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You are in: Cumbria > Coast > Stage 8 - Crow's Nest

Crows Nest and seagull

The Crow's Nest - seagulls invited too

Stage 8 - Crow's Nest

As we reach the end of the walk, we look back on the history of the harbour and the architecture of the harbourside.

Maritime Whitehaven

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.

For the last stretch of this Coast walk, coming out onto Lowther Street again after the Rum Story visit, take a left to take you back toward the harbour.

Lowther Street is still an important commercial street in Whitehaven with many unique shops lining the street. Looking down the street, you’ll catch a glimpse of our final destination, the Crow’s Nest in the harbour.

Crossing Strand Street, you’re soon back in the inner harbour area. Make your way to the Lime Tongue and look over to your right.

On the other side of the harbour, the Sugar Tongue stretches out in the harbour. Built in 1735, this was the second quay built after the Bulwark Quay as a way of trying to appease the merchants calling out for more space to unload their cargoes.

Cement, not fruit

The quay you’re standing on, The Lime Tongue was the third of the extensions in the harbour built in 1754. It is believed that the name comes not from the trade with lime fruits, but refers to the lime used in the production of cement. 

The building of the Lime Tongue coincided with the most prosperous age for the port of Whitehaven, which at its height was the third most important ports in the UK according to some reports.

However, at the early 19th century the trade going to and from Whitehaven declined as bigger ships needed deeper waters to sail in.

The shallow waters of the Solway couldn’t let some of the vessels through and ports with deeper waters like Liverpool and Glasgow “prospered at the expense of Whitehaven” as a local Whitehaven history website mentions.

This was the beginning of the decline for Whitehaven, and it’s only in recent times that the town has seen a turn for the better.

With your back to the water

The buildings in this part of the harbour all tell the story of the more prosperous time in Whitehaven’s maritime history.

With your back to the harbour, looking from right to left, you’ll see a number of buildings all relating to the harbour’s past.

Lime Tongue

The Lime Tongue - previously a dump...

Even the new-builds, like the apartment building by the open-air theatre draws inspiration from the 1700s.

The open-air theatre was formerly the Old Fish Market where the fishermen, and women, sold their daily catches. Today, this place still draws the crowds as it's one of the places where the ice-cream van stops!

Going back in time

One of the oldest buildings is the tobacco warehouse from the 1600s. This tobacco warehouse is a prime example of the kinds of buildings on the quay side.

Ex-harbour master Capt. David Allan is proud that the harbour acknowledges its past with keeping the style of the buildings.

The old tobacco warehouse has been converted into offices, but some distinctive warehouse marks are still on show.

Tobacco warehouse

The tobacco warehouse

David tells us what to look for in an old building like this.

“The wooden stretcher with the dog wheel is the remnants of an old crane.”

“That crane would have probably been much bigger, you can see the extension of the boom has rotted away”

Just looking at an old building, you can get the sense of its use.

“The three black doors on the three levels, where the levels of the actual warehouse above the upper door, you can see the wheel, the pulley wheel, that would have hold hogsheads of tobacco leaves up there.”

Out on the water

Returning to the Lime Tongue and turning your gaze toward the harbour.

Boy eating ice-cream

A day at the seaside calls for one...

The Lime Tongue was once used to store the town's water before shipping it off-shore to dump it.

Today though, that's not the case. The benches along the quay tells the story of Whitehaven's history, offering not only a chance for a rest, but also a chance for further learning.

At the end of the Lime Tongue stands the Crow's Nest. Offering spectacular views over Whitehaven from on the water so to say, the Crow's Nest is a great place to end this walk. Have a sit-down and enjoy the harbour-side views of Maritime Whitehaven!

Don't forget to have a look at the picture gallery where you can have a preview of this last stage of this Coast walk.

last updated: 11/03/2008 at 12:25
created: 05/07/2005

Have Your Say

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Bev Morris
After reading this page, I now know how Lime Tongue got it's name. Please could you tell me why Sugar Tongue is so called. Thanks.

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