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Historical Buildings and Sites in Barrow-in-Furness

Leaflets on these attractions are available, to be sent by post, by using our request form.

Furness Abbey

Furness Abbey by Bryn Trescatheric
The Abbey of St. Mary of Furnesia, a magnificent ruin of a vast and imposing building constructed in the distinctive local red sandstone and set in the deep, wooded valley of Bekansgill.
The Abbey was founded in 1127 on land granted by King Stephen to the Abbot of Savigny in Normandy. The governing monastic order was originally Savigniac, but by order of the Abbot of Savigny the Abbey became Cistercian in 1148. Benefiting from the architectural and agricultural abilities of the Cistercian monks, the power and wealth of the Abbey grew and by the 12th Century was unchallenged throughout Furness.
With the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537, the lead roof from the Abbey was removed and melted down and the walls partly demolished. The building shows a mixture of styles from several periods, as the Abbey would have been built, extended and rebuilt throughout its life. The Abbey owned by English Heritage is open to the public (tel: (01229) 823420).
The Abbey Tavern adjacent to the Visitors Centre is open all day during the Summer for refreshments.

Barrow-in-Furness Town Hall

Barrow Town Hall
Barrow's impressive Town Hall is at the heart of the town and its clock tower can be viewed from almost anywhere in the vicinity. Built from local red sandstone, it was formally opened in 1887 and represents the height of Barrow's Victorian development. The building was designed by W.H. Lynn in the style known as modern Gothic. The richest detail of the interior can be found in the oak panelled Council Chamber and the Queen's Hall, with its dazzling stained glass.
The building is still at the centre of the everyday running of the Borough of Barrow-in-Furness (Tel (01229) 876300 Switchboard). Group tours can be arranged in advance by phoning Forum 28 (01229) 876391.
A leaflet detailing the history of the Town Hall is available from Barrow Tourist Information Centre, or a version can be downloaded as a pdf file (486kb).

Piel Castle

Piel Castle, Piel IslandOnce the last bastion of defence from the marauding Scots, Piel Castle is now in ruins, with only the King of the island and inquisitive visitors for company. Built around 1327 it was mainly used as a fortified warehouse for the storage of grain and wool. In 1487 it was invaded by Lambert Simnel and over 2,000 of his followers on the start of their abortive attempt to seize the crown from Henry VII.
The only means of access is via the Roa Island ferry service. The castle has recently undergone extensive restoration and is well worth a visit.
Amenities normally include a delightful pub, The Ship Inn, where the landlord can bestow upon the visitor the title Knight of Piel Island. Conveniently these inaugurations take place in the ancient oak chair which is situated in the bar. (If you sit in the chair it will cost you a round of drinks for all.) Unfortunately the pub has been closed since November 2005 as the current king is "abdicated" in April 2006, so there is a need for a new monarch on the island! The Piel Island web site dates from when the pub was still open, but still provides a useful source of information about the island. A new King has just been been appointed
Piel Island is a must for any visitor to Barrow and in recent years has become highly popular as a camping site.
For the ferry to the island, telephone Allan Cleasby (01229) 475770 Mobile 07798 794 550

The Dock Museum
The Dock Museum, Barrow-in-FurnessThis exciting and innovative Museum opened in 1994. Built over an original Victorian Graving Dock, it traces the history of Barrow from a tiny 19th Century hamlet to the world's largest producer of iron and steel and then to a major ship-building force, within 40 years. The story of the people who brought about such change is both unique and extraordinary.
A spectacular new permanent exhibition 'Shipbuilders to the World' includes the museum's collection of fine ship models and exciting computerised interactive displays using images from the Vickers Photographic Archive. Six films on Barrow are shown in the museum’s custom-built auditorium.
A Gallery for temporary exhibitions hosts a full and varied exhibitions programme.
The landscaped dockside site has an adventure playground and walkways linking to the Cumbria Coastal Way, a long distance coastal footpath from Milnthorpe to Carlisle. Admission is free.
Facilities include a coffee shop; a souvenir shop; passenger lift; ample free car and coach parking.
All areas of the Museum are wheelchair accessible.
Group bookings are welcomed and guided tours are available on request.
The Dock Museum is open all year round. Closed Mondays in Summer and Mondays and Tuesdays in Winter. For further details on opening times ring (01229) 876400.

Dalton Castle

Dalton Castle, Dalton-in-FurnessDalton-in-Furness is an old settlement mentioned in the Doomsday Book as Daltune. THe original town was almost hidden in a narrow valley out of the convenient reach of the sea and ship-bourne raiders. For a considerable time in the Furness history, Dalton was the chief town and administrative centre.
Dalton Castle stands above the town, built to defend the people of Dalton and the approaches to Furness Abbey. It is now a National Trust property.
The castle was built in stages between the 1330's and 1350's, perhaps in response to a series of Scottish raids earlier that Century. There was a great raid in 1322 under the leadership of Robert the Bruce when much of Furness was devastated. 
The castle was changed several times before undergoing its most radical alteration in 1856. It served as a courthouse and dungeon for Furness Abbey. After the dissolution of the monastery in 1537 the Castle passed through several hands, eventually resting with the Dukes of Buccleuch.
It was the 8th Duke who presented the Castle to the National Trust in 1965. A National Trust guidebook is available and there is an exhibition celebrating the life and work of George Romney, the renowned portrait artist, who is buried in nearby Dalton Church.
From Easter to the end of September between 2pm and 5pm, Dalton Castle is open to the public, free of charge (Donations welcome). For enquiries telephone 01229 463330.

Walney Nature Reserves 

South Walney Nature Reserve is situated on the south end of Walney Island, on land granted by King Stephen to the Abbot. It contains the largest, mixed ground nesting of herring and lesser black-back gulls in Europe (almost 30,000 pairs altogether) and the most southerly eider duck breeding colony in Britain.
Other breeding species of birds include the greater black-back gull, common tern, little tern, oyster-catcher, ringed plover, shellduck, mallard and moorhen.
The area has considerable ecological interest arising from the many habitats present, including mudflats, pebble ridges, salt marshes, sand dune, rough pasture, freshwater and brackish pools. It contains an excellent range of both the common and rare flowers of the coast.
Facilities include car parking, toilets (disabled access), information kiosk, six bird-watching hides and three nature trails. Tel (01229) 471066.
North Walney National Nature Reserve is a haven for natterjack toads, Britain's rarest amphibian. There are only about 40 remaining sites, and one of their main strongholds is the Cumbrian coastline. The calling of males in the breeding season is very impressive. Visitors are reminded that it is illegal to capture or keep natterjack toads without a licence.
Additionally, over 130 species of birds have been recorded on and around the reserve including a large number of kestrels, sparrowhawks, merlins, peregrines and hen harriers. Short-eared owls are also frequent visitors, to be seen hunting before dusk. The area is very rich in flora, with a staggering 300 different species having been recorded.
Public access is permitted at all times on foot only. Please observe any notices and keep all dogs under strict control, especially during the breeding season (April-July). Please note that land south of the NNR boundary is part of an operational airfield. Visitors are not allowed to walk through the airfield without the air authority's permission.

Residents' Pass Scheme

This Summer, why not visit Furness Abbey, and South Walney Nature Reserve free of charge? 

Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council run a Pass Scheme for Borough residents so that they and their family can visit these wonderful local attractions without paying the admission charge.
To join the scheme residents should take their Council Tax Statement to Customer Services in the Town Hall, Cornwallis Street entrance, Barrow, where, a single or family pass for both attractions will be issued. Take the pass along to Furness Abbey and the Nature Reserve at South Walney, and enter for free.
The extensive remains are open for visitors between 10.00am and 6.00pm every day through the Summer. Pass holders can enjoy the audio-tour for just £1.00.

For pass information, contact:

Central Reception,
Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council.
Direct line: ( 01229) 876314.

For Winter opening hours, contact:

Furness Abbey: ( 01229) 823420.
South Walney Nature Reserve: ( 01229) 471066.

Other Sources

Information on Barrow District Towns and Villages:


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