Monday 17 July 2023

More on Shipbuilding at Whitehaven.


Some further notes and images of the Development of the Harbour and Shipbuilding at Whitehaven in the 18th and Early 19th Century.

(Post in Preparation).

John Wood (1717 - 89) and his brother William (1725 - 1804).

Much of the information here has been culled from Coal and Tobacco by J.V. Beckett pub. Cambridge, 1981.

Mr Becket had access and time to sift through the Lowther Archives in order to write his very informative book.

Another very useful source of information on the early development of the port and harbour at Whitehaven is - Sir John Lowther and Whitehaven, 1642-1706. The relations of a landlord with his estate by Christine Churches pub. 1990.

available on line -

Another very useful source on Cumberland ships and shipbuilding has been - Highway to the World by Alan Forsyth pub. Bookcase, 2011.

Despite a paucity of information on the early life of John Wood and his brother William, I felt it necessary to put together a brief history of shipbuilding and the harbour at Whitehaven in order to put their lives in to some sort of context.


Records and notes about Early Shipping and Developments at the Harbour at Whitehaven.

In 1562 Whitehaven is described as having six houses and only one pickard (a small fishing boat of 7 - 10 tons). Ref. Churches.

William Gilpin reported to Sir John Lowther the launching of the Cumberland Merchant in 1696, there were six ships on the stocks (being built) in 1712 and the next summer a further six or seven were in hand, only one ship was built in 1720 and another ordered for the next year.

Shipbuilding revived in the 1730's to meet the needs of the tobacco trade.

Vessels had been built at Whitehaven since 1677 - the tonnage rose from 7,200 in 1702 to 52, 300 by 1788.


The partnership of Thomas Patrickson and brothers John And Carlisle Spedding, known as the Timber and Brewery Company, borrowed £630 from James Lowther in 1737 (still not repaid in 1755).

The company leased in 1745 "part of a timber yard" from Lowther 

Patrickson died in 1746 and was succeeded by his son (another Thomas) this Thomas Patrickson sold his share to William Fletcher and William Palmer.

John Spedding made over his share to his son James and Carlisle split his holdings with his son also (James).

Lowther then granted a lease of the rest of the Timber Yard for further ancillary buildings.

The Timber Yard mentioned here is probably the yard seen first on the Pellin plans situated between the Old Tongue and the New Tongue.

The information provided here adapted from Coal and Tobacco by Beckett.

The Gibson engraved plans (below) came from the Brocklebank Archives at Liverpool Maritime Museum Library and I am most grateful for the assistance of the Librarians.

The Woods and their early life.

It is most likely that both William and John started their working lives as apprentices to one of the Whitehaven shipbuilders. Part of their education would almost certainly have meant going to sea in order to gain practical experience - this was certainly the case for Kelsick Wood, the son of John Wood.

William Wood never married.

The first documented reference to John Wood as a shipbuilder - 

Between 1749 and 1752 Sir James Lowther gave leave for a consideration of 10/6d a time for the building of eleven ships on "ground behind Tangier Street walled in from the houses" and in 1751 he reached agreements with Henry Benn and John Wood, shipwrights which enabled them to enclose the parcels of ground between Tangier Street and the sea for use in shipbuilding. See Coal and Tobacco - Beckett

Henry Benn was living in Church St when the 1762 census was taken, he was declared bankrupt 10 December 1766, (Whitehaven 1660 - 1800) RCHM)

The Wood brothers were brought up at the rural Yew Tree Farm, Town End Wilton, Haile, Cumberland 2.5 miles SSE of Egremont, about 8 miles south east of Whitehaven within sight of the Solway Firth. 

In 1762 John Wood was living with his brother William and the members of his family in Ropers Alley, now Coates Lane, between Queen Street and Ropers Lane, Whitehaven.

This information comes from a transcription of a 1762 town census at Whitehaven Archives

 Will. Wood, carpenter was residing in a front house in Coats Lane, but in the column for the number of inmates there was a zero, however in the line above John Wood is described as carpenter and there were 9 inmates in the house - Mr Hay also says that William Wood had other properties in the town but a brief search would suggest that the other Woods in Whitehaven were not closely related.

From a transcribed copy of the Whitehaven census taken in 1762 (Whitehaven Archives).

William Wood was involved with the building of St James Church see -

Whitehaven c. 1690.

Tangier Street has not yet been built up but 11 - 15, The Waverley Hotel set back from the street with the front courtyard is plainly visible 

The Pow Beck stream is still open and running through the old town and emptying into the harbour.

Flatt House is visible at the end of Lowther Street

From Whitehaven as Built and Projected. c1690, Cumberland, published by the Cumberland and Westmorland Archaeological and Antiquarian Society, 1877.


image from



Crop from Andrew Pellin's Plan of Whitehaven, 1705.

From the 1705 Street Book, Lonsdale Estate.

This plan now shows the timber Yard at the Southern end of the East Strand, with the plan of the Waverley Hotel and new buildings on Tangier Street Tenancies on the North end. which had been granted by 1710.

Ropers Alley (Coats Lane) between Ropers Lane and Queen Street (the home of the Woods in 1762) appears to have already been developed.


The Thomas Donald Plan, published London, 1774.

This plan shows the Coal Hurries on the Old Quay, the Copperas Works and the Old Glass House at Ginns, Hartley's Rope Works.

NB Coates Lane (formerly Ropers Alley) the home of William Wood, John Wood and family in 1762.

The Pow Beck is now covered over.


The John Howard Plan of Whitehaven 1790.

Although dated 1790 and published December 1791 I suspect that this plan was adapted and printed at a later date.

Image courtesy Harvard Library.

Crop of the above map showing the ship building yards.

The Wood residence and Warehouse at Coates Lane is possibly the building marked E on the map.

The Development of the Harbour at Whitehaven.

Images below from the Brocklebank Files - B/Broc14/7 at the Library at the Liverpool Maritime Museum

I am very grateful to the staff at Liverpool Maritime Museum for their assistance. 

Plans for the development of the Harbour at Whitehaven, published 1836.

Whitehaven Harbour, 1792.

West is at the top of the plan.


West Strand built 1632.

New Pier  / Quay built 1742.

Old Quay / Pier built 1679 - 81, repaired 1713 and 1751.

Merchants Quay / the Old Tongue built 1733.

The New Tongue built 1754.

Bulwark / Old Tongue or Sugar Tongue built 1710.

Source: Coal & Tobacco, Becket, Cambridge University Press, 1981.


Whitehaven Harbour, 1804.


Whitehaven Harbour, 1806.

An Unadopted Plan.

This plan is interesting because it names the occupiers of the individual yards.

The dock at the west end of the timber yard is described as the Graving Bank.

Mr Bowes Yard, Mr Stitts Yard on the seaward side of Tangier Street.

Whitehaven Harbour 1822.


Whitehaven Harbour. 1823.

This plan is interesting in that it shows the timber yard as a ship yard.

The graving bank is next to the sea.

Whitehaven Harbour, 1833.

This plan now shows the patent slip at the timber yard between the old Tongue and the New Tongue. The pencil annotation pointing to Brocklebank's Yard is correct

with proposal for the a new West Pier designed by Sir John Rennie.


Crop from the John Wood (no relation) Plan of 1834.

This map shows the locations of the William Wilson Shipbuilding Company behind Tangier Street (formerly the ship yard of John Wood and others  and the Wm Wilson Timber Yard behind the Bransty Arch, T&I Brocklebank's Yard, Brocklebank and Co's Ropery and Scott and Whiteside's Shipbuilding Yard.

It also shows the patent slip next to the graving bank at the Timber Yard by the East Strand.


Whitehaven and Harbour, 1863.

Showing the development of the railway and docks on the North Shore.

Crop from the 1863 map (below) - 

Here it describes the slips at the timber yard as "Timber Slip" and "Patent Slip".

The former Wood and others ship building yard behind Tangier Street.

As the North Pier was unfinished the harbour trustees requested Mr Ebenezer Stiven to provide a design. Mr Stiven recommended that the jetty be taken down and the pier canted south west with a rounded head. This work was completed in 1841.


 In 1869 Mr Stiven was again asked to provide a design for the harbour. this time the trustees asked for a wet dock. the plan was accepted by the trustees. Following the Dock and Harbour Act in 1871 work commenced on the construction. It was completed in 1876 and named the Queens Dock in honour of Queen Victoria.

Unfortunately, serious problems were encountered with Queens Dock, there was severe shrinkage and cracking, said to be due to moving foundations. In 1880 the Dock was temporarily closed to enable repairs to be carried out.  The Dock re-opened in 1882.

Whitehaven Plan, 1863.


Ship builders and Allied business at Whitehaven. 

Some Notes:

The Whitehaven Ropemakers.

Ropemaking was established in the early 17th century.

The 1642 engraving shows two ropewalks.

There were three companies operating in the 1690’s, two at Braconthwaite and one at Bransty.

Whitehaven Rope Company -1690’s. Sir John Lowther is a partner.



Braconthwaite  Ropewalks. 1.

1727 - 1746 John Spedding, Walter Lutwidge , John Hamilton, Joseph Littledale. Described as mariners 1746.

Lutwidge then moved to the ropeworks at Workington.

1746 – 55.  John Spedding alone lease renewed for 21 years.


Speddings executors sold the company 1765 for £1800.

Braconthwaite Ropewalks, 2.

1728 – 1749 Thomas Hartley.

In the 1740’s Thomas Harley regularly freighted Hemp from St Petersburg.

1749 Thomas Hartley at will.

Lowther purchased ropes from John Spedding from 1728 – 1740.


The Spedding Brothers and Patrickson - The Timber and Brewery Company.

Shipbuilder Thomas Patrickson died 1746. Thomas Patrickson Jr. replaced him.

John Spedding passed his interest in the company to his son 

Info here from Coal and Tobacco, Becket.


The Spedding brothers and family.

Here is not the place for an in depth look at the very industrious Speddings and their involvement with the Lowthers and the industries of West Cumberland but I will attempt to put the facts relevant to shipbuilding and the Woods into this blog.

Carlisle Spedding (1695 - 1765) his son James (1720 - 88).

 John Spedding (1685 - 1758) and his son also James (1719 - 59) of Armathwaite Hall..

30 Roper Street -This building was constructed in 1743 by James Spedding, the son of mining engineer Carlisle Spedding. The building was intended to be used as both a dwelling and offices. The entrance on Roper Street has a doorway which is decorated by an acorn finial, this is a reference to the Spedding coat of arms.

St. James Church is said to have had the finest Georgian interior in the county. The building was constructed in 1752 and consecrated by the Bishop of Carlisle in July 1753. The church was designed by Carlisle Spedding.

Messrs Spedding & Co.

Spedding & Co.Yard in Irish Street in 1789.

1778. 2nd June Cumberland Pacquet. Phoenix for Captain Richardson and Eliza pierced 18 nine and six pounders for Wild & Co, Dublin.

1780 14 Nov. CP Pollux for Captain Brocklebank.

1782. 4 June, CP.  Laurel launched.

1781. 22 May, CP. Carson.

1782 10 Dec.  Castor II Pierced for 18 guns for Dan. Brocklebank.

1783. Oct 28 CP Carlisle.

Precedent,  and Cyrus built  for Daniel Brocklebank.


Notes: Brocklebank's Shipbuilding Yard / Whitehaven Shipbuilding Company, Whitehaven.

The site of the former 'Brocklebank's Shipbuilding Yard', and latterly ship repair yard, was built in the mid 1770s by Daniel Brocklebank and expanded after his death by his sons, Thomas and John, who renamed the yard 'T. and J. Brocklebank'.

The firm of T. & J. Brocklebank Ltd., was one of the oldest in shipping with its origin dating back to the late eighteenth century. The firm was formed in 1801 when the two sons of the founder of the business, Thomas and John, took control following their father's death. 

Their father was Captain Daniel Brocklebank (1741 - 1801), a shipmaster and shipbuilder who, after emigrating from Cumberland to New England in 1770, began a shipbuilding enterprise at Sheepscut, near Portland, Maine. Daniel Brocklebank was a loyalist and when the Revolution broke out in 1775 he sailed back to Whitehaven in his own ship, Castor.

The letter of marque (for a privateer) for the Castor's activities during the American War of Independence is the oldest surviving document in the collection [Liverpool Maritime Museum - B/BROC/6/1].

Daniel Brocklebank re-started his shipbuilding business at Whitehaven in 1785 and the surviving plans and specifications of the vessels built by his yard, provide an important source for the construction of eighteenth and early nineteenth century merchant ships. [See B/BROC/8/1-2 for their specifications and agreements.] 

Daniel Brocklebank had premises at 25 Roper Street.

Valuable information concerning the activities of the Whitehaven shipyard can be found in the journals of accounts and ledgers, 1808-1865 [B/BROC/4/1-3] and letterbooks, 1801-1860 [B/BROC/1/2/1-7]. 

By 1795 Daniel Brocklebank owned a fleet of eleven vessels of 1,750 tons. After Daniel's death in 1801 the firm of T. & J. Brocklebank was formed by his two sons, Thomas and John Brocklebank, and despite the firm suffering heavily in the Napoleonic Wars, by 1809 it was sending ships as far as South America. In 1815 the success of the Princess Charlotte's maiden voyage to Calcutta, following the end of the East India Company's monopoly, led to the beginning of a Calcutta trade that was to eventually eclipse Brocklebank's South American and China trades many years later.

Notes above from Liverpool Maritime Museum Archives and Library.




The Brocklebank Archives at Liverpool Maritime Museum.


1. 1770-1958: ledgers, ship specifications, letter books, wages and apprentice books, corresp, plans National Museums Liverpool: Maritime Archives and Library     

Ref.  B/BROC

See Merseyside County Archives, Guide p.4

2. 1775-1970: administrative, legal, investments, financial, management, fleet, and shipyard records National Museums Liverpool: Maritime Archives and Library B/BROC

See: Guide to the...Merseyside Maritime Museum 1995

3. 1775-1945: financial records, letter, stock, bill and wages books, apprentice, officers and engineers books, log books etc. National Museums Liverpool: Maritime Archives and Library.

NRA 18462 Brocklebank.


 Lease of Bransty Ropeworks, Whitehaven, 1775.

Conveyance of Isaac Littledale & Co.'s Ropeworks, Whitehaven, to Daniel Brocklebank, 1749.



Whitehaven Shipping.

Dimensions of ships built and repaired, 1792-1841.

 Shipyard Ledgers, 1818-1865.

Shipyard Journals, 1832-1865.

Original Plans of Ships: Nestor,1792; Everest, 1863.

 Fleets, 1770-1962.

Voyage Details, 1770-1901.


 Cuttings from the Carlisle Journal Ref. Brocklebanks and shipbuilding at Whitehaven.

Whitehaven. A vessel of 256 tons called Dryad was launched at the yard of Messrs. Brocklebank: CJ 161, 21 November 1801.

Whitehaven. A vessel called Experiment was launched at the yard of Messrs. T & J Brocklebank: CJ 179, 27 March 1802.

Brocklebank Thomas and John, North Harbour, Whitehaven Pigots Directory 1828.

Whitehaven On Thursday se’nnight a vessel called Aimwell was launched from the yard of T & J Brocklebank for Captain Bouch CJ 776, 4 September 1813.

Whitehaven Yesterday week a copper bottomed vessel called Jamaica was launched from the yard of Messrs Brocklebank : CJ 852, 18 February 1815

Whitehaven. On Wednesday a ship called Princess Charlotte of 900 tons was launched from the yard of T & J Brocklebank amidst the greatest concourse ever witnessed. Her upper and lower deck beams have iron knees, most of them 4 cwt. apiece. The day was fine, the launch beautiful, and she received her name from J Hodson, esq., Adjutant of the Whitehaven Local Artillery, late of Carlisle. CJ 881, 9 September 1815.

Whitehaven - A copper bottomed, fortified ship called Antigua Packet of 350 tons was launched from the yard of T & J Brocklebank for Captain Dawson to use in the Antigua trade: CJ 889, 4 November 1815.

Whitehaven - Yesterday week a vessel called Constellation was launched from the yard of J & T Brocklebank.: CJ 976, 5 July 1817.

Whitehaven - Last week a brig of 170 tons called Santon was launched from the yard of J & T Brocklebank for captain Gaitskell on the foreign trade: CJ 1082, 24 July 1819.

 Whitehaven - On Thursday the 21st at 11AM a copper fastened ship called Perseverance intended for the East India trade was launched from the yard of Messrs Brocklebank. She made a most excellent launch into the sea at nearly high water, to the gratification of an immense multitude of spectators- ten thousand people were calculated to be present: CJ 1091, 25 September 1819.

Whitehaven - On Monday a brig called Candidate was launched from the yard of T & J Brocklebank for the West India trade.: CJ 1131, 1 July 1820.

 Whitehaven - A brig called Andes of 216 tons was launched from the yard of T & J Brocklebank for the south Atlantic trade: CJ 1302, 25 October 1823.

Whitehaven - On Monday a vessel called Whitehaven of 203 tons was launched from the yard of T & J Brocklebank. for the South American trade: CJ 1330, 8 May 1824.

Whitehaven - On the twentieth a brig called Manchester of 100 tons was launched from the yard of T & J Brocklebank & Co. for the south American trade: CJ 1359, 27 November 1824.

Whitehaven - On the twenty-third a schooner called Bransty of 130 tons was launched from the yard of T & J Brocklebank & Co. for the south American trade: CJ 1360, 4 December1824.

 Whitehaven - A brig called Affleck of 237 tons was launched from the yard of J Brocklebank for Captain John Fell Busby for service in the West India trade: CJ 1372, 26 February 1825.

 Whitehaven - A copper bottomed brig called Grecian of 235 tons was launched from the yard of J Brocklebank for Captain Bouch: CJ 1372, 26 February 1825.


Messrs Lumley Kennedy and Co. Whitehaven. Some Notes:

See -

Lumley Kennedy was a shipwright who had been a manager, for nearly twenty years, at the Brocklebank shipyard in Whitehaven. In 1835 he left Brocklebanks to join the new shipbuilding venture, as managing partner.

His partners in Lumley Kennedy & Co. were R & H Jefferson, Dr.Robinson, Capt.Pew, R.N., Capt.I.Mounsey, Thomas Beck and John Peile. The new yard at Whitehaven launched its first vessel in 1835, and in total 65 vessels were built there in the years up to 1865.

The venture was closed at about the same time as the Brocklebank shipyard ceased operations, the demise of both being due to difficulties obtaining satisfactory leases from the Earl of Lonsdale. The Lumley Kennedy yard was operated by Joseph Shepherd.

The Whitehaven shipyard of Lumley Kennedy & Co. was closed down in 1864, and was then taken over by Joseph Shepherd, a former foreman at the Kennedy yard. The yard was operated under the name of Shepherd & Leech, and 17 vessels were built there between 1865 and 1879.


The Lumley Kennedy yard was operated by Joseph Shepherd, himself a former employee of Kennedy, from 1865 until 1879. Lumley Kennedy died at Beckermet in 1882, aged 91.


1835.       Alciope.

1836.       Ann & Jane, Bleng.            

1837.       Calder, Frances, Reaper, Siam, Watson .                  

1838.       British Queen, Capella, Nile.         

1839.       Earl of Lonsdale, Harbinger, Jane & Jessie, Ringdove.         

1840.       Champion, Kyanite, Midge, Syren, Warlock, Wilson.          

1841.       Arequipa, Bleng, Enchantress,   

1842.       Ennerdale.           

1843.       Swallow.              

1844.      Emblem, New Margaret, Sancta Bega, Thomas & John.     

1845.       Menzies.               

1846.       Lord Harding.      

1847.       Magician, Mary Spencer.               

1848.       No ship

1849.       John Spencer, Sorata.      

1850.       Walton Muncaster.

1851.       Braganza, Eagle.

1852.      Affghan, John Peile, Pudsey Dawson.

1853.       Pizarro.

1854.       Miranda.

1855.       John O'Gaunt, Valdivia.

1856.      Orontes.

1857.       Mallard.

1858.       Hannah Nicholson, Star.

1859.      Excel, James Bruce, and Phaeton.

1860.       Bellam, Excelsior, and Magellan.

1861.       Anne Lowther, Banda.

1862.       Princess Alexandria, Tanaro, Tarragona.

1863.       Bertie, Ehen.

1864.      Erato.


Early photograph of the ship building yards and harbour at Whitehaven.

The Grand Hotel, formerly the Lonsdale Hotel and then the Station Hotel on the right (built from 1843 destroyed accidentally by fire 1940).


Aerial photographs Whitehaven from 1929/33.

Grand Hotel on the left.


The triangular shaped piece of land - the Timber Yard on the 1705 map.
in between the Old and New Tongue.

The Patent slip ran alongside the New Tongue.


Tangier Street with the Grand Hotel at the top.

Aerial photographs Whitehaven from 1929/33.

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