Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Victorian Emergency Services Series - Dalton-in-Furness

Today we take Emergency Services like hospitals, the police and the fire brigade for granted. They are engrained in our modern world, if we need them they are there and we can always rely on them. Back in the Victorian Era though things were very different. In this post we continue our series on Victorian Emergency Services by looking at Dalton-in-Furness.

Police Station and Court House

Dalton has had its fair share of law enforcement sites, the earliest being that of Dalton Castle which was used as a dungeon and court house in the middle ages, but at the start of the 1800's there was only a small lock up to detain those unwilling to follow the law. This lock up sat in the grounds of a work house on Goose Green and was 7 feet long and 6 feet wide. The lock up was originally constructed in 1828 to restrain and detain drunk and rowdy farmers and reapers who came to the town on Sundays. From 1841 law enforcement in the town was maintained by one man, P.C. William Robinson, who's office and residence may well have been on Goose Green near to the lock up.

Sometime later the towns police station was situated in a building on the corner of Nelson Street and Chapel Street. This building is now a private home and not much really shows that it used to be a police station. It was then, in 1897, that a brand new, custom built police station and court house was opened on Market Street. This new station was an imposing and impressive building sat right on the road side for everyone to see. Inside the new building was not only the police station but a court room, housing for the constables as well as the inspector's house! The inspector's house, located on the far right of the building, was a three story town house but it was a little different to most town houses. For one it was connected directly to the main station with a door from the hall way leading through another hall to the court room and a door way in the kitchen that led directly to the cells! This may seem odd but if something happened in the cells, say a fight amongst prisoners; the inspector would need quick access to the cells and station to help sort it out. Being a Victorian Police Inspector was a 24 hour job it would seem. Also we have heard tales that the inspector's wife would take food to the prisoners so it would make sense that their kitchen had access to the cells.

Perhaps the most sinister aspect of the Inspector's house is that beneath it's ground floor lies an underground mortuary for the examination and dissection of bodies found in Dalton streets. As you can see, to the right, taking center stage inside the room was a morgue table with a marble top. Marble would be used to keep the cadavers cool and to some extent 'fresh'. Along one edge of the room is a sunken gully leading to a drain in the corner, this was for any blood spilled during an autopsy to be drained away. Quite why the morgue had to be situated beneath the Inspectors personal house is unclear. Maybe it was so the small window letting light and air into the basement room would face into an ally way instead of into a well used street? This would prevent anyone from being able to peer into the morgue while an autopsy was undertaken, but this is merely speculation. Unfortunately the Morgue Table has now been removed, which is a shame as there aren't many intact Victorian Morgues left in this area.

The Police Station itself is a much large building compared to the Inspectors house. On the left of the building is a door that would have led into the Police Offices with a general officers room to your left and the inspector's office to your right, both separated by interior walls. Behind the inspector's office was a door way leading to the cells. Past this door you would have to pass through a large iron barred gate where you would then find three small cells at 13'.0" x 7'.6" each. These cells were, and still are, covered in red and white tiles and each would have had a bed across one wall with a small toilet in the far left corner of the cell. Although each cell has ample room for one person these cells could have been filled with up to 20+ prisoners, the cells weren't made for comfort! Behind the cells there was an area simply called 'Cell Area' on the plans, this area we believe was the exercise yard for the prisoners. It would have been an inside area with a glass roof allowing light in, one imagines this was to prevent any prisoners trying to escape by climbing over uncovered walls.

Next to the Police Offices was the Court room, walls covered with lovely oak paneling this room was used to put on trial the wrong doers of Dalton. Just outside the Court room was a staircase that lead to some more paneled rooms above, here magistrates would decide the innocents or guilt of those held on trial. There is a wonderful tiled Victorian bathroom that adjoins these paneled rooms of which you can see a picture of later in this post.

This building is a stunning example of Victorian architecture, built to be imposing, sending a message to the towns people that the police are there and they will protect you. It also is a truly multi purpose building holding the police officers, the court room, cells, exercise yard,  inspector's house, morgue, magistrate's rooms as well as constable's lodgings. The whole station was done up as a cafe and house a couple of years ago but is now unfortunately closed to the public. Hopefully in the future the cafe will be reopened so everyone can see inside this wonderful building. Until then though you can always admire the old County Police Station from the road side and imagine what lies inside. Also if you look behind the station there are two houses made in the same materials, these were sergeants dwellings built with the station.

Fire Station and Ambulance

Standing on Station Road is Dalton's well known Town Hall but this building wasn't always just the Town Hall. In the later part of the Victorian period this building also housed the local Fire Station. The building was built in 1885 and the council chamber was situated beneath the clock tower with the Fire Station standing next to this. On the far right of the building you can see a large open door way, this is where the fire engine would be held ready for action. Originally horses would have drawn the town's engine and these horses were stabled behind the building where a large yard was situated. Although the fire station was here from 1885 the fire brigade was established several years earlier in 1874. This was the first official fire brigade in the town, although a 'fire fighting appliance' does appear to have been in the town from an earlier time. As well as a fire engine being housed at the Town Hall building an Ambulance was also kept here. Where this ambulance would take injured or ill people is un-clear. There doesn't seem to be evidence of a hospital in the town so maybe patients were taken to Barrow to the North Lonsdale Hospital? Or maybe taken straight to the local Doctor's surgery? If we ever find out we will be sure to let you know.

The remains of Dalton's Victorian Emergency Services are clear to see in this modern time with large buildings still standing. Although some of the very early emergency services buildings now lost to time it is a wonderful thing that the major buildings used in the late 1800s are still standing and used today. To lose these buildings would be a tragedy and would be a loss to our vivid heritage. Let us hope that they will still be here for many years to come!

Come back on the 4th March for the next Furness Hidden Heritage blog post about some features located around Furness Abbey, following on from our earlier post about the Amphitheatre.



Two of the Cells inside the old Police Station while being converted to toilets.
An original Victorian bathroom on the first
floor of the Police Station.

A section of original Victorian Wallpaper from
inside the police station

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A Lost Industrial Site and Stately Home, Claye's Wagon Works and Infield House

Extending off of Salthouse Road, Barrow, next to Vulcan Road is a small industrial site including a car garage. The site is not the most attractive looking place and many wouldn't give it a second glance but this site has a hidden past that many may not know!

During the 1800's Barrow saw a boom in industry taking the town from a small fishing village to a large and at times crowded town. One industry that sprang up in the town during this period was S.J.Claye's Wagon Works. The Works was set up to build railway wagons for the ever growing Furness Railway and it is where the small industrial site and garage now lie that the Wagon Works were built.

A man named Samuel John Claye, who already had a successful wagon works at Long Eaton in the Derbyshire came to the town and saw need for a works. He bought land on Salthouse Road and soon built the Wagon Works. The building was a large construction some 300+ feet long and 170 feet wide. In fact part of the building we believe still stands today and is currently occupied by the garage we spoke of earlier. The garage is in a small building which looks to have once been part of a larger one. The two triangle sectioned roof is typical of Victorian industrial buildings and matches the style of roof the Wagon Works once had. The Works had a large main building split into three sections; the wagon shop, the paint shop and the saw mill. At the end of the main building was a smaller attached section holding two rooms; the Engine Room and Boiler Room. It is in these two rooms where the garage is situated today. You can see a plan of the building at the foot of this section as well as a map from 1873 which has the Wagon Works marked on it so you can see it's shape and positioning. Unfortunately the remains of the Wagon Works, now occupied by the garage, have been covered in a pebbledash render. This has covered up the typical red brick construction of Victorian Barrow but you can still find evidence of it where the render has come away.


The Wagon Works continued to make wagons for the railway and iron industry for several years after it's construction employing many skilled workmen from the town. Two of it's workmen were part of controversy in 1875 when they took part in a prize fight! The two men, Ennis and Hockney, had a dispute over something and decided to have a prize fight to settle the matter. A prize fight being a bare knuckle fight where bets are placed on the out come. The fight took place on a plot of land called Kendall's Garden some 100 feet from the Wagon Works. The men fought for 2 hours, taking breaks occasionally, and up to 200 spectators gathered over its course. The fight reached its end with Ennis dealing a fatal amount of blows, which resulted in Hockney's untimely death. Ennis was later arrested and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment at Lancaster. It is perhaps ironic that not long after Ennis was released from prison he himself died taking part in a similar fight!

At sometime Mr. Claye decided to build himself a home in the ever expanding town. He did this on the then outskirts of Barrow, just off of Abbey Road. The house, well, the mansion, he built was named Infield and stood some way back from the road surrounded by land. It is unclear how long Mr. Claye lived here for but by 1882 he had gone into liquidation and left the town to live out the rest of his life in Long Eaton. He died on 3rd April 1887 from a short illness aged 68.

After his death both Infield and the Wagon Works were sold off. The Wagon Works eventually went to the Vulcan Steel and Forge that stood next to the works. Infield however went on to become a War Memorial and Convalescent home after World War 1, where people would stay to be treated for long term illness and/or injury. Eventually the home shut and fell into disrepair, after this the building was demolished and a housing estate was built in the 1960s on the land where it once stood. This estate still stands today and retains the name of the former mansion that stood there, Infield. The wall that stands at the front of the estate is the same wall that would have once surrounded the mansion, the original gate posts are still standing too. You can see these features and the estate just off of Abbey Road past the entrance to Chetwynde School.

While in Barrow Mr. Claye took to local politics and stood for election in the Yarlside Ward of the Municipal Council for many years until 1877. Also in 1875 he applied for a license to sell alcohol in a house he intended to build on the corner of Foundry Street and Salthouse road, just across the road from his Wagon Works. Although after a dispute he withdrew his application. Eventually a pub was built where Mr. Claye had originally intended but it wasn't by him, the pub still stands today, if closed, as the Rifleman's Arms.

Although not much remains of the Wagon Works or Infield house it is wonderful to know that these buildings once existed in Barrow. It is a shame that Infield is no longer standing as it was surely an impressive sight to behold. The Wagon Works must also have been rather impressive but as many of our industrial buildings it was lost to demolition and 'progress'. 

The next blog will be online from February 18th and will be the next in our Victorian Emergency Services Series, this time looking at Dalton-in-Furness. So be sure to check back then, in the meantime we hope you have enjoyed this post!
Left: Sketch of Infield House.      Right: Photo of inside Infield when it was a convalescent home.

 Left: The Site of Infield House Today.      Right: The Site of Claye's Wagon Works Today.
Model of an S.J.Claye Wagon. This one from his Long Eaton Works.