BREAKING THE WAVES: Whitehaven Harbour Through Time

Reopening on 29 August 2020

A NEW exhibition celebrating the maritime history of Whitehaven launches at the Beacon Museum.

Under the title Breaking the Waves, the collection will tell the story of Whitehaven’s seafaring past, from shipbuilding and export to the coastguard and services that kept the coastline at work.

The exhibition includes challenges and interactive games and, throughout the spring months, a programme of events and activities.

Seafaring models, paintings and previously unseen photographs will show personalities and vessels that have shaped the harbour. Included are recently-donated artefacts from the Clearway, a dredging vessel that regularly cleared the harbour during the latter half of the twentieth century.

Alex Milner, graduate trainee curator at the Beacon Museum, said: “Shipbuilding started in Whitehaven around 1650 and remained essential to the local economy for more than 200 years, during which over a thousand vessels were built.

“That industry was a by-product of, and a catalyst for, trading – primarily coal, but latterly transatlantic goods, as also highlighted in the nearby Rum Story attraction.

“More exotic aspects of seafaring, such as smuggling and shipwrecks, also feature in the exhibition.”

Visitors can discover vessels lost to the rugged Cumbrian coastline, including the Izaro, the Bengal and the Esbo. Their stories intertwine with the history of the Whitehaven Lifeboat and Rocket Brigade in dramatic accounts of peril, bravery and rescue.

Alex added: “The exhibition will also track the changing landscape of Whitehaven’s harbour. Despite once being one of the UK’s most eminent trading ports, the town’s maritime prospects declined during the 19th and 20th centuries, and we don’t shy away from this in the exhibition.”

The exhibition is located in the Light and Dark Gallery (4th floor of the museum) and is included with standard admission. 

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