APPROVAL of a £1,545,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant on Friday, July 26 in 2002 fired the starting gun for a major project to restore Barrow Park to its former glory.

To mark the event the town hall estates and development manager Steve Warbrick, leader of Barrow Borough Council, Cllr Terry Waiting and the Barrow mayor, Cllr Dave Pidduck, were able to stand in the park and look over a detailed plan of how the town's biggest public space would change.

Today's set of Mail archive pictures reflect that period of change almost 20 years ago and celebrate the role played by the park in the lives of Furness families through the decades.

The Mail noted: "Jubilant councillors heard today that a four-year campaign for lottery money to revamp Barrow Park has finally been won.

"Plans are already drawn up for the £2.2m project, of which £1.545m will come from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

"The rest will come from council and matched funding sources.

"The go-ahead for the ambitious project comes as the run-down park finds itself half way through its centenary year.

"It is hoped that work on restoring the park to its Edwardian splendour will get under way in Easter next year and is programmed to be finished 12 months later."

The Mail on November 14 in 2000 had looked back to the early days of the park.

It noted: "Bought for £16,000 in 1901, Barrow Park had a short life as the crowning glory of the town riding the crest of a shipbuilding wave.

"In the 1920s the iron mills were struggling to keep operating and the decline was mirrored by the park as maintenance money was cut back.

"For the next 80 years the park's fortunes followed those of the town - when Barrow was wealthy it blossomed, when the town was poor it was ignored.

"As Edward VII took the throne Barrow was enjoying a boom.

"The wealth was reflected in the large houses built on Abbey Road and in 1901 the council bought 45.4 acres of farmland from the Slater family.

"The council hoped to provide a public park to rival those in Manchester, Birmingham and even London's Hyde Park.

"Included in the purchase was the Slater's family home, Piel View Farmhouse, still standing and now used as park offices.

"Until 1908 the land was rented as grazing. Then well-known landscape architect Thomas Mawson was contracted to design and oversee the project.

"It took longer than expected and was only unveiled in its final form in the late 1920s.

"Flower beds were set out, a bandstand built, shady paths laid, huge greenhouses were built, trees planted and the first of two lakes dig.

"Then the town's economic bubble burst and the park became a 1920s municipal job creation scheme with the unemployed being paid to dig the second lake.

"Over the years, bowling green, tennis courts, a leisure centre and the war memorial were added but all the while its glory was fading.

"In the 1950s its decline accelerated and 20 years ago the park had hit rock bottom. It looked tatty, was under maintained and its Edwardian glory was a thing of the past."

In 1998 thoughts turned to ways to reverse the decline - including restoration of the park's two main entrances, its boundary wall, railings and gates.

The war memorial was to be cleaned, new drainage put in and more than £30,000 spent on new flowers, trees and shrubs.

The article noted: "The old boathouse and ornamental shelters are to be given a new lease of life and the greenhouses spring cleaned and refurbished.

"A new pavilion costing £190,000 is to be built and new benches and signs costing £20,000 will be put in place.

"Central to the project is the rebuilding of a £147,762 bandstand with a further £87,200 spent on paving and shrubs."