• EPOCH

The Candlestick Chimney, Whitehaven

Gareth Johnstone | Lancaster University

Photograph: Author’s own
Photograph: Author’s own

To anyone from Whitehaven, there is one building on the horizon of the harbour that truly tells you that you are home. Silhouetted against the skyline, an elegant structure captures both the eye, imagination, and the romance of the town. The Candlestick Chimney is both a reminder of the town’s mining heritage and a symbol of the modern tourism on which the modern marina depends.


Growing up in the 1980s, the area of the Harbourside and the old pit workings of Whitehaven were nothing to be proud of. Industrial decline, culminating with the closure of the final mine, Haig Pit, in 1986, had left the town with a collection of ruined buildings and little to mark the centuries-old mining traditions of the area.


One building stood out against the rest - the Candlestick Chimney, built in the 1840s. What should have been just a functional ventilation shaft for Wellington Pit, the design by Sydney Smirke, the architect for all the Wellington pit surface buildings, went beyond that utilitarian purpose. Stories were told at primary school of how the chimney was based upon the favourite candlestick owned by the Countess of Lonsdale. She would look out from her home in Whitehaven Castle and use the candlestick to light her way.


Now incorporated into the modern redevelopment of the Harbourside, the chimney is the starting point of any exploration of Whitehaven and beyond, both physical, historical, and emotional. To me it represents the grim mining history of the town, standing as a worthy memorial to those who died in the many pit disasters. It serves as a reminder of childhood stories learned at school, and proudly stands as a sign of hope for the future. That is why the Candlestick Chimney is one of my favourite objects.