history of barrow...
Although the Romans seem to have bypassed the area, the Vikings occupied Barrow and Walney Island leaving their legacy in place names such as North Scale (from ‘skali' - Norse for summer dwelling), Biggar (from ‘bygg gar' meaning barley field) and Roa.(red island).
The establishment of Furness Abbey in 1127 had a major impact on the area. By the early 13th century, the Abbey was the second largest monastery in England. Piel Castle was also used by the monks as a warehouse to store grain and wool prior to shipment overseas.
For centuries Furness was part of Lancashire and being an isolated northern outpost it was left quietly undisturbed until the mid-19th century. The arrival of the Furness Railway in 1846 made it much easier to transport iron ore and slate out of the area. Within 40 years, Barrow went from being a small village on a remote headland to a large industrial town with railway, docks, iron/steelworks and a thriving shipyard.
Expansion came about through the influence of three men: Lord Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire (the financier), Henry Schneider (local iron ore magnate) and James Ramsden (managing director of the Furness Railway Company). James Ramsden then conceived the idea of using Barrow's steel to build ships and with money invested by the railway company and the Duke of Devonshire the Barrow Shipbuilding Company was formed in 1871. Two years later the company launched its first sailing vessel and started building ships for clients all over the world. Within a few years Barrow's shipbuilding industry was renowned. Over 1000 vessels, from warships to oil tankers and passenger liners, have been built here since 1873.
In 1897 the shipyard and engineering works were taken over by Vickers who ran it for nearly a century. The Company developed the model estate of Vickerstown on Walney in the early 1900s to provide homes for shipyard workers, complete with shops, churches, a farm and a park. At around the same time, a bridge was opened to link Walney with Barrow (re-named Jubilee Bridge in 1935).
Today, the steel industry has disappeared but shipbuilding is still at the economic core of the town with BAE Systems continuing to build submarines for the Royal Navy in the huge Devonshire Dock Hall that dominates the southern part of the town.