Iron ore mined in the Furness area and not used in the local iron furnaces at Backbarrow, Newland and Duddon Bridge, was initially shipped from Barrow to be smelted elsewhere in England. A number of jetties were built along the channel between the mainland and Barrow Island in the 1830s and 1840s for this purpose. In 1859 Schneider, Hannay and Company established the iron works in Hindpool, marking the beginning of what would be the largest iron and steel works in the world. Barrow Hematite Steel Company was incorporated in 1865 with the 7th Duke of Devonshire as chairman, James Ramsden as managing director and Josiah T Smith employed as general manager.
Twelve blast furnaces were built in the 1860s producing 5000 to 5550 tones of iron each week. In 1866 18 Bessemer convertors started making steel from the iron smelted at the iron works. By 1903 7000 tons of steel was produced a week. A large amount of the steel was used to make rails for railways all over the world. The steel works closed by 1939 reopening in 1942 when they were taken over by the Ministry of Supply.
From 1962 no new steel was made, instead scrap was melted to produce steel. The steel works became part of British Steel in 1964 and the works closed in 1983. All that is left is the slag banks which have now been landscaped and opened from walkers.
The iron furnaces was opened at Hindpool, Barrow. Witnessed by several gentleman who came by special Train on 18 October. Owners Messrs Hannah and Schneider, It was a Galla and a beautiful day for the season.
Extract from the Diary of William Fisher, a yeoman farmer whose farmhouse was where Schneider Square is. 21 November 1859
Opening of the Hindpool Furnaces. Had a great dinner at the Abbey.
Extract from the diary of Edward Wadham of Millwood, agent for the Duke of Buccleuch.
Iron, 18 October 1859
This article is based on an exhibition created by Cumbria Archive and Local Studies Centre, Barrow-in-Furness.