The development of the harbour in Whitehaven started with the beginning of the Irish coal trade. In 1634 Sir Christopher Lowther built a stone jetty, now known as the Old Quay. It is one of the oldest remaining coal wharves in Britain. This was extended in 1655 and again in 1687. Note the sundial on the side of the lighthouse, with the date 1730. Originally the lighthouse had an oil lantern, but this was replaced with a gas light in 1834.
The Sugar Tongue Quay (used for unloading sugar from the West Indies), later the Fish Quay, and now undergoing a major renovation, was added in 1809. The Lime Tongue (from which large quantities of lime were exported in the 19th Century) was added in 1754. As trade continued to expand, additional quays were built, culminating in the construction of the North Pier (1833-41) and the West Pier (1824-38) The West Pier was designed by the great civil engineer, John Rennie.
The final phase was the Queens Dock, built between 1872 and 1876. The Marchon chemical plant, on the hill above Whitehaven, was a major user of the Queens Dock for many years until 1992, bringing calcium phosphate from Africa to make detergents.
Little remains now of the once flourishing coal and iron industries of the area. The Candlestick Chimney is the only surviving part of a colliery engine house built in 1850, and nearby is Duke Pit fan-casing, which once housed a 36ft diameter wooden ventilation fan.
In 1998 Whitehaven was awarded a large lottery grant for regeneration of the harbour area for the millenium, with the installation of the harbour lock gates, and restoration and improvements to the whole harbour area.
In The Beacon you can learn about the history of the harbour, and shipbuilding in Whitehaven.