Building » Barrow-in-Furness – St Mary

Barrow-in-Furness – St Mary

Duke Street, Barrow-in-Furness LA14 1XW.

Built to the designs of E. W. Pugin and the first and the finest Catholic church in Barrow, a planned nineteenth-century town built on the fortunes of the ironworks. The tower and spire are a major local landmark, and the church and (later) presbytery a composition of high townscape value, on the edge of the town centre conservation area.

Barrow is a planned nineteenth century town, with wide tree-lined streets and many imposing civic and commercial buildings. The two chief landowners at the time of the town’s expansion were the Duke of Devonshire and the Duke of Buccleuch. In 1840 the population numbered only about 300. The fortunes of the town were transformed by the arrival of the railway in 1846 and the discovery soon afterwards of fabulous iron deposits. The ironworks were established by 1859, and by 1876 was the world’s largest. The demand for labour was fed by Irish immigrants, and a large  contingent of Cornish tin miners. Building  iron ships was a natural development for the ironworks; shipbuilding began in 1869, and was taken over by Vickers in 1897. At its peak (1921) the population of Barrow was 74,000. The shipyard remains a major employer in the town, although only about 4,000 work there now. Other industries have developed, but the town remains an area of high deprivation.

Owing chiefly to the arrival of Irish immigrants, by 1863 there were said to be 500 Catholics in Barrow. To meet their spiritual needs a site was obtained from the Duke of Devonshire (in what is now Duke Street), at no cost. Initially served by a priest from Ulverston, the church of St Mary was completed in 1867 to the designs of E. W Pugin. The tower and spire were added in 1888 under Fr Caffrey – he also built the baptistry and confessionals (1894). About the same time, a large presbytery was added to the east of the church, to the designs of James O’Byrne of Liverpool.

Entry amended by AHP 17.12.2020

List description


Catholic church. 1866-67. By EW Pugin; tower dated 1888; sacristy and confessionals added 1894. Snecked red sandstone with grey ashlar sandstone dressings, slate roof. Orientated north-west/south- east: ritual orientation used here. 6-bay nave with west porch and lean-to aisles, 5-stage tower with spire at west end of south aisle; north aisle has octagonal baptistry at north-west corner and 3 small confessionals on north side; semi-octagonal chancel with small south chapel and north sacristy in link to presbytery (qv). Gothic Revival style; lancet windows with hoodmoulds and Geometrical rose windows. Nave: lean-to vestibule against west gable has central doorway with ogee-moulded arch, hoodmould with head-carved stops and roundel in coped gable with cross. Main gable has tall, cusped lancets; short dripmould; elaborate rose window with hoodmould; string course and 2 louvres beneath apex of coped gable with kneelers and cross. South aisle: deeply-chamfered plinth; offset buttresses; 6 lancets each with trefoil above a transom; 3-light chapel window on right. Clerestorey has 14 small lancets the easternmost pair in gabled projection with rose window and cross. North aisle: 2- light west window; baptistry has battered plinth, lancets and hipped roof. Confessionals under hipped roofs set below eaves of aisle; clerestorey as before. Tower: ashlar ground floor (date on Duke Street side). Set-back buttresses with traceried panels and gablets flank pointed west door; the buttresses rise 3 further stages. Above door is a statue of Mary and Child under crocketed canopy set between lancets; lancet above; string course below triple lancets to 4th stage. Buttresses end at an offset from which rise octagonal corner turrets to flank single-light belfry openings set between Ionic columns; blind arcading links the corner turrets which then rise as pinnacles. Slender ashlar spire with tall lucarnes, band of quatrefoils and cross. Chancel: semi-octagonal and under hipped end of main roof; triple lancets beneath continuous hoodmould, roof finial. Short and low south chapel with rose window to east.

INTERIOR: west gallery with organ. Arcades: square bases with broaches and moulding; round piers with octagonal and carved capitals; tall moulded arches, the easternmost pair are narrower. Paired clerestorey windows linked by hoodmoulds. Scissor-braced and arch-braced trusses. Chancel: ornate reredos; the triple lancets have colonettes and hoodmoulds; columns on angel corbels support radial, arch-braced roof with boss. Altar with marble colonnettes and crucifix under crocketed canopy flanked by statues of saints within niches. Lady Chapel has alabaster reredos with Mary and Child beneath a canopy. Stained glass in south aisle marked ‘Barnell, Newcastle’. Built at a cost of £5,000-6,000, the tower costing a further £2,950. Statue over west door of tower by ‘Miss Rogerson of Liverpool’ (Centenary booklet). (St Mary of Furness Centenary Celebrations (booklet): Barrow in Furness: 1965-).

Heritage Details

Architect: E. W. Pugin

Original Date: 1866

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II