A queue of lords for Barrow club's opening day

18 January 2017 10:44AM

It was often said that gaining membership of the Barrow Working Men's Club was so hard that you needed to be a Lord to get in - hence the nickname of "House of Lords" for the recently fire-damaged building on Abbey Road.

An alternative explanation for the name is the number of members of the House of Lords needed for the opening ceremony and the slap-up feed which followed it.

In total there were two dukes, a lord and the first mayor of Barrow - who was later knighted as Sir James Ramsden.

The Soulby's Ulverston Advertiser of Thursday, August 18 in 1870 recorded the grand opening of the new Abbey Road building.

It noted: "His grace the Duke of Devonshire and his grace the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry assisted at the inauguration of the handsome new building designed for the Working Men's Club and Institute at Barrow.

"This edifice has been erected from the designs of Mr H. A. Darbishire, of Trafalgar Square, London, whose name is widely known as the architect of Columbia Market and the Model Lodging Houses in Bethnal Green, which were built by Miss Burdett Coutts for the special accommodation of the poor in the east of London.

"The new institute is a plain and substantial structure in brickwork, relieved by occasional bands of coloured bricks, the more decorative portions, such as caps and bases of pilasters and pediments, being executed in York stone.

"The accommodation embraces a coffee room 36ft long by 24ft wide, a reading room and chess room each 24ft long by 17ft 6in wide, lecture and billiard rooms each 36ft long by 24ft wide, committee room, offices, kitchen, dressing rooms, lavatories, hall and vestibule, with superintendent's quarters, wine, beer and store cellars.

"The total cost of the structure has been £3,450 and towards this amount Mr H. W. Schneider, Belsfield, Windermere, has contributed the hamdsome sum of £2,000 and the Barrow Haematite Iron and Steel Works Company £1,000, the Furness Railway Company having generously given the site valued at £1,000.

"The present building, though complete in itself, is only one portion of a design prepared to meet the requirements of the rapidly increasing population of Barrow.

"This design includes two detached buildings, occupying the eastern and western extremities of the site, and connected with the club by two colonades, extending the entire length of the southern boundary.

"The eastern building is already commenced and will contain a large public swimming bath with offices.

"The cost of its erection will be about £2,000 and this will be entirely defrayed by Mr James Ramsden, the mayor of the town.

"The western building is intended for a gymnasium, to correspond in elevation with the public baths.

"The spaces between these two buildings and the club will be turfed and used, one as a bowling green and the other as a quoit ground, seats being provided under the colonades for the convenience of spectators.

"When the whole design is completed, the building will have a frontage of 360ft towards the Abbey Road and it will be of a handsome appearance.

"The opening of the new institute was celebrated by a luncheon, given by the mayor, at which the Dukes of Devonshire and Buccleuch, Lord Frederick Cavendish, Mr Alderman Schneider, the directors of the Furness Railway Company, the members of the town council, the committee of the existing institute and the members of the preliminary committee appointed to manage the new one were present.

"The Duke of Devonshire, the Duke of Buccleuch and Mr Schneider delivered addresses, in which they pointed out the advantage of the working men's clubs and institutes generally, and the first two speakers alluded specially to the noble gift which Mr Schneider had conferred upon the town."

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T. Maire   Pantani , No Branford, CT USA Wednesday, 22 February, 2017 at 5:07AM
could this be the same swimming pool that my family used during WWII and where my uncle James Tongue swam? I still have photographs of him standing with all the trophies he won. Still remember the chlorine smell of that hot place, The baths.
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