1902 Encyclopedia > Barrow-in-Furness


BARROW-IN-FURNESS, a borough, port, and parish in the hundred of Lonsdale, North-West Lancashire, situated opposite the island of Walney, at the extreme point of the peninsula of Furness, which lies between Morecambe Bay and the estuary of the Duddon. It is distant 35 miles from Lancaster and 91 from Carlisle. The area of the borough, which includes Walney and the islets at its south end, is 17,000 acres, of which 8155 are land, the rest being sand and water.

The town has had a remarkable rise. The veins of pure haematite iron ore in the district, now so extensively wrought, have long been in repute; and more than a hundred years ago, a small traffic was carried on in the ore, with the addition by-and-by of pig-iron, which early began to be manufactured in the vicinity of the mines,—the branch of the channel, now converted into docks, serving as a harbour, and the beach as a quay, for the shipment of the material brought down from the mines and charcoal furnaces. But at the beginning of the present century the annual export was only about 1000 tons, and then, and for many years after, though the trade went on increasing, the place was the merest hamlet, the population so recently as 1847 being only 325. It may be said that the railway has created the modern town. By the opening in 1846 of the first short section of the Furness Company's line, from the mines near Dalton to Piel pier and Barrow, the trade of the district received a great impetus, and it rapidly developed with the various extensions of the railway, till in 1857, by the carrying of the line over Morecambe sands, through communication was established between Barrow and Carnforth. When the railway was opened the ship-ments of ore had risen to 60,000 tons a year, while within five years afterwards there left by sea and rail a total of 250,000 which again, within other five years, increased to 450,000 tons. The next great onward step was the establishment at Barrow, in 1859, of the iron-works of Messrs Schneider and Hannay, followed in 1864 by the commencement of steel-works, the two being united in 1866 under " The Barrow Haematite Steel Company (Limited)." In 1867 there were opened the Devonshire and Buccleuch docks, constructed at a comparatively small cost by the enclosure of the channel between the mainland and a small island on which shipbuilding works have since been erected. The docks comprise an area of above 60 acres, are entered from Walney Channel by a gateway 60 feet wide, give a uniform depth of 24 feet, the stone quays being 1J miles long, and the wharves supplied with hydraulic cranes, one of which is capable of lifting 100 tons. Within a few years after the opening of the docks various impor-tant branches of industry were introduced, by means of which the town has both been consolidated and increased. The census of 1871 gives a return of 17,992, while a census for municipal purposes, November 1874, showed a population of over 40,000. The inhabited houses at the same period numbered about 6000, the rateable value of the borough being £144,000. The town owes much of its prosperity to the enterprise of the dukes of Devon-shire and Buccleuch, and also to the foresight, zeal, and practical ability of Sir James Ramsden, managing director of the Furness Railway Company and first mayor of the borough, who in 1872 received the honour of knighthood as an acknowledgement of the value of his work, while a massive bronze statue in the centre of the town, raised about the same time by voluntary contributions, testifies to the appreciation of his services by the community.

A great part of the town lies low, much of it being built on ground reclaimed from the sea. It is well laid out, according to a fixed plan, in regular streets running at right angles, viz., north and south, and east and west. About £19,000 have already been expended on approaches and general road improvements. Not many public buildings can be looked for, but among others are the North Lonsdale Hospital; the Workmen's Club and Institute, the gift of MrH. W. Schneider, and others; swimming baths, presented by Sir James Bamsden; a town-hall and large covered market, besides churches, schools, and banks.

The first place among the public works must be assigned to those of the Barrow Haematite Steel Company. Their iron-works have sixteen blast furnaces constructed so as to save the waste gases, which are utilized in heating the boilers and hot-air ovens. At the steel-works, which are the largest in Great Britain, are eighteen converters for making Bessemer steel. The amount of ore used is about 460,000 tons annually, of which the company's own mines yield upwards of 350,000 tons. There is an annual produce of 250,000 tons pig-iron, and 110,000 tons of steel, 80,000 tons of the latter being rails. In the pro-cesses about 500,000 tons of coke and coal are consumed annually; and the company employ at their works and iron-mines nearly 5000 men, besides a large number at coal-mines which they also work.

The works of the Iron Shipbuilding Company (capital, a quarter of a million), lying between the docks and Walney Channel, cover an area of 50 acres, with a frontage of 1050 feet, where ten vessels of the largest size can be laid down. When the works are in full operation, 6000 men will be employed. There is also a graving-dock of the largest size.

The Barrow Flax and Jute Company have an extensive jute work adjoining the docks, and communicating with the railway. It covers an area of 14 acres, has an imposing and attractive exterior, and is beautifully and elaborately fitted up with the greatest possible regard to efficiency and comfort. The works employ 2000 hands. Besides the above there are large engineering-works, waggon-works, saw-mills, brick-works, and a steam corn-mill.
The trade of the port is indicated by the character of the public works. The imports are chiefly timber, coal, jute, and general produce. Ore, steel rails, and pig-iron are chief among the exports. In 1874 the vessels entering the port numbered 1620, with a tonnage of 347,800 tons register. An extension of dock accommodation is being provided in a series of basins, to be called the Ramsden dock, with a water area of 200 acres. Passenger steamers run daily to Belfast, and there is also a regular service to Glasgow and to the Isle of Man. By rail there is connection with Whitehaven, and with the London and North-Western and Midland systems, with branches to the Lake district.

Barrow is in the diocese of Carlisle. Besides the Church of England, which has three places of worship, there are the following churches :—the Presbyterian, Congregational, Wesloyan, Methodist New Connexion, Baptist, and Primi-tive Methodist.

The town received a charter of incorporation in 1867, when a council of sixteen was nominated, that number being doubled by an Act obtained in 1875. The supply of water comes from Kirkby Moor, the water-works as well as the gas-works being the property of the corporation. A cemetery has been provided at a cost of £25,000, with three chapels. A complete and thorough plan of drainage is being carried out, partly on the separate system. There is a fire brigade under the corporation, and at the entrance to the harbour there is a life-boat station. The police are those of the county. Several newspapers are published; and there are branches of various banking establishments, oome of them occupying large and handsome buildings.

The extensive and interesting ruins of Furness Abbey, founded by Stephen in 1127, lie within the borough, over two miles from the heart of the town. They are beauti-fully situated in a small wooded valley, with a hotel and railway station close by. On Piel island is the Pile of Fouldrey, or Piel castle, the ruin of a castle built in 1327 by the abbot of Furness.

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