Whitehaven: a guide

The best place to get a handle on the history of Whitehaven and the surrounding area is The Beacon Museum, located on the south side of the harbour, not far from the start of the C2C cycle route. ‘From pirates to power stations, Romans to robots’ is one of its catchlines, the displays set over four floors.  

A short walk away is the Rum Story where rum - one of the commodities traded through Whitehaven in the old days - gets its own, sometimes sobering, interpretation. Directly opposite the Rum Story is the St Nicholas Centre, a tower being all that remains of the church of St Nicholas after a fire in 1971. Worship, however, still takes place.

A plaque at the building commemorates Mildred Warner Gale, grandmother of George Washington, first President of the United States. She is buried in an unmarked grave in the grounds. 

Also in the gardens is a memorial to the 1,200 workers who lost their lives in Whitehaven’s collieries over three centuries. Coal was one of the area’s major industries over that time but its extraction came at a very heavy price. 

The biggest disaster was at Wellington Pit in 1910 when 136 miners were killed. Above the harbour is Wellington Pit’s Candlestick Chimney, once a chimney for the pit’s boiler house, now used for venting methane gas from the old workings. 

The chimney was reputedly modelled on a candlestick belonging to the mine’s owners, the Lowther family. A short distance from here to the south was the site of Haig Colliery, Cumbria's last deep coal mine which closed in 1986.

It was a mining engineer called Carlisle Spedding who designed the beautiful church of St James, up the hill from the harbour. Further out of town is another gem of Whitehaven, the Rosehill Theatre, re-opened in 2016 after a £2.7 million refurbishment. 

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