West Cumbria’s heritage celebrated in Whitehaven

By Rebecca Muncaster

WHITEHAVEN Archive and Local Studies Centre held a popular event on Tuesday June 21, and opened its doors to the public to show off some of their collection.

Enjoying the evening: Maureen Fisher, John Voght, Margaret Crosby and Rebecca Maxine Muncaster.

Enjoying the evening: Maureen Fisher, John Voght, Margaret Crosby and Rebecca Maxine Muncaster.

The theme of the display was orbited around local coal mining and exhibited a diverse range of documents.

The purpose of the evening was to celebrate west Cumbria’s local heritage and to fill the gap since the closure of the district’s history society.

Lesley Park, Searchroom Assistant and organiser of the event, said: “The idea is to keep the interest in history active, and momentum going after the local history society closed.”

The demise of Whitehaven’s local history society left many passionate local enthusiasts displaced with nowhere to share their appetite for the area’s rich history.

The versatile ensemble was a multidisciplinary effort to combine economic, social and political elements into a broad localised context.

Documents varied from maps and plans outlining the location of mines to commemorations of mining disasters, such as the William Pit disaster of 1947.

The documents on display not only highlighted the pivotal periods of the industry, but recognised its history from below by including book listings of locals who were employed in Whitehaven collieries.

The rich diversity of the archival material contributed to the goal of inspiring the public to delve deeper into Whitehaven Archives to learn more about the district’s complex heritage.

Ultimately the excursion brought together disparate archival materials and examples summarised under the umbrella subject of coal mining in west Cumbria.

The event was well-received and gathered an attendance of over thirty people.

Maureen Fisher, from Frizington, said: “This event is both informative and fun for people interested in local history.”

Likewise, Eva Elliott, of Whitehaven, remarked that the Archive Centre is “a wonderful resource” and praised the event as a “useful and welcoming approach to encourage others to visit”.

Due to popularity it is to become a regular excursion – each month the featured display will reflect a specific theme related to local history.

Future themes may include the workhouse, schools, and businesses; with July’s overarching theme exploring the shipping industry.

The event is open to anyone to enjoy original archival materials in an informal and chatty setting.

It was an earnest, friendly and lively atmosphere which ignited fervent discussions surrounding the documents and rebooted some forgotten family memories.

Whitehaven Archives holds thousands of items and this event productively encourages people to discover, explore and appreciate their local roots.

The events will be held on the third Tuesday of each month – the next is August 16, 7pm to 9pm.

Contact Whitehaven Archive and Local Studies Centre on 01946 506420 or email whitehaven.archives@ cumbria.gov.uk.