Workington is an old industrial port town located where the River Derwent enters the Solway Firth. The Derwent flows out through the harbour where locally produce was once shipped.
The town developed as an important industrial iron and steel centre in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its massive blast furnaces were fed with coal mined from nearby collieries that once ran far out under the sea. It was here that Henry Bessemer first introduced his revolutionary steel making process, producing high quality steels from the local high grade, low-phosphorus, iron ore.
The old town sits on the high ground and developed to the south and west as a result of industrial expansion. The old cobbled Portland Square is one of several areas of Georgian elegance. The town once had many old seafaring inns, most of which have now sadly closed or been pulled down. Washington Square Shopping Centre was built to replace the older St John's Arcade and is now the main shopping and commercial centre for West Cumbria.
The Carnegie Theatre and Arts Centre provides an excellent year-round repertoire of concerts, plays and shows. The Workington Opera House, known locally as 'The Opera', has seating for 1200. Originally built as the Queen’s Jubilee Hall & Opera House, in 1888. It was destroyed by fire in 1927 and later rebuilt on a grander scale.
The Helena Thompson Museum (1948) was bequeathed to the town by local lass 'Miss Thompson MBE'. It holds various displays of period costumes, furniture, ceramics, glass and many other local historical artefacts.
There are several interesting churches in the town. St Michael's Church was restored after a fire in 1887. Its original foundations are believed to date from the 7th-c. The newer St John's (1823) has a Classical exterior, influenced by Inigo Jones’ St. Paul’s Church, in Covent Garden.
The extensive ruins of the14th-c Workington Hall are peacefully set in a wooded park, located high above the River Derwent. The Hall has been largely rebuilt since Mary Queen of Scots stayed here in 1568, when she wrote a letter of appeal to Elizabeth I, before being escorted on to Bolton Castle.
Located just north of the town is Burrow Walls Roman Fort, which once formed part of the Roman Sea Defences and western extension of Hadrian’s Wall. Very little remains except for traces of double ditches on the south-east side and eastern corner. Excavations have identified it as a typical 2nd-century fortification. The remains of Roman fort called Gabrosentum are also located near Whitehaven.