WHITEHAVEN, a parliamentary borough of England and the principal seaport of Cumberland, is situated at the extremity of the Solway Firth, facing the Irish Sea, 41 miles south-west of Carlisle and 304 north-west of London. It is connected by a branch line with the London and North Western Railway. The town is built chiefly in a valley overlooked by high grounds on the north and south. The streets are spacious, with handsome shops. The principal public buildings are the town-hall, court-room, custom-house, police office, theatre, baths, free library, infirmary, and dispensary. The harbour is protected by two stone piers ; the west pier (erected 1824-39) is 965 feet long, and the north pier (1837-41) 918 feet. There is daily communication with Liverpool, Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin, and the Isle of Man. The town has an import trade from America, the Baltic ports, France, Spain and Portugal, and the Mediterranean. The principal exports are coal, pig iron, lime, freestone, and grain. The number of vessels that entered the port in 1886 was 2377, of 269,811 tons, the number that cleared 2297, of 257,025 tons. Iron ship-building is carried on, but the number of vessels built in 1886 was only 2 of 2406 tons. The other principal industries are engineering, brass-founding, boiler-making, brick and earthenware manufacturing, and dyeing. There are two large collieries, one extending about 1.1; miles tinder the sea. Fishing is carried on to a small extent, the number of boats engaged in 1886 being 18 of 441 tons. The population of the urban sanitary district (area 679 acres) was 18,243 in 1871 and 19,295 in 1881.
Whitehaven owes its name to the light colour of the rocks adjoining it. In the reign of Henry I. the manor funned part of the monastery of St Mary's at York, to which the priory of St Bees belonged. In 1599 the manor of St Bees was purchased from Sir Thomas Chaloner by General Lowther and Thomas Wybergh, and the whole in 1644 came into the possession of Sir John Lowther, under whose auspices the town advanced with great rapidity. From Charles II. the Lowthcrs obtained an additional grant of 150 acres, now partly included in the town, soon after which means were taken greatly to improve the harbour. By Acts passed in the ith and llth years of Queen Anne's reign the town is governed by twenty- two trustees elected triennially. The earl of Lonsdale, whose castle adjoins the town, is lord of the manor. Whitehaven has returned one member to parliament since 1832.