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24 September 2014

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You are in: Cumbria > Coast > Stage 7 - The Rum Story and the Jefferson Family

Rum story sign

Welcome to the Rum Story

Stage 7 - The Rum Story and the Jefferson Family

The Jefferson family were up until 1998 the longest working wine merchants, having imported wine and spirits for over two centuries. At the Rum Story you can learn all about it...

Continuing down Lowther Street toward the harbour, passing small shops and other businesses, you’ll eventually come across The Rum Story, a museum which celebrates and tells the story of Whitehaven’s rum trade.

Entrance to the Rum Story

Enter the heady world of rum!

The museum is housed in the original offices of wine merchants the Jeffersons.

The Jefferson family were an important wine and spirit merchant in the town, but also had interests in shipbuilding and railway development.

Their partnership with the Lumley Kennedy and Co Shipbuilding Company enabled the Jefferson’s to transport sugar from their Yeaman estate in Antigua, rum and molasses from the West Indies as well as wine from Portugal and Spain on their twelve vessels.

Rum, rum, rum your boat...?

The duty manager for the Rum Story, Phil Haslehurst explains how Whitehaven became an important rum port.

Kinetic clock

The wonderful kinetic clock

“Essentially, rum or sugar cane, were a secondary choice. Whitehaven was a leading tobacco port, it was one of Europe’s biggest tobacco ports back in the 1600s.

“Once we had the war of independence, if you’re the country that comes second, which unfortunately we did on that particular occasion, you tend to find that you’re pushed out of that particular area.

“So what happened was the people who’d been in Virginia, because essentially Whitehaven was the M1 to the Virginia trade, they had to find new markets and new places to grow so they expanded into the Caribbean and essentially that’s where you tend to get the idea of rum and sugar.”

In the covered courtyard of the Rum Story stands a kinetic clock that tells the story of the making of rum, from the growing of sugar cane under the Caribbean sun and how it eventually becomes bottled rum.

Detail of kinetic clock

The warm Caribbean sun shines on us all

Slave trade

In the Rum Story, visitors will not only learn about the intoxicating drink but also about life for the slaves in the 1800s.

Whitehaven was as involved in the human trade as many other shipping towns at the time.

This human trade was deemed necessary as demand for sugar and rum increased year on year. The slaves were sent to the Caribbean plantations and the traders returned to Whitehaven with these attractive goods as cargo.

Whitehaven's traders took part in the slave trade for ten years, until the movement of the abolition of slavery began around 1769.

In the 1770s, records have shown that Whitehaven became home to freed slaves as Cumbrian families in Virginia returned home with their servants as the tobacco trade faltered.

A Whitehaven tanner, William Miller (1816-56), organised meetings to encourage people to stop this awful trade of humans. Mr Miller is considered an important part in the ending slavery in the western world.

Cargo and bird

Authentic rum cargo

Exciting times, exotic place

Whitehaven was at its height of trading, shipbuilding and mining was a very important town. Three hundred years on and places like the Rum Story and the Beacon are re-creating that exciting period of Whitehaven's history.

Visitors to the Rum Story are able to get the experience of life in Whitehaven from all angles, the Jefferson family whose office is now the Rum Story. The exhibition also shows life in the plantation, the passage in the eyes of the slaves and the way of the rum from sugar canes to the mouths of Whitehaven residents.

Phil Haslehurst has been involved in the re-creation of the Jefferson emporium since 1998 when the last two Jefferson's wanted to lay the wine merchant business to rest.

Re-creating Whithaven's past into a hands-on exhibition has made this museum a great place of learning and experiencing times past.

Phil is passionate about showing Whitehaven as it was:

“It must have been a very exotic place in the early 1700s, 'cause if you'd gone down to the harbour, there would have been lots of different coloured people, there would have been pineapples, there would have been hardwoods from Brazil, there would have been sugar cane, there would have been sugar and rum, all these wonderful products, limes and lemons.

"It must have been a very a cosmopolitan place in those days.”

last updated: 01/05/2008 at 16:02
created: 05/07/2005

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