Ferry Road ‘Triangle’ & Cavendish Villas
At the northern end of Barrow Island lies the 'Ferry Road Triangle.' Covering an area formerly known by the field names, Crow Nest, Great New Close, Little New Close, Moss, Cow Park and Middle Park; the Ferry Road area has always been known as the 'Triangle,' because the shape of the estate is truly a triangle. AS THE CROW FLIES. The Crow Nest Hotel was built in 1888 six years after the first application for a provisional licence by Mr Robinson on behalf of Thomson's brewery. In September 1887 the application was finally granted. The hotel took its name, not from anything nautical, but from the name of the three fields that surrounded it: Crow Nest, Near Crow Nest, Middle Crow Nest. Opened in May 1888 it was described by the Barrow News as one of the best- appointed hotels in Barrow. From this start, Walton Lee, elected Town Councillor in 1886 envisaged an estate for the workers literally within spitting distance of their workplace. Like most plans for Barrow in those euphoric times, Walton Lee's plans for the estate was over-ambitious and in the end, only partially completed. Having said that, had his, and other housing projects been completed to their original specification, the desperate housing shortage caused by the influx of thousands of munitions workers during World War I, would, to a degree, have been averted. That problem, however, is twenty-five years into the future when Lee unveiled his plans for a worker's village. In the 19th century, some industrial magnates were driven, either by religious zeal or a genuine desire to improve the worker's lot or plain old guilt, to erect small townships to house their employees. An excellent example is Port Sunlight on the Wirral, built by Lord Leverhulme of Sunlight soap fame. Port Sunlight is beautifully laid out in the best English village style with plenty of trees and open spaces. A village green and a pub complete the illusion of living in an olde English utopia. A very short walk behind this façade, for that, is what it is, reveals Lever Brother's massive factory in all its steam belching glory. Barrow Island, on the other hand, didn't get a picturesque village it got tenements and back to back houses in the best Lancashire mill-town tradition. To be fair to Walton Lee, he wasn't an industrial magnate, but a speculative builder and his proposal for Ferry Road did include provision for a rugby pitch. Shipyard expansion and the proliferation of rail links put paid to the idea, but his original sketches do show one try line level with the Crow's Nest and the rest of the pitch stretching up Ferry Road over what is now a car park and Bridge Road. Walton Lee's vision was of an estate built close enough to be convenient for all the main centres of employment, (practically fall out of the front door and clock on), yet only a ferry ride away from rural Walney where free time could pleasantly be spent. Lee could sense a desperate need [and he would have needed to be comatose not to] for decent housing for the workers. With this in mind, he had already bought land at 5/- [25p] a square yard in 1883 and started work on Mast Street, later christened with the more attractive name Cameron Street. Rudder Street [Earle Street] and Burnaby Street followed in 1885. Like the majority of the developments in Barrow at the time this "estate" was not built by one company as would usually be the case today, but by many different builders over a period of years as demand and prices rose and fell. R. Daniel and W.J. Sandford also built on Earle Street. Ferry Road was built piecemeal between 1883 and 1905 by amongst others Thomas Brown, and again W.J. Sandford; on and off five different builders were involved constructing Stanley Road. Part of the estate at its eastern end: Lily, Holly, Fern and Woodvine Avenues were never built, only Ivy Avenue was erected, the shortest, least tree-lined avenue in the world. The encroaching shipyard took over John Shaw's Rope and Twine Works then the land for the unbuilt houses, expanding almost into the resident's kitchens. Today the shipyard overshadows the whole area with the massive Devonshire Dock Hall (DDH) dominating the view, and car parking being a significant problem for the workers and the residents. When a herd of buses brought people to work there wasn't the same problem, see the pictures [below] of them waiting for shipyard workers in nearby, Bridge Road. Now, instead of buses and trams trundling past, loads weighing hundreds of tons pass because of the stupidity of building sub sections nearly a mile away from where they are assembled. CAVENDISH VILLAS Built near Michaelson’s Mansion, and situated less than a mile away, these sandstone villas were not built on a budget for the working man. A fine row of sandstone villas was built in the late 1860s behind Michaelson's Mansion; they were called Cavendish Park Villas. Built by the Furness Railway primarily for the managerial staff they were, from time to time, rented out to the shipbuilding company and various people engaged on local projects. There they lived in a style, to which no doubt they could easily become accustomed. Joseph Richardson, in Barrow: its history and development of 1881 lovingly describes the villas:- "To meet the requirements of officials [management] and employees, a handsome park was laid out behind Michaelson House, in which a number of highly ornate semi-detached villas were erected." Although the view from the front windows is now obscured by BAE. when they were built the residents enjoyed a splendid panoramic vista across Buccleuch Dock to Rabbit Hill and beyond to Roose. The villas each had a neat garden and drive to the front, to the rear acres of unspoiled parkland reached as far as Island Road before another building could be seen. Spacious rooms with parquet floors and all mod-cons were the order of the day for the lucky residents, who in 1871 included Captain Reid, Harbour Master. In 1875 some of the men who were busily forming Barrow's future lived there, notably from the Furness Railway, the Barrow Iron Ship Co., and the Barrow Channel Dredging Co. Another resident was the redoubtable Reverend Allen who, before the first St John's church was opened in 1877, held services in a room licensed for the purpose. At that time Old Barrow came under the parish of St George, so it fell to somebody from St George's' to try and tame the wild navvies. Senior Curate, the Reverend John Allen, was just the man for those rough and ready times. When The Reverend Allen first came to the island in 1871, diphtheria and smallpox were rife. Within a short space of time, he had won respect, if not hearts and minds, of the practically pagan navvies with his practical as well as spiritual help. Reverend Allen believed in taking the Word directly to the people. With his two sons he would go around looking for drunken navvies, usually to be found lying in sand-pits along the way. He would read them a short tract then implore them to attend the Mission Room, but if an immediate promise of attendance were not forthcoming, their miserable souls would be saved there and then - in the sand-pit; whether they liked it or not. Except for two villas used, by the then, Vickers as a clinic and their Photographic Department and one used by the Sea Cadets as a base, the rest have been left to decay in the recent past. Unfortunately, the decay has become terminal. Without a thought to preservation, some of these fine villas were demolished in 1991. At present vandalism & arson has left the rest just a shell. Just past Cavendish Park Villas land was leased from the Furness Railways to layout a tree-lined bowling green which survived until the 1960s when it was concreted over to make the inevitable car park for Vickers employees.
Somebody laid a railway line right through Walton Lee’s proposed Rugby pitch.
Cameron St 1910
Today, wrecked and vandalised. Photos: Scott Heddles
New 1000 car park built on the site of the the GES will hopefully relieve some of the parking problems on Old Barrow. There never used to be a problem :) Below.