VACATION & HOLIDAY GUIDE TO
CUMBRIA & THE LAKE DISTRICT
Among the back streets of Workington.
On the coast.
Workington is a busy town with a market held every Saturday and Wednesday. The thriving town centre has many historical and architectural points of interest. The historic Workington Hall is within walking distance of the town centre. There are good sporting facilities in the area. Harrington Marina to the south provides safe berthing for yachts and small sailing dinghies. The town is on the railway that runs the length of the Cumbrian coast, Workington makes a sensible halfway point on the route, There are also three theatres.
The history of the town is similar to that of Whitehaven and Maryport, in that it was of no real significance until during the Industrial Revolution it was developed by the local landed gentry, in this case the Curwen Family. Workington was a late starter compared to its neighbours. It is likely that the Curwens watched as the Senhouses and Lonsdales prospered from their investments in their respective ports and decided to try to imitate their success. The Curwen family had been in the area long before they built Workington Hall in 1380. In fact, the town takes its name from them. They were originally called Wyrkington, but later took the name Curwen from one of their estates in Galloway in Scotland. The family can trace its lineage back to Ethelred the Unready, King of England from 979-1016 and Malcolm II King of Scotland from 1005-1034.
The Industrial Revolution (roughly mid C18-C19) created a demand for coal and iron ore, deposits of which were known to be found in the area. Mining began in earnest. This led to the development of the harbour, for which Sir James Lowther can be credited with some responsibility: he had the harbour wall strengthened in 1776. The first colliery opened in 1780. By 1815 there were four pits employing some 400 people. Working conditions in these mines were appalling: children under the age of ten were commonly used. In 1837 a disaster overtook Workington Colliery. The sea broke into the workings , which extended 3mls out under the sea, and 27 men and boys were lost, along with 28 pit ponies.
A ship building industry began in a small way in the harbour, and by 1846 some 80 ships were registered at the port. Workington began to boom. John Christian Curwen brought Irish labourers over to work on his estates which included the model Schoose Farm, where he developed many innovative farming practises, some of which are still in use today. The farm is now sadly in ruins. Incidentally Fletcher Christian of Mutiny on the Bounty fame was a relation of the Curwens.