Workington is an ancient market and industrial town at the mouth of the River Derwent, and is the main shopping centre for West Cumbria. Some parts of the town north of the River Derwent date back to Roman times. It was in the 18th century, with the exploitation of the local iron ore and coal pits, that Workington expanded to become a major industrial town and port.

image of the Navvy Bridge in Workington, Cumbria

Iron and steel manufacture have always been part of Workington’s heritage, and it was here that the famous Henry Bessemer first introduced his revolutionary steel making process. In recent years, with the decline of the steel industry and coal mining, the town has diversified into other forms of industry. See the links below to find out how the Bessemer Converter worked, and see pictures of those at Workington. Steel making finally ended in August 2006, despite being an efficient plant with a full order book.

image of the shopping arcade in Workington town centre

There are numerous churches throughout the town, and the parish church of St Michael’s has stood on its present site since the 7th century, although the 12th century Norman church was replaced in 1770 by a larger building. Sadly this was severely damaged by fire in 1994, but has since undergone a major rebuilding program. 

St John’s Church was built in 1823 to commemorate the battle of Waterloo, to a design by Thomas Hardwick. It is built of local sandstone, and bears some resemblance to Inigo Jones’ St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, London.

The Roman Catholic church of Our Lady & St Michael was designed by EW Pugin, and has a very beautiful interior.

The Helena Thompson Museum was bequeathed to the people of Workington by Miss Helena Thompson, a local philanthropist, in 1940. It houses displays of pottery, silver, glass, and furniture dating from Georgian times, as well as the social and industrial history of Workington and the surrounding area.

Workington Hall is built around a pele tower dating from the 14th century, this was once one of the finest Manor houses in the region. This striking ruin once owned by the Curwen family, Lords of the Manor of Workington, gave shelter to Mary Queen of Scots on her last flight from Scotland before her imprisonment and execution.

Jane Pit is a 19th century coal mine built by Henry Curwen, and the remains of this may be seen on a public open space at Mossbay.

Schoose Farm is a model farm, built circa 1800 for John Christian Curwen. There is a windmill, adjoining barns, gatehouse and curtain wall.

Workington has a railway station on the Cumbrian coast line, from Barrow-in-Furness to Carlisle.

One start of the Sea to Sea cycle route starts here. (The other is at Whitehaven).

image of the sea and coast at Workington port

On Thursday 19th November 2009, the rivers Cocker and Derwent, which join in Cockermouth, rose to a level that flooded much of central Cockermouth, leaving most of the shops, and businesses in the town completely wrecked.

The effect of this water rushing towards Workington destroyed the Northside road bridge, destroyed the Navvies footbridge, and damaged the Calva road bridge, thus making all links across the river impassable apart from the railway.

The Calva Bridge was closed after the main deck sank about a foot and a large crack appeared in the central arch over the River Derwent.

So whilst most of Workington was unaffected by the flood, transport links north of the town are severely restricted – with road transport requiring a 25 mile detour via Cockermouth and Maryport.

See some pictures of the flood damaged bridges.

The Navvy footbridge and the road bridge that were destroyed in the flood have both been replaced. The road bridge is named ‘Barker Bridge’ in memory of PC Barker who died when the bridge collapsed.

Photos of Workington by Julian Thurgood and Jan Fialkowski:

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