might not think it now but back in the 1700s Whitehaven was the
place to go to make your fortune. You could catch a passage to America,
try your hand at trading or you might even get rich smuggling rum.
151 Queen Street, a Georgian house built in the 1730s, was right
in the middle of the New World buzz.
was built by William Gale, a merchant who imported tobacco from
Virginia, and the house has links with the very origins of the United
States; William's brother George married Mildred Washington, the
grandmother of George Washington, first U.S. President.
Gale's weren't quite as important as their illustrious descendants
but non the less they played an important part in the development
of Whitehaven. They suggested improvements to the harbour and were
very successful merchants. William's house, 151, has a well preserved
barrel vaulted cellar where the tobacco would have been kept along
with rum and other provisions, and part of the house was even set
aside for tax collection. And we think the Inland Revenue's bad
the past glory of 151 Queen Street is a distant memory. It's on
English Heritage's Register of Building's at Risk and is a Grade
II* listed building.
behind the black door?
sits just back from the road behind some ancient iron railings looking
a little sorry for itself. But once you step inside you realise
that it's the interior that's really impressive.
original floor to ceiling pitch pine panelling from 1680 in many
of the rooms. Several houses round Whitehaven were once decorated
like this, but 151 Queen Street is the only one left intact. There
are intricate ceiling cornices and a secret spiral staircase for
the servants to use so they didn't have to disturb the ladies and
gentlemen of the house.
difficult to keep houses like this in good condition and to restore
them using all the authentic materials can cost a fortune. Local
authorities often know where you can find grants to help and English
Heritage can help too, but listed buildings can be a real drain
on the bank balance.
Queen Street is central to Whitehaven's maritime history and it's
hoped that in years to come there may be a way to open it up to