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Whitehaven

From Academic Kids

Template:GBdot Whitehaven is the home of the Borough Council of Copeland, part of the County of Cumbria. Located on the West coast of the Country, outside the Lake District National Park, Whitehaven was largely the creation of the Lowther family, who do not get a good press in local memory. It grew into a major coal mining town during the 18th and 19th century and also became a substantial commercial port on the back of this trade. Daniel Defoe (A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain 1724) says of it

grown up from a small place to be very considerable by the coal trade, that it is now the most eminent port in England for shipping off of coals, except Newcastle and Sunderland and even beyond the last. They have of late fallen into some merchandising also, occasioned by the great number of their shipping, and there are now some considerable merchants; but the town is yet but young in trade

The town's fortunes as a port waned rapidly when ports with much larger shipping capacity, such as Bristol and Liverpool, began to take over its main trade. Its peak of prosperity was in the 19th century when West Cumbria experienced a brief boom because haematite found locally was one of the few iron ores could be used to produce steel by the original Bessemer process. Improvements to the Bessemer process and the development of the open hearth process removed this advantage. As with most mining communities the inter-war depression was severe; this was exacerbated for West Cumbria by Irish independence which suddenly placed tariff barriers on the principal export market.

The town is historically linked to the author Jonathan Swift — kidnapped here as a baby by a runaway nurse, George Washington (his grandmother Mildred Washington is known to have been buried here) and John Paul Jones, an early leader of the American navy, who attacked the town during the American War of Independence. William Wordsworth like Washington did have relatives in Whitehaven (his father was an agent for the Lowthers) but unlike Washington, he did visit them. Whitehaven is the most complete example of planned Georgian architecture in Europe and recently has been pursuing growth through tourism.

The major industry is the nearby Sellafield complex, with which a large proportion of the population has links.

Whitehaven is a rugby league stronghold, its team Whitehaven RLFC play in National League one.

Whitehaven has a rich railway history. It used to be a terminus of the Furness Railway, and still has two railway stations on the Cumbrian Coast Line, which runs from Carlisle to Barrow.

The harbour was once riddled with railway lines, when steam engines would shunt trucks full of coal, iron, gypsum and many other cargoes onto the quays for ships to take elsewhere in the world.

The Whitehaven mines were the first to extend under the sea. This was achieved when Saltom Pit was sunk in 1729. Saltom Pit was also the first pit thought to have used explosives to assist in the sinking of shafts. By the 1730's Whitehaven had the deepest mines due to the necessity to drive ever deeper shafts to reach new seams of coal.

One of the earliest Steam Engines, built by Thomas Newcomen, was installed at Stone Pit in Whitehaven to help in drainage and haulage. William Brownrigg, Whitehaven's most eminent scientist, was the first to investigate the explosive mine gas fire damp.

In 300 years over 70 pits were sunk in the Whitehaven and district area. During this period some 500+ people were killed in pit disasters. The largest disaster was in 1910, at Wellington Pit where 136 miners lost their lives. In 1947, at William Pit there was another disaster of similar proportions where 104 men were killed. Today there is no mining carried out in Whitehaven. The last pit to operate, Haig was closed in 1986.

In 1941, Fred Marzillier and Frank Schon moved their Marchon chemical company to Whitehaven to avoid German bombing. Marchon started producung some of the first detergents in world. The new detergents were a big success as soap was in short supply due to the war. The company continued producing their own detergents as well as bulk detergent ingredients for other companies after the war. It was taken over by Albright & Wilson in 1955. The Marchon works became the town's largest employer when the mines closed down. However, it too was closed in 2005.

A Roman fortlet stood (as part of the Solway Coast defences) at Parton, just North of Whitehaven. Also just N of Whitehaven is Lowca, which was shelled by a German submarine during World War One; an event which the Germans made much of at the time, and Lowca has made much of ever since.

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