The Jefferson Family
Until June, 1998 Jefferson's Wine Merchants was the oldest family owned wines and spirits merchants in the country. The family had traded from the same premises on Lowther Street for over two centuries.
The business was founded by Robert Jefferson who came from Aikton, near Wigton. He is described as a much respected and honest man during his years of trade with Virginia. The business interests of the Jefferson's was not only confided to the wine and spirits business. They were also interested in shipbuilding and railway development. The Jefferson's were partners in the
Lumley Kennedy and Co. Shipbuilding Company.
The cargo that was carried by the Jefferson's ships was rum, sugar and molasses from the West Indies and Wine from Portugal and Spain. A large proportion of the sugar imported to Whitehaven was from the Yeaman estate in Antigua, which was owned by the Jefferson's. It was from that estate that they imported their famous rum. Another speciality was their East Indian Sherry. All of the imports by the Jefferson family was carried by their own vessels. In total the Jefferson's used 12 sailing ships.
With the closure of the shop in 1998, plans were put in place to convert the premises into a tourist attraction which explores the links that Whitehaven has had with the Rum trade. On 22nd May 2000, the Rum Story opened its doors. It is the worlds first Story of Rum exhibition. The exhibition is an all weather attraction which contains exciting interactive entertainment for all the family.