Barrow-in-Furness  Civic and Local History Society
History Society Home Page Contact Us Aims & Short History Programme Sponsors History of Barrow Memories/Oral History Local History Research Links

The Working Men’s Club and Institute, also known as “The House of Lords”


The Working Men’s Club and Institute was built on Abbey Road between 1870 and 1871by William Gradwell.  The land was given by the Furness Railway Company and the cost of building was £3,450.The principal benefactor was Henry Schneider of the Barrow Haematite Iron and Steel Company.

Barrow’s population had risen dramatically in the previous decade, from 8,000 in 1864 to 16,000 by 1867. It was to continue to rise and by 1874 it had reached 35,000. Houses were being built on a mass scale, but couldn’t keep up with demand. Hawke Street and other streets in Hindpool near the Club were built by William Gradwell in the early 1870’s.

What else was happening in the town in 1871when the Club opened?


 Work began on the tenements at Hindpool to house workers from the Iron Works.

 Gradual improvements were being made to Barrow over the 4 years since the town had become a borough.

 James Ramsden was mayor.

 The first meeting of the Barrow Iron Shipbuilding Company was held. The plan was to build/repair ships, stimulate the iron industry and promote the use of Barrow Docks.

 A newly built corn mill was operating on Devonshire Dockside, opened by Barrow Steam Cornmill Company.

 There were 57 inns and hotels in Barrow.

The 1870’s were a very significant period in the town’s history. Barrow Flax and Jute Works was completed in 1874 and by 1876 Barrow’s Ironworks would be the largest in the world, producing steel rails on a grand scale.

The club played an important role in the life of the people of Barrow and served many purposes. The upper floor housed a library and “penny readings” became popular, so called because a book cost a penny to borrow. The Workingmen’s Club Choir rehearsed upstairs and downstairs  there was a games room and a bar.


The Working Men’s Club and Institute was built in a very grand style, with granite columns on either side of the main entrance, arched windows, oval dormer windows and near the roof level were the Borough Arms.. The club was situated in a Conservation area and was Grade 2 Listed  because of its special architectural and historic interest.


In January 2017 a major fire destroyed the building and parts of it were demolished, leaving just the facade and some inner walls standing. Barrow Borough Council is working closely with Historic England and The Victorian Society in the hope that some of the building might be saved. It is a lengthy process which is complicated and time consuming.


Just as the town was built on a positive spirit of optimism, it is hoped that the building can be rescued and restored to its rightful place in the town’s heritage.


postcard produced by Bentley of Barrow in about 1906. The reference is BLC/200/CY/ABB 11