Backbarrow Iron Works

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The Backbarrow Furnace

By Ronald Mein & David Birchall

photo of the Iron works site showing the old furnaceThe iron furnace at Backbarrow was built in 1711 and was state of the art in its day. Other locations for a furnace in the area were Low Wood, Nibthwaite, Marton, Duddon, Thwaite Flat, and Dalton.
The main production of the Iron Industry at Backbarrow was cannon, gun carriages and cannon ball.
Before 1790 Isaac Wilkinson the father of John Wilkinson had an Iron furnace on the site at Lowwood. The Wilkinson's were local Iron Masters and here Haverthwaite and Backbarrow has a significant historical connection with the Midlands as John Wilkinson was the famous Iron Master who built the first iron Ship and the famous iron bridge at Iron Bridge. The furnace at Backbarrow is we understand the only survivor of its type and is protected as an ancient monument.
The furnace at Backbarrow was supplied from 1711 with iron ore from low Furness which would have arrived at the quays in Haverthwaite and been transported to Backbarrow by horse and cart. The Wilkinsons and their partners who included some prominent Quakers built quite a thriving business and unusually the Quaker part of the business did not object to the manufacture of armaments.
The Backbarrow company ventured into mining for a while but these ventures did not last over long and were closed down.
Records show that in 1715 the Backbarrow furnace produced 1719 tons of pig iron , half of this was sent to the Company's other forges located at Backbarrow, Coniston, Cunsey, and Rusland, where the forges produced some 648 tons of iron bar.

The Iron Works site in the 21st Century

photo of new buildings at Ironworks Site

The New Build

Old Ironworks site - New Build
Today the site has been sold to developers and new factory and office units are being built. Here we can see the plant at work on the ground works ready for foundations and building.

The Ground Works

photo of Old Iron Works site under re-development 2006

It always appears to take an eternity from ground works to being able to see something you can recognise or relate to, but now the buildings are almost flying up.

The Hydro Electric Race

photo of wier on the river Leven showing the new Hydro Electric plant

In the photo on the left we can see the weir across the Leven and where the old mill race stood is the new Hydro Electric plant. This was commissioned by the trust which owned the old Iron works site, we suspect that even though the site has been sold for re-development that the trust has kept hold of the hydro plant and its income from electricity production.


Millerbeck Open Days


spacer image - Haverthwaite & Backbarrow

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