This evening we were treated to an extremely interesting talk by Carnforth Rotarian, Ken McGrath, entitled Whitehaven – “My Home Town”. He began by telling us a little about his childhood there, before he moved to London at the age of 23 “to make his fortune”. He reminisced about playing football on the Pit Fields and ‘making sure he washed his feet’ before going to bed. He attended Whitehaven Grammar School, where he was, at times, on the receiving end of some strong discipline, but during school holidays he used to cycle to the beach at St Bees.
He then showed an old map of Cumberland, as it used to be known, and a couple of old photos of Whitehaven Harbour as an introduction to its history.
Whitehaven was a small fishing village until it was acquired by the Lowther family who exploited the extensive coal deposits. This in turn led to building harbours, piers, lighthouses and ultimately to a shipbuilding yard which opened in 1782 and closed in 1865.
Many different types of cargo passed through Whitehaven Harbour, including sugar, tobacco, rum, timber, coal, limestone and iron ore.
Coal mining continued until 1986, Marchon Products manufactured detergents, a chemical plant made fire lighters and there was even a silk mill.
The town layout was planned on a grid pattern by Sir John Wren, which is still seen today.
All in all, a very interesting town and much more can be discovered including famous people from Whitehaven by paying a visit to the local museums