The Rum Story

Lowther St, Whitehaven, CA28 7DN
The Rum Story Logo

Image thanks to The Rum Story

It might seem unlikely today, but the coastal town of Whitehaven in Cumbria was once central to the UK’s rum industry, being one of the main ports for ships from the Americas. At the Rum Story in Whitehaven, visitors can explore this unique piece of history by taking a journey back in time to an era of slavery and piracy that was fuelled by the dark trade of rum.

The museum is housed in the original 1785 shop that was owned by the Jefferson family, whose brand of rum is still going strong today. Whilst this is a tale of alcohol, there is plenty for younger visitors to see here, with a strong emphasis on history.

Planning Your Visit

Contact Details:
01946592933 / Website
Please see official website
Seasonal Opening:
Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day, and the 3rd week of January for annual maintenance.


As a major port in the 1700s, Whitehaven was a significant player in the tobacco trade, but the American War of Independence pushed British traders out of Virginia and into the Caribbean. Traders turned to sugar and rum and Whitehaven became the place where much of these products entered the UK. As a result, Whitehaven was also involved in the slave trade, with slaves being taken from Africa and forced to grow sugar cane in the Caribbean that was then used to create rum. Records show that following the abolition of slavery in 1769, many former slaves ended up living in Whitehaven when they accompanied Cumbrian families who were working in the sugar industry.

Robert Jefferson was one merchant that profiteered from the rum industry, with a plantation in Antigua that grew sugar cane and a fleet of 12 ships that was used to transport rum and sugar across the Atlantic ocean. His shop in Whitehaven sold rum for over 200 years under the Jefferson’s brand. In 1998, the remaining Jefferson family members decided to close the business and steps were taken to convert the former shop into a museum that could teach visitors about this dark period in Whitehaven’s history.

Things To See

On entering the museum you are transported through time to a Caribbean rainforest where you will learn about how rum is created, as well as the history of rum, including its favoured status by the Royal Navy, the use of slaves during its creation, and the impact that American prohibition had on the trade.

You will travel through an African village and learn about the damage and long lasting impact the slave trade had and how it was supported by the rum industry. Visitors can also explore a replica slave ship, a typical Cumbrian worker’s cottage, and the original clerk’s office in the shop that contains many original items and trade records.

Outside in the courtyard there is a large kinetic clock that has been designed to demonstrate how rum is created.

Useful Information

There is a café with seating in what was originally the stables for the business and in the glass covered courtyard. Access to the café is available to anyone, not just museum visitors. It serves cakes, drinks, and light meals and snacks.

The museum has a gift shop which is one of the few places where you can buy Jefferson’s rum. Today the rum is made in Liverpool, using spirit imported from the Caribbean. The shop also stocks traditional Cumbrian Rum Butter and other items.


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