Barrow-in-Furness: The early days

Barrow-in-Furness – but yesterday an obscure fishing village and today a corporate borough with nearly 30,000 inhabitants.

Francis Leach in “Barrow-in-Furness, its rise and progress with brief sketches of its leading industries” 1872.

Barrow-in-Furness, at once one of the youngest towns in Great Britain, has also shown itself to be one of the most progressive. The genesis of Barrow’s rise from a mere hamlet containing a few farmhouses to its present imposing dimensions is to be found in the development of the iron industry, which was rendered possible by the existence of valuable deposits of iron ore throughout the district.

Souvenir of Barrow-in-Furness and District circa 1910

In 1780 Barrow consisted of 5 farm houses clustered on the shore. In 1822 the number had risen to 20 with a blacksmith, butcher and shoemaker living in the village. In 1782 the Newland Company built a pier to export iron ore. By 1833 a second pier had been built with two more in 1839 and 1842. Several lists of inhabitants of Barrow Village in the early 19th century survive. In 1838 inhabitants included Matthew Todd, blacksmith, John Hartley, grocer, John Smith, shoemaker, Peggy Keary, little toffee shop owner, Thomas Haslam, tailor, Joseph and William Fisher, farmers and a number of miners. Iron ore from mines in the Dalton area was brought to Barrow by horse and cart and shipped out from four quays. Barrow, part of parish of Dalton-in-Furness, was one of five villages in what is now the Barrow area: Newbarns, Hawcoat, Biggar and North Scale being the others.

This article is based on an exhibition created by Cumbria Archive and Local Studies Centre, Barrow-in-Furness.

Plan of Barrow by W B Kendall in 1843
Copyright: Cumbria Archive and Local Studies Centre, Barrow-in-Furness
This plan shows Barrow in 1846 and in 1849. The railway station, railway buildings and the Salthouse railway cottages have been built. St George’s was opened in 1856 so is not shown on this plan. The hotel shown in the site of an iron ore yard is probably The Harbour Hotel built in 1851.
Copyright: Cumbria Archive and Local Studies Centre, Barrow-in-Furness
James Ramsden drew up a plan of the town in 1856. The original Barrow village is shown with planned streets. The iron works is shown with planned areas for shipbuilding yards. Z537
Copyright: Cumbria Archive and Local Studies Centre, Barrow-in-Furness

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