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Thursday, 02 July 2015

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Memories of iconic Barrow building

A VISION to unlock powerful memories contained within an iconic building has been realised.

Last Thursday, around 100 people were swept back to a time when the H Cooke and Sons department store in Abbey Road, Barrow, was a force in local retail.

The tour guides on this trip down memory lane included both customers and former employees who worked there between 1915 and 1959.

Their thoughts and recollections were captured on video and audio by Signal Films and Media and an army of up to 200 volunteers to make the Cooke’s Creative Heritage project.

These eloquent oral histories – together with supporting documents, articles, photographs and artefacts – formed the core of an enthralling multimedia exhibition.

Built in 1875, the Victorian Gothic building has gone through many incarnations, including a school, organ seller, nightclub and, following a £2m restoration, a creative media hub.

But it was the building’s 44 years as a department store, spanning two world wars, a depression and dramatic social change, that most fascinated the project leaders and piqued the interest of backers at the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“Giving it a focus of the changing times of the shopping and how people live and work in the town centre is quite timely,” Signal Films director Kerry Kolbe, 34, said.

“It’s about how trying to explore and reflect that change and how the community is affected by it and what’s different about it”

Purchased by cabinet-maker Henry Cooke, the business opened in 1915 and, before long, sold not only furniture, but carpets, fabrics, toys, prams and assorted household items.

Barrow mayor Wendy Maddox, who accepted an invitation to attend the project’s launch, vividly recalls going in there as a young girl and looking longingly at the curios.

“I can remember coming in here and going to the toy department and I always enjoyed the Christmas grotto and seeing Father Christmas,” she said.

A short film – titled The Town and the Tide by director Sam Harrie – used recollections interspersed with modern footage and re-enactments to tell the building’s story.

Hawcoat man John Lawrence, 79, was another who attended Thursday’s screening and had strong memories stoked by the film.

He arrived in Barrow from down south in 1950 as a 17-year-old following the deaths of his parents and took up a job as a telegram boy at the post office, where his route would take him into Cooke’s.

“I would marvel at the furniture, but it was too expensive,” he said. “I’m really pleased that they’ve given new life to this building.”

Have your say

Should still be the travs

Posted by G Biligrama on 4 December 2012 at 07:20

Why no photographs of the building?

Posted by captain bluebirdseye on 3 December 2012 at 23:03

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