Stage 3 - Market Place
Whitehaven has been a market town since 1654 and can even boast of a town crier! This place was also the birth of a pottery industry worthy of Wedgewood status some say, an industry that's been re-born in modern times.
Whitehaven was once one of the largest ports in England in the 1700s - second only to London.
Coal-mining and shipbuilding provided work and wealth for the town.
Over 1,000 vessels were built in the Whitehaven shipyards.
The third oldest iron-built ship still in use was built in Whitehaven in 1888 and has been moored in the centre of Stockholm since 1949 as a floating youth hostel under the name 'Af Chapman'.
Whitehaven was once the most important rum port of the UK - that intoxicating drink was a favourite of many.
Tobacco was another favourite trade good and Whitehaven soon became the main importer on the West Coast.
Whitehaven was the first planned town since medieval times and is said to have inspired the grid lay-out of New York.
John Paul Jones, the founder of the American Navy was trained in the town and he was also in charge of the only American invasion of the English mainland - in Whitehaven.
The grandmother of the first president of the USA, Mildred Gale, is buried in Whitehaven.
Whitehaven applied for the right to hold a market in 1654 which was confirmed in 1660.
Since then, markets have been held on every Thursday and Saturday making this centrally located area THE place to go for your fruit and veg and other supplies needed.
The town's got three town criers who work on a rota. Their appearances on market days are highly appreciated. Have a listen to one of the Whitehaven town criers by clicking on the link to the right.
Most of the houses round the market place are from the mid 17th century and many of them are now being renovated and spruced up. You can tell that they were originally built for commercial use as they've got larger windows on the ground floor and smaller windows on the upper floors.
The market was previously located in the beautiful Market Hall building which opened in 1881 on the site of the old market hall.
With trade going on in the ground floor over the years, the top floor has been a cinema, a museum and a dance hall.
Fruit and veg on sale
Today, the ground floor is the Tourist Information and the upstairs is a coffee shop, run by the Whitehaven Pottery, a trust which combines educational, tourist and retail opportunities for young people in Whitehaven.
This trust is also in charge of resurrecting one of Whitehaven’s manufacturing successes – as well as taking its name from it.
In the late 17th century, Whitehaven had a need to produce pottery with a growth in population and the increased trade with the colonies around the world.
There was plenty of clay to be found in and around the town, but the people put in charge of the pottery development knew little about the suitability of the clay.
An example of Whitehaven Pottery
A London potter came to the conclusion that the clay could only be used for making clay pipes and local potters perfected the clay pipe production.
Aaron Wedgewood, of the famous Staffordshire pottery-making family travelled to Whitehaven in 1698 to do some trials on the local clay and concluded that it would be suitable for red-ware, stone-ware and a form of semi-china and with this, the Whitehaven pottery industry went into high production.
The Market Place was one of the locations where pottery manufacturing flourished for 200 years, exporting Whitehaven pottery all over the world.
Turn left onto Queen St for next stage
The oldest remaining piece of Whitehaven pottery is a jug with naval scenes on from 1797 and with the Whitehaven Pottery resurrected in 2003, on more or less the same location of the old potteries in the Market Place, the naval theme is still in force.
Modern pieces include both fine china and earthenware, many of them decorated to commemorate Whitehaven’s maritime heritage.
Have look at the Market Place in our picture gallery - click on the link to the right and have an interactive stroll around.
last updated: 11/03/2008 at 12:22
The sights and scenes of Cumbria