Peile & Nicholson Directory of Whitehaven 1864


Whitehaven is a large and opulent seaport, market town, and parliamentary borough in the parish of St. Bees, Allerdale Ward, above Derwent. It is about three miles E.N.E. from St. Bees Head, at the mouth of that portion of the Irish Sea known as the Solway Firth, and situated in a small bay or creek which forms the harbour, being bounded on the north and south by high hills, which rise abruptly from the sea, forming a bold and rocky coastline. From the heights on either side good views are to be obtained, in clear weather, of the Scotch mountains and the Isle of Man.

The origin of the name of Whitehaven has never been satisfactorily accounted for. In most of the histories of Cumberland it is stated to have derived from the whiteness of the cliffs, or from an old fisherman named WHITE, who lived here about 1566, when the town was said to consist of only six houses, and had but one small vessel in the harbour. The thatched cottage supposed to have been built by him was situated near the old fish market, and tumbled down in 1815. There is, however, a total absence of anything like white cliffs anywhere near the town. Tradition exerts the existence of ancient ruins where the castle stands, most probably Drudical remains, where the Whitten or Witena-gemote (great council) was held. It is related, too, that inhabitants believed these real or imagined stones to be enchanted warriors, and gave them the name of "Deead Ring or Circle," and sometimes "Corpse Circle," corrupted into the word Corkickle, the name the locality now bears.

Little is known of the history of Whitehaven prior to the 17th century, but from ancient records it would seem to be of greater antiquity than is generally supposed. It is asserted that the site of the present town and neighbourhood was formerly covered with forest trees, of which there can be little doubt, as the numerous "gills," which appear to be remnants of the old forest, indicate.

In an account of the domestic habits and manufactures of the Irish, mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, it is stated that about the year 930 and expedition, accompanied by one of the Irish chiefs, was made to Barrack (i.e. rocky coast) or Barrow Mouth for the purpose of collecting wood, which they used for making coracles or wicker boats, noggins or water pails, and other articles; that the inhabitants, who were met at Whitten, fell upon them, took their chief and several other prisoners. Whitehaven also appears to have been a resort for shipping as early as the 10th century, for when Henry II made his...

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