Barrow in Furness

Map of Morecambe Bay featuring Barrow

Industrial town covering much of ‘bierleys’ (or townships) of Hawcoat and Yarlside in Dalton-in-Furness parish, Lonsdale hundred, Lancashire North of the Sands.


Hawcoat bierley covered 7,544 acres [3,053 ha] and Yarlside 4,011 acres [1,623 ha]. Borough of Barrow-in-Furness (created MB 1867 and County Borough 1889) was extended 1872 to include Walney Island (q.v.), Sheep Island, Piel Island, and Foulney Island, and again 1881 to incorporate Rampside chapelry.


Hawcoat and Yarlside were divisions of manor of Dalton or Plain Furness, part of lordship of Furness, granted to Furness Abbey on its foundation 1127, which reverted to Crown on Dissolution, 1537. In 1662 manor of Plain Furness was granted to George Monck, duke of Albermarle (d. 1670), passing by descent to George Brudenell, duke of Montague (d. 1790), whose daughter Elizabeth married Henry, 3rd duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry (d. 1812), through whose family it descended to 21st century. Site of Furness Abbey (an estate later known as ‘The Manor’) leased to John Preston of Preston Patrick 1549 and passed by descent to Cavendish family, dukes of Devonshire, of Holker Hall.

Origins and growth of the town:

Until 1850s Hawcoat and Yarlside were rural farming areas, with traditional coastal industries of fishing and salt-making (memory of which preserved in place-name Salthouse). Piel Island was minor port with customs house until 1760. Rampside had become sea-bathing resort by 1820s and Barrow was main port for transport of iron ore from Furness mines by 1830s. Population of hamlet of Barrow estimated at around 150 in 1843; it had reached 661 by 1850. Local economy was transformed by coming of Furness Railway 1846 and rapid expansion in exploitation of local iron ore deposits. Haematite Iron and Steel Works at Barrow founded 1859; taken over 1866 by Haematite Steel Co. (founded 1864). New harbour constructed 1863 (with Devonshire and Buccleuch docks opened 1867 and 1873, graving dock 1872 and Ramsden dock 1879). Naval Armaments Co. established 1888; absorbed by Vickers Maxim Co. 1897, so that Barrow became famous for naval shipbuilding, with ancillary activities such as ship-repair and rope-making. Other major industries included flax and jute works (established 1870; partly destroyed by fire 1892; closed c.1930; demolished 1948) and chemical wood-pulp and paper works at Salthouse (founded 1888; closed later 20th century). Barrow’s population rocketed across 1860s, to stand at 17,992 by 1871, and continued to rise rapidly across later 19th century: town contained 56,625 inhabitants in 1901. Core of town, laid out by Sir James Ramsden in 1856, took form of grid of wide streets. Migrants to Barrow came from many parts of Britain and Ireland, a strong Scottish presence being reflected in tenement-style housing on Barrow Island. Both industrial output and population peaked during First World War (town’s population stood at 67,244 in 1921) but long period of decline set in from 1920s. Population fell across 20th century, partly as result of movement from town centre to new estates on Walney Island (q.v.), to stand at 49,577 in 1981 and 47,794 in 2001. Ship-building witnessed a revival during Second World War and from 1945 during post-War ’tanker boom’. From 1960s Barrow shipyard began to specialise in submarine building, ensuring its survival. Other founding industries fared less well: ironworks closed 1963; steelworks 1983; and closure of last remaining foundry (David Caird Ltd) 1988 finally brought an end to Barrow’s iron and steel industry. New post-War industries included Lister’s woollen yarn spinning plant at Roose (opened 1947; closed 1990), Kimberly Clark Paper Mill (1967; still in production) and gas terminals for Morecambe Bay gas field.

Places of worship:

Chapel of ease at Rampside built or rebuilt 1621; rebuilt 1840 with additions 1866 (porch and vestry) and 1892 (chancel). School at Newbarns, built 1843, used for worship until St George’s Church, St George’s Square, was built in new town (consecrated 1861; extended 1867). Further Anglican churches of St James, Hartington Street, built 1867-9, and St Paul, Abbey Road, built 1871 (western end completed c.1965 and 2005-06). Four new prefabricated churches opened 1878 when town’s population was growing rapidly: St Matthew, Harrogate Street (rebuilt 1965-8); St Mark, Rawlinson Street, (extended 1882-3); St Luke, Roose Road (rebuilt 1963-4) and St John, Barrow Island, (rebuilt 1934-5). St Perran’s, Roose, established as mission church under St Luke’s. To cater for town’s expansion after 1945, new Anglican churches of St Aidan’s, Newbarns, built 1952 and St Francis, Ormsgill, 1955. Roman Catholic. Church of St Mary of Furness, Duke Street, built 1866-7, with additions 1888 (steeple) and 1894 (baptistery). St Patrick’s, Barrow Island, built 1877; rebuilt 1933. School chapel of Sacred Heart, Roose Road, built 1902. Further RC churches opened at Newbarns (Holy Family) 1951, and Ormsgill (St Pius X) 1957. Nonconformist. Barrow’s rapid growth saw chapels for numerous denominations, reflecting diversity of migrants. Wesleyan Methodist chapel, Hindpool Road (built 1862; closed 1935), followed by further Wesleyan chapels at Hartington Street (1874; closed 1951); Roose Road (1875; closed 1976); Abbey Road (1876; rebuilt 1902); Greengate Street (1876; replaced by new building 1904; known from 1953 as Central Methodist Church; closed c.1996; demolished), and Stonedyke (1877; closed 1991). United Methodist Free Church, Storey Square, opened 1894 (closed 1952). Mission rooms also established at Hawcoat (closed 1989) and Piel. Primitive Methodist chapels in Forshaw Street (1866; closed 1953); Hartington Street (1874), and Marsh Street (1875; closed 1953). Methodist New Connexion chapel (Christ Church), Abbey Road, built 1875; became United Methodist Church in 1907; destroyed in blitz 1941; remaining assets used to build Beacon Hill (Christ Church) Methodist Church, Holyoak Avenue, 1956. Baptist Church, Abbey Road, built 1873; destroyed in blitz 1941; replaced by new building on new site near Barrow Park 1953. Congregationalist chapels at Hindpool Road (built 1857; enlarged 1863; closed 1931) and Ainslie Street (built 1873). Trinity Presbyterian church, School Street, opened 1875; closed 1971. In 1991 Abbey Road Methodist and Ainslie Street Congregationalist churches merged to form Trinity Church Centre, using Abbey Road building. Spiritualist church, Buccleuch Street, built 1893; Salvation Army Citadel, Abbey Road, built 1910. Synagogue opened in Abbey Road 1902; moved to Crellin Street 1918 and to School Street 1925; closed 1974. Cemetery with Episcopalian, Dissenting and RC mortuary chapels opened 1873; crematorium opened 1962.


Curate at Rampside chapel taught children in 1720s; small schoolroom near chapel, recorded mid-19th century, had gone by 1900. National school built at Newbarns 1843; closed and demolished 1877. School at Rabbit Hill opened 1849 by Furness Railway Co. for children of its workers; now St George’s Primary School. Board schools opened 1873 (initially in temporary buildings) in Holker Street, Cambridge Street, Barrow Island, Hawcoat, Rawlinson Street, and Roose. Higher Grade School, Abbey Road, opened 1879, moving to Duke Street 1888, becoming Alfred Barrow School. School of Science and Art, operated privately from 1877, taken over by council 1891 and housed in new Technical School building, Abbey Road, from 1903. Roman Catholic convent school, Nelson Street, established 1897; moved to Holker Street 1905 and to Crosslands 1929, where it became known as Our Lady’s Convent School. By 1924 there were 16 council schools in Barrow, and a further 3 Roman Catholic schools. New school built at Risedale 1926, and grammar school for boys opened 1930, followed by girls’ grammar school 1932. Primary schools established on new council estates at Greengate (1950), Ormsgill (1951) and South Newbarns (1953) and new St Paul’s CE School 1957. St Aloysius’ RC Secondary School opened 1953. New primary schools built at Yarlside and Hawcoat (1972) and St Mary’s RC Primary was replaced by 2 new schools: St. Pius X, Schneider Road, and Holy Family, Newbarns, 1974. Roman Catholic preparatory school, forerunner of Chetwynde School, opened at Crosslands 1945. Technical School expanded to create new Central College of Further Education, which moved to new building in Howard Street 1954. Technical School split from College again 1964, moving to new building in Thorncliffe Road. Reorganisation following introduction of comprehensive system 1979 created four comprehensive schools: Grammar School and, briefly, Risedale sites became Parkview School; Technical School became Thorncliffe School; St Aloysius’ RC School merged with Our Lady’s Convent School to become St Bernard’s Catholic High School, and Alfred Barrow School retained its name. New Sixth Form College, Rating Lane, also opened 1979. Alfred Barrow, Thorncliffe, and Parkview Secondary Schools amalgamated 2009 to form Furness Academy. Further education provided at Furness College on new site at Channelside, opened 2012.

Other institutions:

Market and town hall built 1866; new Town Hall, Duke Street, completed 1887. Other public buildings in centre of new town included Working Men’s Club and Institute, built 1870-1, and Ramsden Hall, built as public bath 1871; converted to public hall 1886. Workhouse opened at Roose 1880; separate accommodation for children in Cottage Homes, Roose Road, from 1905. Workhouse became Roose Hospital for geriatric and elderly care, 1948; closed 1993; building subsequently demolished. Temporary hospital opened in private house 1866; replaced by North Lonsdale Hospital, School Street, opened 1875; closed 1984 (subsequently demolished) when new Furness General Hospital, Dalton Lane, opened. Other hospitals included Isolation Hospital, Devonshire Road (opened 1882; closed c.1984), Smallpox Hospital at Rakesmoor (1903), Risedale Maternity Hospital (opened 1921; closed c.1984) and Infant Clinic, Abbey Road (opened 1934). Library opened in temporary building 1882; transferred to newly opened Town Hall 1887. New purpose-built library opened in Ramsden Square 1922, which also housed town’s museum until 1994 when relocated to Dock Museum, on site of redundant Graving Dock. Branch libraries at Salthouse and Victoria School (opened 1940) and Barrow Island (1944). Theatre Royal, Albert Street, opened 1864; became Her Majesty’s Theatre 1952; closed 1968. Music halls: The Alexandra, Forshaw Street, (1866; converted to Regal cinema 1931) and Alhambra Palace, Cavendish Street (1872; converted to Odeon, later Classic, cinema 1937; closed 1976). Other cinemas (of which there were eight in 1950s) included Ritz cinema, on corner of Holker Street and Abbey Road, opened 1936; closed and demolished 1999; replaced by Apollo cinema, Cornerhouse Park. Live performances held at Forum 28 Arts Centre, Duke Street. Barrow Public Park opened on 45-acre [18-ha] site in Abbey Road 1901; laid out by Thomas Mawson 1904-07 and extended 1920; leisure centre built there 1991, and park restored to its original design 2005