An Engine for Growth
The Furness Railway didn't just build a railway line but their vision for Barrow was that it come to rival Liverpool.
James Ramsden and the Duke of Devonshire didn't see the Furness Railway as just a simple iron ore and slate transporation line. They thought that by using the same model of large-scale investment they could create similarly profitable enterprises. One day, the thinking went, Barrow could rival the likes of Liverpool.
With that in mind, when in 1854 the Hindpool estate of the late John Cranke came onto the market, the Furness Railway showed an immediate interest. The estate comprised 160 acres, which the Railway secured in August 1854 for a price of £7,000. This purchase was to prove key to Barrow’s subsequent expansion. It allowed for large-scale industrial development.
In October 1859 the ironworks were first put into blast by its owners Hannay and Schneider. Using the vast reserves of iron ore recently found at Park mine it made perfect sense for iron to be produced locally rather than being transported away. Soon Ramsden was suggesting that a steelworks (pictured left) should be also commence and the Duke of Devonshire was again happy to invest in such a logical next step.
Concurrently, a docks project was set up. The capital for the docks project, originally £137,000, was raised principally from the Duke of Devonshire and the Duke of Buccleuch, after whom the first two docks were to be named. The railway company bought up the land around the Channel, including the whole of Barrow Island and, on the mainland side. Work started in 1865, at first on what was to become the Devonshire Dock, at the northern end of the Channel. It was a massive project, taking more than two years to complete and at its height employing 2,000 men in its construction. However, the docks never repaid the expense they incurred and loan payments were a severe drain on the Furness Railway finances.