Barrow's rapid expansion from small fishing village to Victorian boom-town produced feelings of surprise and even awe from some onlookers.
"One of the miracles of our time; I look upon it with that same sort of wonder with which some people regard the pyramids.” (Bishop of Carlisle, 1871)
Pictured right, Juteworks by GH Andrews, painted in 1875.
If you want to find out more about this fascinating period then come to the Dock Museum for a visit or even a guided tour (booking essential for tours).
In 1841 Barrow was a quiet country village of 152 inhabitants. Only 30 years later, the population had exploded to 18,911, an enormous increase. The discovery of large sops of iron ore, Furness Railway’s development plans and a fever of speculation pushed on and on the town’s growth.
Barrow was a farming village, roughly triangular in shape reaching down from the top of a glacial sand mound (called the Sand Area until Schneider Square was laid out in the 1890s) to the shoreline. Between 1770 and 1840 Barrow slowly grew; the number of buildings increased to 24 and the population to about 150. As well as farmers there were now grocers, a tailor, butcher, baker (but no candlestick maker), a blacksmith and two inns – the Burlington and the Ship.
The shelter of Walney island offered a safe harbour at Barrow and from about the 1740s a small port developed to carry away Furness iron ore to smelting works in Wales and the Midlands. Four jetties were built out into the Channel to ease the loading of ore boats, the first in 1790, the last in 1842. There was one bottleneck to overcome before the full potential of the mines around Dalton and Lindal could be realised. Ore was carted to the port of Barrow and whilst there could be up to 400 carts in action at any given time, the loads they carried were small and the primitive roads were often impassible in winter. In the era of railway mania the solution was obvious.