Once upon a time it was possible to sail a boat through Whitehaven’s Market Place.

A river called Pow Beck flowed through the centre of the town, and was crossed by a series of bridges. It was covered over in 1764.

The building which is now the Foyer, providing accommodation for young people and office space, is the town’s former YMCA premises, but it started life as the home for a rich merchant callws James Milham. By the early years of this century it had fallen into disrepair but it was restored last year.

These and other parts of Whitehaven’s history are all related in new information boards just installed in James Street, telling the story of the town back to the 1600s.

The boards are one of the final elements in the £1 million scheme to rejuvenate the town centre

The scheme, called the Whitehaven Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), has seen improvements to historic buildings in the Market Place and James Street area and the creation of a European-style plaza there, with seating and trees.

The final part of the scheme will involve work to restore another five shop premises in the area, and is due to get underway within the next few months.

The Townscape Heritage Initiative is funded by four different bodies -he Heritage Lottery Fund, Britain’s Energy Coast, Copeland Borough Council and Cumbria County Council. The building of the plaza also received funding from Whitehaven Town Team.

Borough councillor Michael McVeigh, Copeland's Heritage Champion, said of the information boards: “This is yet another enhancement to this fantastic initiative, It is vital that the town’s rich heritage is protected and preserved.

“Locals and visitors alike can now learn from these boards, what they would see in front of them and what stood beneath their feet many years ago.”

Last year Whitehaven Town Council also contributed to town centre improvements, with £12,000 spent on new benches and litter bins.