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New book explores Whitehaven’s heritage

A Bird’s Eye View of Whitehaven, by Matthias Reed

[A] NEW book exploring the literary and artistic heritage of mining in Whitehaven has been released.

From the Mines to the Mountains, by Lancaster University lecturer Christopher Donaldson and author/publisher Stephen Matthews, attempts to create a fresh outlook on the harsh industrial landscape portrayed in art and the written word from the 1750s; a period of rural fascination and burgeoning creativity in West Cumbria.

Mr Donaldson explores how the landscapes inspired the creatives of that era to recreate the places and industries of West Cumbria in a way that had never been attempted. This includes Cumbrian poet John Dalton, whose 1755 work A Descriptive Poem triggered a flurry of interest in the region amongst romanticist poets and early tourists, and esteemed painter Matthias Reed, who famously depicted the panoramas of Georgian Whitehaven at its peak.

Mr Donaldson said: “A Descriptive Poem affords a unique glimpse of the industrial wonders and the scenery of Georgian Cumberland and Westmorland.

“Ranging from the mines of Whitehaven to the mountains of the central Lakes, Dalton’s verses describe the journey of two young women, members of the Lowther family, who toured the two counties during the 1750s. Dalton’s descriptions captured the imagination of his contemporaries, many of whom were enticed by the poem to visit the places it portrays.”

Mr Donaldson says that the role of Whitehaven’s pits was significant in the creation of a cultural landscape that today warrants World Heritage Site status.

He added: “Dalton’s words paved the way not only for the early visitors who are often credited with the ‘discovery’ of the Lake District, but also for the Romantic poets who followed in their footsteps.”

In addition to presenting a facsimile of the first edition of Dalton’s poems, this volume also includes a selection of other rare poetic descriptions of scenes in Whitehaven, Workington and Keswick from the 1750s.

Collectively, these poems illustrate how, long before the Romantics, writers found inspiration in the region’s landscape and its industry. The texts are accompanied by an introductory essay and extensive explanatory notes.

From the Mines to the Mountains is on sale at The Beacon Museum’s shop and Bookcase in Carlisle. Matthias Reed’s Bird’s Eye View of Whitehaven is on display at The Beacon Museum. For more information, contact The Beacon Museum on 01946 592302 or visit www.thebeacon-whitehaven.co.uk.

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