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Whitehaven Harbour
Whitehaven, Cumbria
Whitehaven Harbour
associated engineer
Robert Storey
Richard Caton
Sir John Rennie
William Chapman
Sir James William Brunlees
date  1634 onwards
era  Stuart  |  category  Harbour  |  reference  NX970184
ICE reference number  HEW 966
photo  Paul Dunkerley / ICE R&D Fund
Whitehaven Harbour was first used by the Romans. Located in a northwest-facing bay on the Cumbrian coast, it includes a quay, two piers, a breakwater and a lighthouse. Many of Britain's principal engineers have contributed to the habour in the years since its construction.
The oldest surviving structure in the dock complex is Robert Storey's Old Quay, built in 1634. This was extended between 1665 and 1681 by Richard Caton. Storey's 17th century pier is situated at the northwest end of the original moorings, running northeast to create the original South Harbour. The pier was built to facilitate the coal and salt trade undertaken by Sir Christopher Lowther, then owner of the harbour and surrounding land. The pier was extended in 1665 and 1681-7, again by Richard Caton.
The early 18th century saw multiple developments to the harbour and the surrounding town, and these were overseen by Sir John Lowther. A breakwater was constructed in 1710-13, as part of a scheme to enclose the inner harbour. In honour of its patron, the breakwater became known as 'Mr Lowther's Bulwark'.
Other developments included the building of a lighthouse (now disused), 11.6m high and 3.2m diameter at the end of the Old Quay in 1710-21. The Sugar (Old) Tongue pier was built in 1733-35 and the Old New Quay constructed to provide an outer breakwater in 1739-42. The Lime (New) Tongue pier was built in 1754 to the north of Sugar Tongue to create Custom House Dock.
These developments to Whitehaven Harbour all serviced trade with America and the West Indies, which ceased abruptly after the Declaration of American Independence (1776). However, colliery trade soon took over, and the Old North Wall pier, recommended by John Smeaton in 1768, was built in 1785. Old North Wall pier was extended at an angle in 1804, the Bulwark also being extended to create North Harbour.
Extensive modification to the piers took place between 1804 and 1823 following proposals by Captain John Huddert. Both John Rennie and William Chapman were involved in proposals for further improvements during this time, and two of Rennie's designs were implemented — the West pier built by Fox between 1824-1830, and the North pier completed by David Logan in 1833-1841. Logan later redesigned the pier's roundhead.
The most recent improvement, the gated Queen's Dock, was designed by Sir James Brunlees and construction begun by Joseph Phillips in 1872, to be finished by Parry, Kirk and Knight in 1876.
Coal exports from Whitehaven peaked in 1928. The harbour is now almost entirely unused, apart from pleasure craft.
Research: PD and AJD
bibliography
"Whitehaven Harbour" by B. Scott Hindson
Phillimore, Chichester, 1994
"Some Harbour Works in West Cumberland Before 1710" by B. Tyson
Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, 1985, NS29, pp. 173-208
reference sources   CEH North
Location

Whitehaven Harbour