Tracing Mr Whittle of 87 Church Street, Whitehaven.

This receipt is an original one made out to John Whittle of 87 Queen Street, Whitehaven, on July 4th, 1854, in payment of a lamp and paving rate. I assume it’s a local lighting and street tax akin to our commercial rates. I thought I would spend a a short while seeing if I could find out more about Mr Whittle.

My first search was in the 1847 History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland,* and there was no trace. He failed to make it into the great and the good citizen list (clergy, gentry, partners in firms etc.) and neither was he listed as the business owner of number 87. That distinction goes to Ed. Alstrop, listed as a shopkeeper and flour dealer. Reading btween the lines I’m thinking he ran what we might call a general grocers. There are three other businesses registered as shopkeepers and flour dealers – Stephen Metcalf at number 97, Mary Cook at 103 and Messsrs S & F Stoup at 163. If it rained whilst you were out you could pick up an umbrella from Jas Hanson at number 13.

Casting a glance over the other establishments on Queen Street it was definitely the place to go for a new outfit. Ann Wise made and sold stays (I’m breathless thinking about those) and Jonathan Ralph is described as a tailor, Mary Hanna, a straw hat maker catered for heads and Jonathan Cant, a clog maker, saw to feet.

On a larger scale there are several businesses listed as importers of tea, coffee, tobacco, wines and spirits, and living amongst these establishments are some of the master mariners and ship owners who facilitated these businesses. If local residents needed repairs to their Georgian terraced houses and shops, a plumber, stone mason, painter, paperhanger, plasterer and slater also lived on Queen Street. There were three cabinet and furniture makers and you could have your portrait painted lifesize or in miniature.

Surprisingly I can only find reference to one beer house run by William Caruther at number 67 and as Esther Faircliff ran The Temperance Hotel (no drinking there) I guess the residents of Queen Street had to go elsewhere for their grog. Queen Street had everything you’d look for today – except perhaps the lady making the stays.

Did I eventually find Mr John Whittle? Yes, actually I did and he’d risen up the ranks. He surfaces 7 years later in the 1861 Directory and Gazeteer of Cumberland under the good citizen list alongside the clergy and gentry etc. and he’s residing at number 8 Scotch Street. I’m wondering if perhaps Mr Whittle was working for Ed Alstrop and signed on his behalf. Who knows? However I’m glad I tracked him down and that it appears he did all right in the end. Although it would be good to know what he did actually do. I’ll keep an eye for him.

*Morris, Harrison & Co., Directory and Gazeteer of Cumberland 1861, reprinted in facsimile by Michael Moon, Whitehaven. 2000.

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