Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Tudor Manor, Meeting House and Home of the Quakers, Swarthmoor Hall

Sitting on the outskirts of Swarthmoor, near Ulverston, there stands a building that is often forgotten about, Swarthmoor Hall. The Hall has such an important and interesting history that it really should be visited more!

Swarthmoor Hall, now covered in a less than flattering pebbledash render, was built in about 1568 by George Fell. George's son Thomas, who was a lawyer in London, married Margaret Askew, a Furness women, in 1632. Soon after their marriage they took up residence in the hall. Some years late in 1642 The English Civil War broke out. During the War Thomas Fell was on the side of the Parliamentarians and held several important positions in the North. Within this period Margaret became a Seeker. The Seekers were a 17th century religious group of which many were becoming part of in Cumbria and the North. Due to Thomas's involvement in the Civil War he often had to leave Swarthmoor to travel, this continued after the war had finished. It was on one of his absences in 1652 that a man named George Fox visited Swarthmoor Hall. Fox, while at Swarthmoor, convinced Margaret and her family of the truth as seen by him and his followers. When Thomas returned to the Hall he met with Fox and he granted permission for Fox and his followers to meet every Sunday in the great hall. This was the start of the Religious Society of Friends, more popularly known as the Quakers.

From 1652 Swarthmoor Hall became the base of Fox's work and was the centre of Quakerism, helping spread the new religion though the North. Meetings between Friends were held at the Hall until 1688 when Fox was given the Meeting House nearby, on the now appropriately named Meeting House Lane. This meeting house is still in use today by the Society for meetings and worship. You can easily find the meeting house by foot or by road and it is certainly worth a look, although public access is prohibited you can see it from the pavement and road.

Although allowing meetings at his home Thomas Fell never became a 'Friend'. He would though, in his later life, listen in on the meetings from the parlour. He no doubt had an interest in the Society and would want to keep an eye on what was taking place within his home. In 1658 Thomas died. Upon his death the Hall was left to his Wife Margaret, now a keen member of the Quakers. Today Margaret is often referred to as the 'Mother of Quakerism' and with good reason. Her passion for the religion led her to visit London in 1660 where she endeavoured to persuade Charles II to implement his promise of religious tolerance. It was through her persuasion that some 4000 friends were released from prison. Margaret herself was held in prison at Lancaster Castle in 1664 for refusing to stop holding Quaker meetings at Swarthmoor. In 1668 Charles II gave her a free pass and on her release she traveled South to visit other Friends being held in prison. She even married Quaker fonder George Fox who was busy spreading the religion though England and to America.

Through out their marriage Fox stayed at Swarthmoor Hall for around 4 years in total. In this time he dictated some of his journal and wrote many letters. He also undertook many interviews here. Fox sadly died in 1691 leaving Margaret a widow for the second time in her life. Margaret continued her work with the Quakers until her death in 1702. Upon her death she was laid to rest with Friends in the Quaker burial ground on Birkrigg Common, something we have spoken about in a previous blog. There she still lies to this day and a plaque commemorating her is attached to the wall of the burial ground.

Swarthmoor Hall itself is a beautiful Tudor Manor House with many interesting features of the time both inside and out. There are wonderful mullioned windows across the house with some impressive bayed windows on one side, originally believed to be the front of the house. On this side there is also a wooden balcony on the first floor, a set of wooden stairs may once have risen to this platform. Above the door that leads to this balcony there is a well carved piece of sandstone forming the lintel which is worth a look. Within the building there is oak paneling galore, a rather interesting travel bed and staircase as well as many other features. We won't go into any detail about the interior of the Hall, you will have to visit for that!

Swarthmoor Hall is one of those hidden gems in Furness, many don't realise it is there but once you have found it you regret having not found it sooner. It is a tranquil and lovely place to visit with not only the attraction of the Hall but of some well kept gardens. It is a shame that such a significant building, the birth place of Quakerism, is today a largely forgotten place not often visited by tourists or locals alike, so why not take a trip yourself?

If you would like to visit the Hall then check out their website for opening times and events

The next Hidden Heritage blog will be online from February 4th and will be looking at two lost sites of Barrow.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Victorian Emergency Services Series - Barrow-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 Barrow at the start of the 1800s there were no hospitals, no established police station and the fire brigade was not as well organised as it is today.

In this post we will take a look at the formation of the Emergency Services in Barrow in many buildings that still stand today but may be easily missed.


On the corner of Cross Street and Albert Street there is a typical terraced house similar to many seen on Barrow streets, but this building has a hidden past that little may know.

In 1866 the then Vicar of St. Georges, Rev. Barret, set up a hospital in this house having seen a need for one in the town. This hospital became known as St. Georges Hospital and was run by the Vicar and a ‘committee of ladies’. There is nothing to indicate that this small house (see portrait image below) once was a hospital, let alone the first real hospital in the town!

As demand for the hospital grew it had to expand. To do this it moved to a whole row of three story buildings in School Street. These buildings still stand today and have been converted to housing, but reminders of their Victorian past can still be seen high up built into the brickwork. The words ‘Barrow Hospital Supported by Voluntary Contributions’ are clearly visible just below the windows of the third floor. A much larger site than the original at Cross Street but even with this impressive expansion the hospital was found to be too small for growing need. Another expansion was needed and, as the first expansion, the hospital was set to move completely. The Furness Railway gave some land for a new site to be built just across the road from the current building. The architectural firm Paley and Austin, of Lancaster, were hired to design the new build and after many local donations the North Lonsdale Hospital was erected. The brand new hospital opened its doors for the first time in 1874 and continued to serve the town for over 110 years until Furness General Hospital was built in 1984.

The original Hospital on Cross Street (left) and the site of the North Lonsdale Hospital (right) 

Police Station 

On Rawlinson Street, between Ramsden Street and Storey Square, stands a row of, on the face of it, typical terraced houses. But look a little closer and you can see a sign that reads 'Police Station AD 1880'. This building once, in Victorian times, was one of Barrow's first Police Stations. Although the sign reads 1880 it would appear that a lease on the building was taken out in 1874 by Colonel Robert Bruce. He also took out a lease for a building in Crellin Street all "to be used, occupied and enjoyed as Police Stations".

"This Indenture made the fifteenth day of February 1874 between William Grandwell of Barrow-in-Furness in the county of Lancaster, builder of one part and Colonel Robert Bruce of Preston in the said county of Lancaster, Chief Constable of the County Constabulary. To hold the premises hereinbefore expressed to be hereby demised unto the said Robert Bruce and his successors in office as aforesaid for the term of 7 years from the first day of November 1873(4) yielding and paying unto the said William Grandwell his heirs and assigners during the said term the yearly rent of £80 by two equal half yearly payments on the 1st day of May and the first day of November." - Taken from the original Draft Lease.

The whole red brick section, as pictured above, was leased by Robert Bruce for the police but only one section was actually used as the Station itself. The section of the building which has the sign upon it is the Station. The sections on either side are housing for Police Officers. As you enter the Station there would have been a hall with a Men's Room to the left, presumably for the Police Men. Then in front of you would be the main office followed by a W.C and two Cells for holding suspects on arrest. Within each cell there would have been a single bed but it is more than likely that many would be locked in the small cells.

Unfortunately the building leased on Crellin Street, number 72, has been demolished at sometime and replaced with a newer building. It is also unclear as to what this building would have been used for, Police Station or Police Housing? Either way both dwellings on Rawlinson and Crellin Street are some of the earliest Police buildings in Barrow. 

It is hard to say how long the Rawlinson Police Station remained as such but a Station did open on Cornwallis Street at some point and by 1958 the Police had moved to their present Headquarters on Market Street.

Fire Station

There is but one building left in Barrow that was once the Fire Station. This building stands on Abbey Road, next to the Custom House, and dates from 1911. Before this Station was built the Fire Brigade was operating out of a corner in the covered market, formally situated in front of the Town Hall, and two converted shops in Hindpool Road. The whereabouts of the converted shops on Hindpool Road we are unsure about, they may well not exist anymore. The Fire Service was started in Barrow from 1865 and started serving the town straight away. In 1892 they had to tackle a huge blaze at the Jute Works, where the Range and Next are today, as one of their first major incidents.

At some point a temporary Fire Station was built on Duke Street to house the ever growing need for the brigade but by 1910 the premises was in dire need of replacement. It was at this time a brand new station was built on Abbey Road. The Station was built in 1911 and opened in 1912.  The brigade had acquired a new motor fire engine in time for the Stations opening. The engine had been shown to the public in November of 1911 and, to show off, it expelled a jet of water to the top of the Town Hall tower.

The new Fire Station served the town for around 85 years until a modern Station was built in 1996 on Phoenix Road.

Unfortunately non of the buildings featured in todays blog post are open to the public as they are privately owned but you can see them easily from the road in your car or by foot. The old Fire Station on Abbey road does house a furniture store so it is possible to go inside, provided you want to look at furniture, but there may not be a lot of original features left.

These sites are a fantastic reminder of Barrow's Victorian roots as well as the beginnings of the Emergency Services in the town!