Peile & Nicholson Directory of Whitehaven 1864


Expedition to Ireland in 1172, troops were brought to Whittenhaven, and transported thence in ships across to the Irish Coast. In the reign of Elizabeth, when the Maritime ports were ordered to furnish vessels for the fleet to meet the Spanish Armada, there was one vessel found here called the Bee, of about 9 tons burthen, but whether she was the only vessel belonging to the port does not appear.

All lands in the neighbourhood formerly belonged to the Priory of St. Bees, but, after the dissolution of the monasteries, were purchased by Sir Christopher LOWTHER, who died in 1644. His son, Sir John LOWTHER, who succeeded him, erected a mansion, called The Flatt, the site of the present castle. He first conceived the idea of working the coal mines and improving the harbour, and for that purpose, about the year 1666, obtained from Charles II a grant of all the "derelict land at that place" which yet belonged to the Crown; and in 1678 all the lands for two miles northward between high and low water mark.

Sir John having thus laid the foundation of the future prosperity of Whitehaven, commenced his great work, and lived to see a small obscure village, which in 1663 had consisted of only nine thatched cottages, grow up into a thriving and populous town.

The harbour is the best and most convenient on the coast, being protected on the north and west by noble and massive piers of solid masonry stretching a considerable distance into the sea, and the enclosed area being intersected by several quays, greatly facilitate the loading and discharging of vessels. A pier was erected before 1687, by Sir John LOWTHER, which rendered the harbour so commodious as to be capable of accommodating a fleet of 100 sail. In 1738, there were only three piers in the harbour, and, during the reign of Queen Anne, two acts of Parliament were passed to establish a tonnage duty for the purpose of improving the harbour. In 1767 the new Quay was lengthened, and in 1784 the North Wall was finished: the Old Quay was lengthened in 1792, and other improvements were gradually made. The New West Pier was commenced in 1824 and finished in 1839, and cost above £100,000. It is a most substantial building of great strength, and at the round head at the end stands a lighthouse with a revolving light and three reflectors. It is lighted all night, and appears the brightest once every two minutes, gradually waning till eclipsed. The new North Pier is also a fine structure, and was finished in 1841 at great expense. It has a lighthouse or harbour guide which shows a blue light. Indeed it is questionable if any other port in the kingdom can boast of two such magnificent piers as Whitehaven.

During the day a red flag is hoisted on a pole from the top of the Old Lighthouse while there are 9 feet of water in the harbour, and at

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