An industrial port town which grew up around the 19th century port of Furness which was an area for iron ore exportation from a tiny hamlet of the same era. Due to its interesting Cumbrian dialect, the accent has become known as Barrovian after it separated as a part of Lancashire in 1974 and was put under the custodian of Cumbria. It became one of the biggest ship-building forces of England to which the major one is Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering. The name 'Barrow' for which the town is commonly called, is said to have originated from an island known as 'Barri' traceable from the late 12th century. It was later renamed in 1537 as 'Oldebarrey' or 'Old Barrow' and eventually again in 1577 as the 'Old Barrow Insula' or 'Barrohead'. It is a name formed from both English and Old Norse language elements. Although in the 19th and 20th century, Barrow was sometimes referred to as the 'English Chicago' due to its rapid growth at that time.
Although a certain settlement now, in the past Barrow and the surrounding area (including that of nearby Walney Island which is joined to Barrow by Walney Bridge) has had several settlement attempts, for instance, tools in the form of flint instruments date back to Mesolithic times and even supposed Neolithic inhabitants on Walney Island. Although there is a strong presence of Roman influence elsewhere in Cumbria, there is evidence of them settling down as Roman community in the Furness peninsula. Instead, a Viking influence is prominent with strong evidence from the recent Furness Hoard, a vast amount of Viking coins from the 9th and 10th century that was discovered in May 2011 and is held at the Dock Museum in Barrow.
Another important part of Barrow-in-Furness's history is the Furness Abbey, its remains of which are located to the northeast of Barrow. It was built by monks for the Savigny order in the early 12th century but eventually was given to the Cistercians in 1147 who rebuilt and enlarged the Abbey. One incident which happened was during Robert De Bruce's invasion of England when the abbot paid homage to him in order for the Abbey's and the surrounding area's protection. It was once the second richest Cistercian house in England only beaten by Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire until it was disestablished and left for ruin after the English Reformation ordered by Henry VIII. Before the development of the area, the Abbey's location was perfect for the Cistercian monks who believed in isolation. With most of the cloister arches and architectural detail intact amongst the ruins and its gothic style, it is easy to understand the beauty and riches the place once had. In fact, after it was left for ruin, it has left inspiration and marvel for people such as William Wordsworth and Theodore Roosevelt (who was visiting as a tourist in his childhood). It is now owned by the English Heritage and is open to the public.
Being one of its most important industries, shipbuilding and metal exportation is an industry which a lot of the residents of Walney and Barrow's jobs were dedicated to during the Industrial Revolution and still of modern day. This boom in industry actually caused a massive population boom as well with around 10,000 residents in 1864 to about 47,000 in 1881. It the end of the 19th century Vickers shipyard became a well known icon of Barrow for naval vessels which still remains a specialty for Barrow's shipbuilding reputation. In fact, the workforce of Vickers was so huge, that the company decided to construct Vickerstown on Walney Island to house its employees in the early 20th century. Vickers has been important for the British navy for reasons such as Holland I, the first British submarine was built at Vickers as well as the Mikasa, a Japanese flagship during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, HMS Invincible, one of the British Navy's leading ships until its decommission in 2011 and even HMS Dreadnought, Britain's first nuclear-powered submarine. It played an important role in both World Wars due to its location and steel availability along with other shipyards of the time.
Walney Island was not only an area for many Vickers's employees, its Southern part is used as a Nature Reserve, being one of the very places where eider duck nest. It also has a wide variety of geranium and a massive gullery with birds from the greenshank to the Herring gull. There two other notable islands nearby, namely Roa and Piel Island. Roa was apparently joined to the mainland by a causeway by a rich London banker by the name of John Abel Smith and is now home to a RNLI lifeboat station, built in 1864 and has a population of about 100 people. Piel Island is even smaller with a population of around 10 and has a castle known as Piel Castle which dates back to the Middle Ages and was used and built by the Cistercian monks from Furness Abbey for refugee. It is currently free to public for an unlimited time and the island is often a place of bird nesting. Although the island eventually fell under the ownership of the Duke of Buccleuch, he donated to the people of Barrow in 1920 as a World War I memorial. It is accessible by a boat from Roa Island.
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