Businesses in Workington Towns and Villages of Cumbria

Workington

(See also Workington Hall , Helena Thompson Museum)

Workington Portland Square by Alexander P KappSandwiched between the sea and the Derwent River, Workington's present name is a clue to its past history, involved mostly with mining, shipping, and manufacturing. The town's original name comes from “Weork” and “Wyre”, an Anglian chieftain.

In 1573 Queen Elizabeth granted the Lord of the Manor a market and fair charter. Corn, oats, turnips, potatoes, and cattle were amongst the goods sold. Until the 17th century, Workington remained a fishing village with markets and fairs an integral part of the economy.

Workington Jane Pit by Chris AllenIt was the development of the coal trade (from 1650 onwards) and the coming of the Industrial Revolution that changed Workington. High quality hematite iron-ore, acting as a magnet for steel and iron makers, drew industry to the area and provided the impetus for the town's growth as an industrial centre. Many of the coal seams reached far into the sea.

Industries encompassed the manufacture of iron, steel rails, and tinplates along with bridges, fences, gates, railway spikes, and other manufactured goods that used the local supply of iron ore, first developed by the Curwen family. Workington old coastguard lookout and the sea courtesy of Graeme DougalIt was at Workington that Henry Bessemer introduced his revolutionary steel making process. During the 18th and 19th centuries more than thirty pits were in operation, and Workington remained the centre of steel production in northwest England for 100 years. A favourite local saying referred to the railway tracks made in Workington and exported to other countries as “holding the world together”.

Workington Harbour by Pat PierpointWorkington's port allowed easy access to shipping, and a shipbuilding yard was among the town's employers. Two yards produced a total of 244 ships, the last one launched in 1938. Lime, coal, tinplate bars, steel rails, and pig iron were all exported from the harbour. In 1865 the Lonsdale Dock opened at the northwest entrance of the harbour, and, in 1873, a breakwater was constructed.

Workington harbour and wind turbines courtesy of Graeme DougalGasworks, built in 1840, were used to light the town. Portland Square with its cobbled centre was once a town square lined with the homes of the well-to-do and is now part of a conservation area. Landscaped walks lead along the river.

Workington saw a number of churches built in the late 1700's through the 1800's. The red sandstone St Michael's, the parish church, was rebuilt in 1770 on the same site where a church once stood in the 7th century and later the 12th century. Destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt again in 1887. During the restoration a Norman arch and several fragments of ancient carved stone were discovered. The building, in the Decorated style, consisted of a chancel, nave, aisles, south and west porches, and a western tower with eight bells. There were 11 stained glass windows. In the church was a 1440 altar tomb with the effigy of a knight in armour and his wife. Brasses, marble tablets, and a pulpit of Caen stone and Derbyshire marble (1890) added interest to the interior. Sadly, the church was once again gutted by fire in 1994.

Workington St Johns Church by tosh123 flickrA Wesleyan chapel, built in 1840, suffered the same fate as the parish church. It was burned down in 1889, then rebuilt in 1890 of stone in the Italian style with a cupola. In 1823, another church, St John's, was also built in the Italian style with Doric pillars supporting a portico and a turret with a cupola. It commemorated the Battle of Waterloo. Inside is a gilded gold canopy and Workington Hall's former organ. The church has two notable stained glass windows.

Builders of the Early English style Catholic Church in 1876 used red sandstone for their church. A Baptist chapel was erected in 1882 (now demolished), followed by a Congregational church in 1884 and a Presbyterian one in 1889.

Workington Hall by Maureen tillytrotter flickrWorkington is well known for an unusual mass football game that takes place on the outskirts of the town Easter weekend. In the game a handmade leather ball is thrown from a bridge and players fight to score a goal at either Workington Hall or Harbour, depending on which team you are on. The origins of the ancient game are lost, but in Workington, it was originally played by the Colliers (uppies) and Sailors (downies).

Workington Green House Gardens Curwen Park by Terry Haworth terryh1609 flickrSituated among the trees of Curwen Park, on Workington's eastern outskirts, are the compelling 14th century stone ruins of Workington Hall. The sad ruins speak of elegant past times. The large quadrangular structure, began as a crenellated fortress built around a Pele tower, its license granted by Richard II in 1379 to Sir Gilbert de Culwen. The Hall is named after the Lords of the Manor of Workington, the Curwen family. It was embellished several times over the centuries, especially in the 18th century by John Christian Curwen. But, in 1929, the family vacated the Hall. Neglected, it fell into decay and soon became a ruin. In 1970's the ruins were made safe for visitors.

Workington Hall By Barbara BallardThe Curwen family was descended from Gospatrick, Earl of Northumberland. Their surname originated by agreement with Culwen, a family of Galloway, into which they married. The name was mistakenly spelled Curwen in public records during the reign of Henry VI and stayed that way.

The family moved to Workington in 1250 and played an important role for the king, providing from their ranks 28 High Sheriffs of the County of Cumberland and 18 terms in Parliament. The infamous member of the family, Henry Curwen (1661-1725), was a Jacobite Rebel. He experienced a mysterious death, and his ghost can apparently be seen wandering among the ruins. Another interesting owner was John Christian Curwen, cousin to the celebrated Fletcher Christian of Bounty fame.

It was at Workington Hall that Mary, Queen of Scots, sought refuge after the defeat of her forces in May 1568, not knowing it would be her last day as a free woman. While staying here, she wrote to Queen Elizabeth-the letter is now in the British Museum. The room in which she stayed is open to the elements, a sad reminder of her own tragic life.

Helena Thompson Museum courtesy Helena Thompson MuseumAcross from the Hall is an 18th century house turned into the Helena Thompson Museum where a model of the Hall in its heyday can be seen. The main entrance was on the southwest front of the building, where a gateway opened into a courtyard. Over the entrance door was placed a shield bearing the arms of Curwen with quarterings and the date 1665. Also on display in the museum are pottery, jewellery, silver, glass, and furniture dating from Georgian, Regency and Victorian times, 18th to early 20th century dresses and accessories. One section relates the social and industrial history of Workington.

Victorian Parlour courtesy Helena Thompson MuseumAlthough the Romans built a fort, Gabrosentum, on the northern edge of present day Workington, it took the Curwen family and the coal, iron, and steel industries to make the town what it is today.

Set on the west coast of Cumbria, south of the Solway Firth, Workington, the largest town on Cumbria's west coast, still retains its industrial past. Struggling with urban decay, many of its past buildings were demolished. It looks forward to a brighter future.

The northernmost start of the sea to sea trail begins in Workington.

For photos of many of Workington's demolished buildings and neighbourhoods, go to www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~rwbarnes/index.htm

Photos by Barbara Ballard and courtesy of Graeme Dougal , Helena Thompson Museum , tosh123 , Maureen , Alexander P Kapp , Chris Allen , Pat Pierpoint The Geograph Britain and Ireland project.

On the A597, 5½ miles southwest of Maryport, 6½ northeast of Whitehaven.

Back To Town or Villages

© 1997 - 2017 by The Cumbria Directory. Reproduction of this work in whole or in part, including images, and reproduction in electronic media, without documented permission from The Cumbria Directory is prohibited.