I have many memories of Whitehaven. I didn’t work at Haig pit but being from Bransty, my friends and I spent a considerable time at William Pit. When the pit closed it stood for many years in a state of disrepair, being a young lad I used to get everywhere!
We would play in the engine house – on the engine, in the tunnels in the buildings and the one leading to the air shaft rising up to the top of the cliffs (capped with a concrete cover). We knew the buildings very well.
Along the Wagon Road we also used to frequent the underground tunnels clad with firebricks which presumably carried hot gas to the furnaces of the iron works which lay between William Pit and the coastal defences site.
We also spent a lot of time at the coastal defences site, at the base of the cliffs, and also the two emplacements on the cliff top in the seven fields. Newt’s lived in a pool on the Parton side of the ground level emplacements and we also used to get fossils from the shale part of the cliffs.
We used to spend our Summer holidays on William Pit beach, swimming and sunbathing (it was much hotter then). There’s a tunnel under the railway line which comes out at whitey rock, that was our route to the beach. Smiths had a printing works on the north shore then. They used to leave lumps of candle-wax lying about which we used to melt on a fire and build up a huge ‘glove’ on our hands by successive dipping of wax then water.
I remember the Beehive from a very early age, being fascinated by the pneumatic cash delivery pipes, sucking and banging, the toys and models were in the basement. We used to go to Saturday afternoon matinees in the Queens, they were great. It was scary monsters and comedy, the 3 stooges etc. We used to get Lucky bags, Fizzy flying saucers and Spanish gold tobacco from Ben Shaws on the market before taking our seats in the cinema. We made the ushers life hell by calling out ‘torchy’ and dodging under the seats.
I was at the fire of St. Nicholas church, it was Saturday as I remember, I was driving down Queen street on my Lambretta scooter when I saw what must have been one of the first wisps of smoke, I sat on Queen Street, on my scooter whilst the fire engines arrived and the church slowly burnt down, what a shame.