There are several lighthouses within Whitehaven Harbour, which dates back to the early 1500s.
By the mid-1600s the small fishing community and estate of St Bees were acquired by the Lowther family. The Lowther family developed Whitehaven as a port of shipbuilding and export of coal.
The Old Quay was built in 1633, though not thought to be lit at that time.
By the 1660s the pier was badly damaged and was later deemed too small to cope with the increasing number of vessels. As a result, Sir John Lowther developed and expanded the harbour further.
In 1718 St Bees Lighthouse was established and leased to Thomas Lutwige. To maintain the light, Lutwige collected light dues from vessels entering Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport.
By 1730 Whitehaven was one of the major ports in Britain, and prospered with the coal and iron trade, though this later diminished. By the mid 18th century, it was one of the largest ports in England for the import of tobacco. This trade declined by the early 1800s and was replaced by the importing of sugar, cotton, coffee and cocoa.
By the 19th century, the port had been overtaken by other ports such as Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. Commercial ship handling ceased in 1992, and plans were subsequently drawn up to create a marina and fishing harbour. Plans were also made to refurbish the harbour.
In June 2008 Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh officially re-opened the refurbished Beacon Museum in the harbour.
The tower on the Old Quay is located by the harbour sea lock. It was not actually used as a lighthouse. It was established around 1730 and was used as a watchtower for vessels sailing into the harbour. Flag signals were displayed to communicate with ships wishing to enter the harbour, or requesting a pilot.
Old New Quay Lighthouse was said to have been painted white at one stage and was established in 1742.
The West Pier Lighthouse was built in 1832. The West Pier was completed in 1839 with the West Pier extension. The light character has changed several times but currently displays a green flashing light every 5 seconds with a range of 13 miles.
North Pier Lighthouse was completed in 1841 following the construction of the pier. This pier had been built in a different direction originally. It has also been extended throughout various centuries.
In August 2021 a restoration plan was drawn up to restore the harbour lighthouses, and this was completed in April 2022.