitehaven has now one of the most convenient pier harbours in the kingdom. The following table exhibits the quantity of coal shipped from Whitehaven between the years 1781 and 1792, when the duty chargeable on coal exported to Ireland was 1s. 2d. per ton, and to foreign countries 5s. per ton:-
COAL SEAMS, PITS, &c. - The coal measures included in the area of the Cumbrian coalfield attain a thickness of about 2,000 feet. The following is a section of strata at Whitehaven, taken from the 4th edition of the "Coal Fields of Great Britain":-
As before stated, several bands or seams may be seen cropping out from the hill sides, and near the sea shore. On the first attempt to work the coal near Whitehaven, a level or water course was driven from the bottom of the valley, near the Pow Beck, till it intersected a seam of coal, known as the Bannock Band mentioned in the foregoing section, and drained a considerable field of coal, which was drawn out of pits from 20 to 60 yards deep. After this, another level was driven westward, from near the farmhouse called Thicket, across the seam called the Main Band. This level also effectually drained a large bed of coal, which was drawn out of the pits by means of windlasses, and then carried to the ships on the backs of galloways in packs of 14 stones each. A later attempt to get coals here was made at the Ginns, where both the coal and water were drawn from the pits by means of horses and vertical machines called ginns, a name that has since been bestowed upon the populous suburb that now occupies the spot. The employment of horses in pumping water from the mines was superseded by the introduction of the steam engine by Sir James Lowther, and Whitehaven is said to have possessed the second machine of the kind erected in England. Another powerful engine having been erected near the Ginns a considerable extent of coal was drained. The Parker pit was afterwards opened, and to expedite the transmission of the coal and at the same time economise power, a tramway was constructed from the pit to the harbour staith. Another pit about 140 yards deep was sunk at Salton, about the year 1714, and this was followed by the Howgill and Whingill collieries. These two have been among the most successful in the district, producing as early as 1787 about 112,500 tons of coal in the year. There are now three pits in active operation in the neighbourhood of Whitehaven, one on the north side of the town and two on the south. The William pit, sunk in 1801, is over 100 fathoms deep. The Wellington and Croft pits are on the opposite side of the town. The former is sunk to a depth of 150 fathoms. At the latter, another shaft is being sunk which, when completed, will be fitted with the most modern and improved machinery, and is expected to greatly increase the output. There are three workable seams reached by these pits; the first, as will be seen in the section of strata before given, is the Bannock Band, from 8ft. to 9ft. thick; the Main Band, from 6ft. to 11ft. thick; and the Six Quarters or Low Bottom, about 4ft. thick. These coal strata dip seaward, and the workings are driven in that direction to a distance of three miles, yet there the collier pursues his toilsome labour heedless of the mighty waters that roll above him. The output of the three pits is about 600,000 tons yearly, and is still on the increase.
IRON MINING AND WORKS. - Though coal is the chief item in the prosperity of Whitehaven, yet iron is becoming an important factor. The ore of this district is red hæmatite, similar to the Furnessian ore, and ranks amongst the richest in the kingdom. It occurs in the carboniferous limestone and in close proximity with coal; and thus the town is most favourably circumstanced for the profitable manufacture of iron. The ore is here irregularly distributed over an area extending about eight miles from S.W. to N.E., with an average width of about one mile. It occurs in faults and dislocations in the mountain limestone, and its presence can be ascertained only by borings, which have to be made almost at random. In the year 1819 there were thirteen mines in the Whitehaven district, producing annually about 100,000 tons of ore, whilst the output from the sixty mines in the United Kingdom in the same year was 500,000 tons. A large portion of the ore raised is used in the furnaces of the district, and the rest is forwarded by rail and sea to other places. The iron manufacture is carried on by the Lonsdale Hæmatite Iron Co., whose works are situated at Bransty. There are three blast furnaces, each capable of smelting 700 tons per week.
THE HARBOUR. - This is perhaps one of the largest and most convenient pier harbours in the kingdom; it is protected on the W. and N. by noble piers of splendid masonry, stretching their massive arms into the sea; whilst other six intersect the enclosed area, thus giving a large amount of wharfage in proportion to the water surface. The first pier was erected here about 1631 by Sir Christopher Lowther, by which the harbour was rendered sufficiently commodious to contain a fleet of 100 sail. Two Acts of Parliament, passed in the 7th and 11th years of Queen Anne, established a tonnage duty for the purpose of improving the harbour, and, in consequence, many additional works were erected. In 1767 the New Quay was lengthened, and in 1784 the North Wall was finished; the Old Quay was extended in 1792, and many other improvements were effected about 1809. The New West Pier was commenced in 1824, and finished in 1839; £120,000 having been spent in its construction. It is a noble monument of engineering skill, and apparently possessed of strength sufficient to resist the combined attacks of wind and wave. The wall runs out to sea a distance of 930 feet, and on the top are two roads extending its whole length, one for vehicular traffic, and the other more elevated for pedestrians. The wall terminates in a magnificent round head, said to have cost £30,000, carrying a lighthouse exhibiting a revolving light. The North Pier has a length of 820 feet, and required upwards of seven years in building. It was completed in 1841 at a cost of £80,000. Oil this, as on the other pier, there is a spacious promenade, which, during the summer months, is a favourite resort of both inhabitants and visitors. A wet dock, having a water surface of 4¾ acres, was opened in 1876, and, after having been closed some time during the rebuilding of the entrance piers, was re-opened in 1882. The quays and wharves are supplied with every convenience for loading and discharging the vessels, and in the various improvements introduced for this purpose, none appear to greater advantage than the means employed for delivering the coals into the ship's hold. A substantial iron roadway, carried across the wharves on pillars, leads from the pits to the basin side, and, by a piece of mechanism, the coals are dropped through closed hurries into the vessel. Although the shipment of coal forms the leading feature of the Whitehaven trade, yet iron, both in the form of ore and pig, is now largely exported. A patent slip adjoining one of the quays has lifting power of 1,200 tons. The wharves are in railway communication with the main lane, which greatly facilitates the transmission of goods to and from all parts of the country. The town being of recent origin, the streets are generally laid out on the modern principle, straight, wide, and intersecting each other at right angles. The houses are chiefly built of stone, and some of the buildings are large and handsome structures. The principal approach to the town is on the north side, by a fine spacious road of gradual descent between two eminences, the sides of the one being laid out in gardens and the other embosomed in trees. The entrance is through a fine arch of freestone, with a rich entablature ornamented with the arms of the Lowther family, but now much defaced from the effects of the weather. The Town Hall, situated in Duke Street, is a fine large building, erected in 1852. It contains a spacious hall for public meetings, assemblies, etc.
The Grand Hotel, formerly called the Lonsdale Hotel, was erected in 1846-7 at a very great expense by the Earl of Lonsdale, and was at that time the most magnificent building of the kind in the North of England. It is in the Lombardinian style of architecture, and was built from the designs and under the personal superintendence of Mr. Barnes, of London; Mr. Hugh Todhunter, of Whitehaven, being the builder. It covers an area of 6,000 superficial feet, being 100 feet in length and 60 feet in width. The building is situated at Bransty, contiguous to the railway station, and contains eighty rooms, besides two spacious apartments for a ballroom and coffee-room. After remaining for some years in a partly ruinous state, the whole place has been thoroughly renovated and re-opened under the management of Mr. John W. Arthur.
The Free Public Library, in Queen Street, formerly the Mechanics' Institute, was handed over to the town on the adoption of the Free Libraries' Act, in 1887. It was opened by the late Archbishop Thomson, on the 15th May, 1888, and consists of a Reading Room and Lending Library, stocked with books to the number of about 8,000 volumes. During the winter months classes are held under the Technical Instruction Committee.
CHURCHES, CHAPELS, SCHOOLS, ETC. - St. Nicholas': Until 1693 the only place of worship in Whitehaven was "a little old Chapel" in Chapel Street, but in that year St. Nicholas' Church, erected by Sir John Lowther and the inhabitants, at a cost of £1,066, was opened for divine service. The church was taken down in 1881 and rebuilt in the Perpendicular Gothic style, the whole cost being defrayed by Miss Gibson, as a memorial of her parents. The designs were furnished by Mr. G.J. Ferguson, of Carlisle. St. Nicholas' now ranks amongst the finest and largest churches in the west of Cumberland. Whitehaven is supposed to have formerly been a chapel under the mother church of St. Bees; and when the church of St. Nicholas was erected in 1687-93, the inhabitants petitioned Parliament that Whitehaven might be constituted a separate and distinct parish, but their prayer was refused, and the town continued to be dependent on St. Bees until 1835, when the three churches of Whitehaven had ecclesiastical districts allotted to them. The living of St. Nicholas was certified to the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty as worth £60 a year, £40 of which arose from pew rents, and £20 from contributions. It is now worth about £130 net, and is held by the Rev. C.B.S. Gillings, B.A. The right of presentation is vested in five trustees.
Holy Trinity Church, a large plain structure, was built in 1715 by James Lowther, Esq., and the inhabitants. The church terminates at one end in a semicircular apse, in which stands the communion table. This recess, which forms the chancel, is lighted by a massive stained-glass window, on which is depicted the Resurrection of Our Lord; and on each side is a memorial window; one presented by Capt. Dixon, and the other by the Grisdale family. A new and massive font was placed in the church in 1876, in memory of the late Mrs. Dalton. There are also several mural monuments, commemorative of various local families; one near the tower is of marble, and records the death of Sir James Lowther, in 1755, the fourth and last baronet of this branch of the family. In 1895-6 the building was restored, and the interior fitted with electric light, at a cost of about £1,600. Holy Trinity was certified to the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty at £60, of which sum £10 was from pew rents, and the remainder from contributions. The living has since been augmented by William, Earl of Lonsdale, and with a grant of £400 from Queen Anne's Bounty, it is now worth £200 net, and is held by the Rev. James Anderson. The living is in the gift of the Earl of Lonsdale. The population of the parish is 4,000, and there is church accommodation for 1,200.
St. James' Church was erected in 1752, and occupies an elevated situation at the top of Queen Street, where its massive tower, though not boasting, any great altitude, forms a conspicuous object. In style of architecture it is similar to Holy Trinity, and possesses no features that call for special notice. The living was augmented by a Parliamentary grant of £800, and also by the Earl of Lonsdale. It is now worth about £200, and is held by the Rev. R. Duncan, M.A. The parish contains about 7,000 inhabitants, and there is church accommodation for 1,500. The patronage is vested in the Earl of Lonsdale.
Christ Church, was built in 1847, at a cost of £2,200, all raised by subscription, except £700 obtained from the Diocesan and Incorporated Societies. It is a neat structure in the Norman style, and was thoroughly restored and decorated in 1881. When the church was consecrated a district was allotted to it, and constituted an independent parish for all parochial purposes. The living is worth £300, of which £200 is from endowment by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. This church was in the alternate patronage of the Queen and the Bishop of the diocese until 1858, when the advowson was purchased by the Earl of Lonsdale, and still remains in the same family.
St. Begh's Church (Catholic), Coach Road. This mission was founded 200 years ago; the present erection, by Pugin, was commenced in 1864, and completed in 1868, at a cost of about £6,000. It is built in the Gothic style, and consists of chancel, nave, and side aisles. The lofty open timbered roof, and the beautiful proportion existing between the various dimensions, give the interior the appearance of extreme lightness and elegance. Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the church is the elaborately carved and gilt altar and reredos standing within the apse-shaped chancel. The floor of this portion of the church is of dark polished oak. On each side of the sanctuary is a small oratory chapel. The chancel is lighted by three beautiful stained-glass windows; the centre one bears a representation of the Crucifixion, and the others are rich in ecclesiastical symbolism. Two mural figures of the patron saints Begh and Gregory adorn the walls of the sanctuary. Elaborate and beautiful decorations have been recently effected by Joseph Pippet, Solihull, Birmingham. Further extensions are in view of the bi-centenary and consecration, which will take place in or before 1906. The aisles are divided into four bays by elegant arches resting upon octagonal columns. The organ loft occupies a position at one side near the chancel, and contains a very good instrument. The present rector is the Rev. H.G. Murphy, O.S.B., assisted by the Revs. C.B. Kenglebacher, and W.I. Campbell, O.S.B. Visitors to Whitehaven would be well repaid by an inspection of this fine edifice.
St. Gregory and Patrick's School-Chapel was erected by the Rev. H.G. Murphy in 1889, the foundation stone being laid by the Right Rev. Dr. Wilkinson, bishop of the diocese.
The old Church of St. Gregory, built in 1834 on land given by Lord Lonsdale, is now used as a school.
The Presbyterian Church, James Street. This, the oldest Nonconformist Society in the town, was formed the latter part of the 17th century, by five or six Presbyterian families who came hither from the north of Ireland. They still clung to their faith in their new home; and in 1695 they were enabled to erect a small chapel, upon a plot of land presented to them by Sir John Lowther. This small building satisfied all their requirements for about sixty years, when their increased numbers necessitated its extension. Considerable additions were made to the premises, and a residence for the minister erected, the entire cost being defrayed by a generous benefactor, named Hicks. In 1857 the church underwent thorough restoration and enlargement. The domestic style of the old chapel was improved by the addition of a Gothic front, which gave to the building an ecclesiastical appearance. These alterations were effected at a cost of about £800.
The Baptist Chapel in Scotch Street is now used only for baptisms. The same religious connection who formerly worshipped here, hold their services in a room above the Co-operative Stores, and now call it the Church of Christ.
The Congregational Church in Scotch Street was erected in 1874 at a cost of £10,500. It has a fine stone front, and a free rendering of the Gothic style has been adopted in the construction. The front forms an arcade resting upon granite columns, with floriated capitals. The tower carries a slated spire. The interior is unique and beautiful. One end is galleried, and the side walls are arcaded for balconies over the aisles which encircle the building. Spacious schoolrooms, class rooms, Dorcas rooms, and lecture rooms have been erected at the rear of the building. There are in addition residences for the minister and the chapel-keeper. In 1883, Mr. G. Jackson presented £500 to this church for the purchase of an organ, in memory of his daughter Agnes.
The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Lowther Street, erected in 1877 at a cost of £12,000, superseded the old chapel in Michael Street. It is a handsome Gothic building, of granite, with a neat square tower, from the angles of which rise four small spires. The interior is light and elegant, the furnishings being all of varnished pitch-pine.
The United Methodist Free Church, Catherine Street, was built in 1836, the year after the secession, at a cost of £1,700. It is a neat edifice, with accommodation for 1,000 worshippers. Previous to 1858, this congregation was known as the Wesleyan Association, but in that year they united themselves with the Methodist Reformers, and now bears the title given above.
The Primitive Methodist Chapel, Howgill Street, was built in 1859, at a cost of £675, to take the place of the old one in Mount Pleasant, where they had previously worshipped. The funds were raised entirely by voluntary subscriptions, and the building is free from debt. This chapel is the centre of the Whitehaven circuit, which includes ten chapels. Sunday schools were added in 1878, at a cost of £500.
The Salvation Army Barracks are situated in Duke Street, in the old chapel of the Independents. The Society of Friends have their meeting-house in Sandhill Lane, erected in 1727; and the Christian, or Plymouth Brethren, worship in a room in Tangier Street.
SCHOOLS, INSTITUTIONS, ETC. - There are few
towns in the kingdom having the same population that possess so many facilities for the
education of youth as Whitehaven; and when the Elementary Education Act of 1870 came into
force, there was sufficient school accommodation to meet the demands of the
"Compulsory Act" without the erection of any new premises. The following are the
only schools of which the space at our command permits a full description:-
The National School is a large two-storied building at the top of Wellington Row, erected in 1824. In 1835 it was cemented and palisaded at a cost of £150, by the late Mr. John Pennyfeather. The Rev. Andrew Huddlestone, D.D., incumbent of St. Nicholas', left £1,000, invested in the harbour bonds at four per cent., towards its support. The school is under the management of a committee of gentlemen, and was converted into a public elementary school in 1874 under Government inspection. There is accommodation for 500 children.
The Refuge School was established by several gentlemen, as the name implies, for the waifs and strays of the town. It was erected in 1852 upon a plot of land granted by the Earl of Lonsdale upon a lease for 99 years, at a cost of £1,200, which was raised by subscription. The school was at first a Sunday school only, but was afterwards constituted a mixed public elementary one, under the management of a committee of twelve trustees. This school is to be replaced by the Crosthwaite Memorial School, erected in Rosemary Lane, the gift of Miss Crosthwaite, in memory of her brother. The site was given by the Earl of Lonsdale. The school is under a committee of fifteen trustees. It is in connection with the Church of England, but all creeds will be admitted.
Girls' Orphan Home, Granby Place, maintained by public subscriptions and donations, and partly self-supporting, was formerly located in the old workhouse, Preston Quarter. The present institution is owned by the subscribers; its object is to befriend destitute girls, especially orphans, training them to industrial habits, fitting them for domestic service, and providing them with suitable situations. It is under the management of a committee of ladies.
St. Nicholas's Schools, Scotch Street. The infant and Sunday school was erected in 1846, at a cost of £930, and the following year another school was built, at the cost of £1,000; and in 1874 they were considerably enlarged at a further outlay of £1,600. They have now accommodation for about 483 children.
St. Begh's Catholic School, in Coach Road, has accommodation for 504 children, mixed, and is conducted by the Sisters of Charity of St. Paul.
The Catholic School of St. Gregory and Patrick is situated in Quay Street. It is for infants, and has 300 names on the books.
Earl of Lonsdale's School. This is a voluntary, mixed school, on Monkwray Brow, opened in 1875, and built by the Earl of Lonsdale at a cost of £3,000. It, replaces the school called Glass House School, in Ginns, which was found to be too small. Contributions from Lord Lowther and the Whitehaven Colliery Co. support the school, which has accommodation for 500 children.
The Whitehaven Scientific Association, established in 1866, hold their meetings at the Scientific Institute in Howgill Street. Here is a museum, containing a large collection of various minerals, birds' eggs, etc., etc.
The Subscription Library was founded in 1797, and now occupies a handsome building, in Catherine Street, erected by the Earl of Lonsdale. It comprises upwards of 11,000 volumes, and is patronised by about 80 members, who each subscribe one guinea per annum.
The Working Men's Reading Room was established at 34, Queen Street, in 1862. There are about 160 members, who pay 1s. quarterly.
The West Cumberland Club was originated in 1871, and numbers about 130 members, who pay a yearly subscription of five guineas, and also a like sum for entrance fee. The club premises are situated in Lowther Street.
CHARITABLE INSTITUTIONS. - The Whitehaven and West Cumberland Infirmary is a large and well-appointed building, in Howgill Street. As early as 1783 a scheme of gratuitous medical advice and medicine for the poor was put into operation; and in 1819 a house of recovery was commenced; but it was not until 1830 that the scheme was perfected by the establishment of the Infirmary, and the great benefit of such an invaluable institution in preventing the spread of contagious diseases is every year more apparent. The building was enlarged in 1857 by the addition of new wards, erected by the late Baroness de Steinberg, at a cost of upwards of £6,000. During her lifetime the same benevolent lady paid £50 a year towards the maintenance of a chaplain, and at her death she left a very handsome endowment for the same purpose. The visiting days are Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sundays, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Secretary attends for "Recommends" daily between 10 and 11 a.m.
Bransty Hospital. - This is a hospital for infectious diseases, built upon the enlarged site of the old Small-pox Hospital, and completed in 1895, at a cost of £4,575. It contains 16 beds, and is replete with every modern appliance and, convenience.
The Ladies' Charity affords relief and assistance to married women in childbed, in their own houses, and to widows whose husbands have died during their pregnancy, resident in the town and suburbs. It was instituted in 1805. There is also a Ladies' Benevolent Society, for visiting and relieving the sick poor, formed in 1818.
The Soup Kitchen in Mill Street, which is supported largely by voluntary contributions, is the means of distributing each winter about £200 worth of soup among the indigent poor. It is managed by a committee of ladies, of which Mrs. Kitchin is secretary. It has a small permanent income, derived from a bequest of £1,000, consolidated stock, by the late Matthew Piper, Esq., which has since been increased by legacies and donations. These charitable institutions are deserving the sympathy and assistance of a generous public. If, instead of relieving the vagrants who infest the suburbs of our towns, and who are almost without exception professional tramps and would not work if it were offered to them, the charitably disposed would contribute towards the funds of these societies, they would have the satisfaction of knowing that their charity was bestowed upon deserving objects.
MARKETS, FAIRS. - The first charter obtained by Whitehaven was in 1660. The markets are held on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and are well supplied with all kinds of provisions, especially on Thursday, the principal market day. The Market Place, which is surrounded with well-stocked retail shops, is tolerably spacious, having been enlarged and rendered more commodious about a century ago, by throwing an arch over the Pow Beck, which runs under this part of the town. It now extends from King Street to Irish Street, and contains a neat market house, designed by Smirke, which is devoted to poultry, butter, eggs, etc. The corn market is held in Duke Street. The shambles are divided into two parts by Chapel Street; the one portion is known as Low Market and the other St. George's Market. Formerly the harbour occupied that part of the town on which the buildings between Strand Street and Chapel Street now stand. The gut which separated them was filled up early in the eighteenth century. The stone bridge which crossed Pow Beck, opposite the Golden Lion, was removed, and the stream covered over as at present. Fairs are held yearly on the 12th of August.
BANKS. - There are now four banking companies which have premises in the town. The Bank of Whitehaven, Ltd., in Coates Lane, was established by private enterprise, but was transferred to a company in 1838, which is still in existence, carrying on the business in Coates Lane. The others are - The Clydesdale Bank, Ltd., 25 Lowther Street; The Cumberland Union, Lowther Street; and the Whitehaven Joint Stock Bank, Queen Street.
GAS AND WATER WORKS. - The streets of Whitehaven were first lighted with gas in 1831; until that year they were dependent for what light they had to the primitive oil lamp.* In 1831 gasworks were erected at a cost of £8,000, raised in £20 shares. In 1853, a new company was originated, whose works were situated on Tow Road, Preston Quarter, and comprised two holders capable of containing 75,000 cubic feet of gas. For many years these two companies existed under close competition, until, in 1869, an arrangement was made between the two for fourteen years, to supply gas at a fixed rate by both companies. In 1884, the first-mentioned company purchased the concern of the latter, and now business is conducted under the title of the Whitehaven United Gas Co.
The water supply of the borough is both abundant and pure. The works, situated at Hensingham, about a mile from the town, were completed in 1850, at a cost of £25,000. The water is drawn from Ennerdale Lake, about ten miles distant, and received into three reservoirs - at Scragill, Hensingham, and Harras Moor. The first-named, which has a capacity for 1,000,000 gallons, serves that part of the town which can be supplied by gravitation; it is the only one of the three which is charged directly from the lake. To supply the high-lying parts of the town, water is pumped into the other two reservoirs. By the Whitehaven Corporation Act, 1899, power was obtained to draw 2,000,000 gallons per day from the lake, double the quantity previously taken.
ELECTRICITY SUPPLY. - This important undertaking is also under the control of the Corporation, a provisional order having been obtained by the governing body in 1891. The public lighting is entirely carried out by electricity, and a private supply is placed at the disposal of the ratepayers, many of whom avail themselves of it. To meet the increasing demand further extensions are being effected at an outlay of about £9,800.
BATHS, WASH-HOUSES, &c. - The authorities of Whitehaven and the gentlemen connected with the town, have always taken a lively interest in the well-being and health of the working classes. As early as 1814, baths were erected on the strand by the town and harbour authorities, where hot and cold fresh and salt-water baths could be obtained. The Earl of Lonsdale, in 1858, erected in Newtown, baths, and wash-houses for the benefit of his workpeople. In 1882 a Public Baths Co., Limited, was formed, and a prospectus issued, to raise capital in £20 shares. Competition was invited for the best plan, and Mr. T.L. Banks was the successful competitor. The premises contain hot, cold, and swimming baths, and are supplied with salt water, pumped from the sea, and fresh water from the mains connected with Ennerdale lake. There is also room left for further extension, should that be necessary. They are now chiefly supported by Augustus Helder, Esq., Member of Parliament for the Borough.
RAILWAYS. - The history of the lines by which Whitehaven is connected with the great iron-roads which traverse the kingdom from end to end, has been sketched on a former page. Branch lines connect both the docks and pits with the main line, thus affording a rapid and easy means of transit. The station of the L. & N.W. railway adjoins that of the Furness line at Bransty. The old and inconvenient building, which served the purposes of a station for so many years, has given place to a large and handsome structure, erected at a cost of £20,000.
POOR-LAW UNION. - The Whitehaven Union is of considerable magnitude, not only in regard to the extent of country which it covers, but also with respect to the population embraced within its limits. The Union is apportioned into four sub-districts, viz., Harrington, Whitehaven, St. Bees, and Egremont, which comprise among them twenty-five parishes and townships. The following table shows the parishes in the Union, with the ratable value of each at the last return, the acreage and population :-
The Guardians transact their business in the Union Hall, a neat stone building at the corner of Lowther Street and Scotch Street, erected in 1880-1 at a cost of £4,500. The Workhouse, situated in Preston Quarter, was built in 1855-6. It is a good substantial stone building, erected at a cost of £8,140, and containing an average of about 307 inmates. Previous to the formation of the Union there were two workhouses in the town, one in Scotch Street, for the Whitehaven township, and the other at Ginns, for Preston Quarter. The former was built in 1743, at a cost of a considerable sum, borrowed upon tickets not exceeding £25 each, "bearing interest for thirty-one years after which the payment of the principal commenced, and was all paid off in 1780. The two houses, one appropriated for men, and the other for women, were sufficient for the requirements of the Union until 1855, when the present one was erected.
COURTS OF LAW, &c. - The sessions for the county were held here until 1858, when they were removed to Carlisle; but Petty Sessions are held every Monday and Thursday. A County Court sits monthly for the recovery of debts under £50. This court is held in a good substantial stone building, erected in 1856 at a cost of £2,000. The Police Station and Court are situated in Scotch Street, and here the petty sessions are held in an office erected in 1859. The station has accommodation for a dozen prisoners, in seven cells on the ground floor and five upstairs. The police force consists at present of one superintendent, two inspectors, four sergeants, and twenty constables.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE TOWN AND HARBOUR. - Whitehaven was incorporated by Royal Charter on the 11th July, 1894. Previous to this the government of the town and harbour was vested in a body of twenty-one trustees, as appointed by an Act of Parliament obtained in 1708. But the scheme which accompanied the Charter provided for the separation of the two interests and created a new body for the control of the harbour under the name of the Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners. This new authority came into office on Friday, November 9th, 1894, and is composed as follows:- (1) The Lord of the Manor or his Deputy, (2) Three persons appointed by the Lord of the Manor, (3) Four persons appointed by the Corporation, (4) Three persons appointed by traders and shipowners, (5) Four persons appointed by bondholders. The Town Council consists of the Mayor, six Aldermen, and eighteen Councillors. The borough is divided into six wards, each of which returns three councillors.
PARLIAMENTARY REPRESENTATION. - Previous to the year 1832 this large and populous borough was unrepresented in the Imperial Parliament. But, by the passing of the Reform Bill in that year, Whitehaven was invested with the privilege. The following is a list of the members who have represented the borough in Parliament:- 1832-35, M. Attwood, 1835-37, M. Attwood; 1837-41, M. Attwood; 1841-47, R.C. Hildyard; 1847-52, R.C. Hildyard; 1852-56, R.C. Hildyard; 1856-57, R.C. Hildyard; 1857-59, G. Lyall; 1859, G. Lyall; 1865, G. Cavendish Bentinck; 1868, G.C. Bentinck; 1874, G.C. Bentinck; Mr. Bentinck was appointed Secretary to the Board of Trade in 1875, and was re-elected; 1880, Right Hon. G.C. Bentinck; 1886, Right Hon. G.C. Bentinck; 1891, Sir James Bain (bye-election); 1892, G.S. Little; 1895, Augustus Helder; 1900, Augustus Helder.
THE CEMETERY for the borough of Whitehaven is situated in Preston Quarter, about a mile from the town. It is well laid out in plots of ground on each side of the road, and covers an area of 31 acres. There are two neat mortuary chapels, in the Gothic style, appropriated to the Church of England and the Nonconformists; and at the entrance is the lodge, the design of which harmonises with the two chapels. The cemetery was consecrated on the 18th of November, 1855.
AMUSEMENTS, CUSTOMS, ETC. - The Theatre is a neat structure in Roper Street, erected in 1769, and thoroughly restored, both internally and externally, in 1869. It has accommodation for about 1,000 persons.
A relic of an old custom, more honoured in the breach than the observance, once prevalent in many parts of England, but now, happily suppressed by the civil authorities, may still be occasionally seen in the neighbourhood of Whitehaven. Dressed in the most fantastic garb, bands of young men, five in number, go from house to house at the Christmas season, performing a sort of burlesque drama. To send the performers away unrequited would be to forfeit good luck during the next year. By some writers the simple drama which they perform is thought to be a relic of the old miracle plays of the Middle Ages, but the origin of this curious custom may more probably be found among the customs of our Pagan forefathers.
CHARITIES. - Mrs. Elizabeth Gale, by will dated 30th Feb., 1735, left £200 in augmentation of the salary of the minister of the old chapel of Whitehaven. This proviso was attached to the bequest - that he would provide for the education of twelve poor children. With the money some premises were erected, which being let to very poor people, little rent could be obtained. Were the provisions of the will carried out, and twelve children educated, the bequest would be an injury to the living rather than a benefit. The minister distributes annually, on the Epiphany, 40s. among the poor widows.
Mrs. Grace Towerson left in 1776 £200, one-half of the interest thereof to be applied towards the education of poor children of the town, and the other half to be distributed among poor widows. For a number of years nothing was paid towards education, and the interest was allowed to accumulate. Subsequently £358 4s. 2d. was invested in the four per cents., and the charity is now carried out as directed by the testator.
Mr. Joseph Glaister, by will dated 22nd January, 1773, directed his executors to invest a sufficient sum of money to produce yearly £5, which was to be distributed among poor householders.
Mrs. Susannah Sewell bequeathed in 1782 to the minister of Trinity Church the sum of £200, the interest thereof to be distributed among poor families or single persons on St. Thomas's Day.
BIOGRAPHIES. - Among the eminent men connected with Whitehaven, the following may be mentioned:-
Anthony Bacon, Esq., a native of the town, was in his early years a mariner, and the master of a small vessel. He relinquished his seafaring life when about thirty years of age, and by his talents and industry, raised himself to the rank of one of the first merchants in London. He was elected to the House of Commons in three successive Parliaments.
William Brownrigg, M.D., F. R. S., physician, who, while in practice in the town, investigated the nature of the exhalations which produce such extraordinary effects in the coal mines. He also applied himself to the study of mineral waters, and is said to have been the first to discover the nature of Chalybeate springs. He died in 1800, aged 80 years.
William Chambers, a schoolmaster, was the author of several works on algebra, navigation, and kindred subjects.
PRESTON QUARTER is a civil parish, extending
northwards from St. Bees to Whitehaven, to which town it forms a suburb. It is comprised
within Allerdale-above-Derwent ward and petty sessional division; the county council
electoral division of St. Bees; and the county court district, poor law union and rural
district of Whitehaven. The area embraced within its limits covers 1,454 acres, which are
assessed at £7,505; the population in 1891 numbered 560. There are extensive collieries
in the parish, in the possession of the Earl of Lonsdale, who is also the principal
landowner, and lord of the manor. Here are the Whitehaven Cemetery, and the Workhouse for
the Whitehaven Union.
*We may here state that as early as the
middle of the eighteenth century, Mr. Carlyle Spedding, colliery agent to Sir James
Lowther, had investigated the properties of coal gas, and had lighted his office with gas
drawn from the pits by pipes, and he offered to illuminate the whole town in this way. The
inhabitants, who had many very unpleasant reminiscences of the effects of pit gas,
politely declined the offer.
Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901
19 June 2015
© Steve Bulman