During the mid-19th century, Barrow-in-Furness at the end of the Furness Peninsula, Cumbria, swelled from a tiny hamlet into a major industrial town in as little as 30 years. The history of the people behind this development is told in the museum through displays, models, and film shows.
Visitors meet Henry Schneider who, along with the Duke of Buccleuch and Earl of Burlington, founded the Furness Railway, as well as James Ramsden, who became the railway’s general manager and the town’s first mayor. The same group of men established the ironworks and later the steelworks. These were built in the town due to the iron ore deposits in the Furness area and by 1876 were purported to be the largest steelworks in the world. Shipbuilding on a large scale came later, in 1871. Smaller shipyards were situated along what is now the Channelside walk. There are numerous models of battleships and ocean liners from the era displayed in the museum.
After the 2011 discovery of the Great Hoard–the largest Viking treasure collection ever found in the area by a metal detectorist poking around in a field near the village of Stainton near Adgarley—a gallery was created to showcase the hoard and explain the Viking history of the area. There are Bronze and Iron Age treasures, a Viking display complete with a long boat, and artifacts dating back to the Norman Conquest. The Great Hoard itself is also on display, along with images of the glacial erratic stone where the exhibits were found.
Know Before You Go
The museum is free to enter. There is a large gift shop with a collection of local guides and children’s toys as well as the Bridge Café which offers hot and cold meals and snacks. Check the website for opening times.
The museum is nestled between the town’s BAE industrial area and the Walney channel. Outside there is an extensive children’s seaside-themed play area. There are also a number of local walks including paths around the historic dock and the Channelside Walk which tracks alongside Walney Channel, with impressive views of North Walney Island and the mountains beyond. The Channelside walk takes between 60-90 minutes to complete.