Barrow 1901 – a description of its industries

The following descriptions have been transcribed by Peter Robinson from the Transactions of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers July 1901, recording visits made during a meeting of members in Barrow.


These works of the Barrow and Calcutta Jute Co.., whose head offices are in Liverpool, occupy about 12 acres, with frontages to Hindpool Road, Ramsden Square, Abbey Road, Duke Street and Clive Street, and have a private siding to the Furness Railway. The offices and main entrance are in Hindpool Road. The works are principally engaged in the spinning of jute yard and in the manufacture of jute goods, including bags for sugar, flour, grain, coffee, wool, cotton, chemicals, etc.; also fabrics for linoleum, floorcloth, packing and general purposes.

The raw jute is imported in bales from Calcutta, and stored in the company’s warehouses at the Devonshire Dock. In the spinning sheds it passes through the various machines for softening, carding, drawing, roving, spinning, spool and cop winding, etc. The yards then pass to the beaming sheds, and thence to the weaving departments where they are made into fabrics of various weights, texture, and widths. After leaving the weaving sheds, the cloth passes through the inspecting room, where it is measured, weighed and examined. It then goes into the cloth-finishing department, where it is cropped, calendered, mangled, lapped or put into large rolls, or press-packed into bales for shipment of for home consumption. The fabrics for bag making are drawn up into the floors above by the cutting machines, which, at the same time, cut them into the various lengths required; the latter are sewed by sewing machinery into sacks and bags, with tarred or dry twine. The bags are then marked by printing machinery, after which they are folded and made up into bundles.

The works are at present on a smaller scale than formerly, as the portions destroyed by fire some time ago have only yet been partially rebuilt. In the reinstatement of the portion referred to, however, every advantage has been taken to introduce all the best and latest improvements in the trade.


The extensive and valuable salt deposits in the Island of Walney were first discovered in 1889. Boring operations for coal by the Diamond Boring process, were being carried out on a short distance to the south of the village of Biggar, when, underlying about 140 feet of red and blue marl with gypsum, a bid of rock salt was unexpectedly met with at a depth of about 272 feet from the surface. The area of the deposit was afterwards absolutely defined by a series of bore-holes to extend for 6 miles in length, and for a distance of 3 miles the thickness of the rock salt was found to range from 72 feet to 446 feet. The depth from the surface to the top of the salt varies from about 90 to 120 yards. One of the borings was carried down to a depth of about 1,000 9 feet from the surface in red, blue, and green marls with beds of rock salt of various thicknesses, and at irregular distances apart.

In 1896 the Barrow Salt Co. was formed, with a capital of £100,000, for purpose of working and developing the property. Four bore-hole wells were put down about half a mile to the south of the village of Biggar, and fitted up with derricks, ???, boilers, pumps, etc., by Vivian’s Boring and Exploration Co. The wells average about 500 feet in depth and are lined wit wrought-iron tubes 10 inches in diameter until the salt bed is reached at an average depth of about 100 yards from the surface.

The engines and pumps are of the same pattern, and all the working parts are interchangeable. The pumps are 6½ inches diameter, and the length of the stroke can be varied from 1 foot 6 inches to 4 feet. Each pump, working for twelve hours a day, is capable of pumping 300,000 gallons of brine per week, which is equivalent to about 300 tons of manufactured salt. A small experimental plant has been erected at the wells for the manufacture of salt by means of the exhaust steam from one of the pumping engines, but owing to the process being necessarily intermittent the results obtained are not so satisfactory as would otherwise be the case. Natural brine was met with from the first, but the supply no being sufficient for the requirements of the works, it became necessary to supplement it by passing fresh water down the wells from the water-bearing strata me with in carrying out the boring operations. The brine obtained is of good quality and of full saturation.

From the pumps the brine is conveyed in 9-inch cast-iron pipes a distance of three-quarters of a mile to the settling tanks and filter beds; and the filtered brine, from which all matters in suspension have been removed, then flows into a storage reservoir immediately adjoining, and having a capacity of about 700,000 gallons. The level of the storage reservoir is so arranged that the brine feeds the evaporating pans at the works by gravitation through 9-inch cast-iron pipes about 2¾ miles in length, and the supply of brine can therefore be regulated at the works by the men in charge of the same.

The evaporating plant is situated near the extreme south end of Walney Island and within 4 miles from the main entrance to the Barrow Docks. This site was selected because of the unusual facilities it offered for the cheap erection of the necessary buildings, etc., owing to the unlimited supply of sand and shingle for making concrete, and also for convenient shipment of the manufactured salt.

The works comprise on range of twenty pans for the manufacture of common salt, and one of four pans for the manufacture of lumps and fine butter salt. The twenty pans are of the same dimensions, namely 64 feet long by 24 feet wide by 2 feet deep, and can, when occasion arises, all be utilised for making common salt. When lump or butter salt is being made a wooden mid-feather is fixed across the pan about 40 feet from the fireplace end, and the other portion of the pan is used for making common salt. The twenty common pans are arranged back to back under one roof in two parallel rows of ten each with a chimney 120 feet in height to every four pans. The quantity each pan is capable of turning out is from 50 to 55 tons of common salt per week. Each of the lump pans is 10 capable of turning our about 50 tons of lumps and 10 tons of common salt per week. The four lump pans are under one roof, and the flues, after passing under the pans, are carried through the warehouse where the lumps are stoved and stored ready for shipment. There is a store capable of holding about 600 tons of lumps about the hot-house. Coal depots, capable of holding about 5,000 tons of coal are conveniently arranged in front of the fires. There are two salt stores, one on each side of the range of common pans, with a total storage capacity of about 10,000 tons.

The town water has been brought down to the works for boiler and domestic purposes, but there is an ample supply suitable for purposed in connection with the manufacture obtained from a well on the premises, and pumped by means of a windmill into a large tank from which it gravitates to all parts where it is required. The works are connected with the shipping wharf, which is only about 100 yards distance, but means of a narrow-gauge tramway. The depth of water at the wharf is 22 feet 6 inches at ordinary spring tides and 15 feet at ordinary neap tides, and steamers carrying ??? tons have been alongside the wharf for the discharge of cargo.


These works are situated near the Central station of the town. The firm is a modern example of British manufacture on the American system, whereby the many needs of electrical tramways in Great Britain and Ireland can be met as regards specially suitable wheels hitherto manufactured in large quantities in the United States.

The Company has acquired from the New York Car Wheel Company their interests and system of manufacture in Great Britain, Ireland, India and all the Colonies, with the exception of Canada. By this system millions of wheels have been made and are turning the United States under locomotives, passenger cars and goods wagons, etc. This system is also in extensive in the following works: – Messrs Ganz and Compapny, Budapest; Société Francaise Metallurgique, Griffin, Gorcy; Fried Krupp, Magdeburg; Griffin Metallurgetschiski, Zavod, Odessa; Société Belge Griffin, Merxem-les-Anvers; and Société Italiana Franchi Griffin, Brescia.

The works at Barrow-in-Furness are equipped with the most complete and modern plant for the manufacture of railway and tramway wheels, and include a fine bay and overhead girder electric crane track for special heavy chilled work, with an electric crane running the whole length of the foundry commanding one half side, the other half being the moulding and casting floors which are fed and actuated by compressed-air cranes suitably placed on each separate wheel floor.

The processes run in one continuous line throughout, from the melting room at one end of the foundry to the machine finishing shop at the other end, where wheels and axles are examined, and fitted , and placed onto the railway trucks. The works commenced operations in April of the present year, since which time many thousands of wheels have been manufactured for the Indian State Railways, 11 Assam-Bengal, Rhodesia, Tasmania, and the British North Borneo Railways, and an order for HH The Nizam’s Guaranteed States Railways is now passing through the shops.


These works were started about 35 years ago by Messrs Woodhouse and Co., later they passes into the hands of Messrs R F Matthews and Son, and eventually in 1893 the present company was formed with Mr R F Matthews as Chairman and managing director. The company has two large works and premises, one situated at Hindpool covering an area of about 10 (?) acres, and one at Ormsgill of about 6 acres. Both works are completely equipped with the most modern and efficient brick and tile making machinery, and are in direct communication with the Furness Railway. The output of the two works comprises all the usual kinds of plain and ornamental bricks, drainage tiles for agricultural purposes, and the best kinds of facing bricks. Both pits have the same kind of clay, which is noted for its weight-supporting qualities and general excellence. The weekly output is about 320,000 common bricks and 53,000 facing bricks. The number of men employed is about 150.


The Flour Mills of Messrs Walmsley and Smith are situated on the Furness Railway Company’s Dock estates between Hindpool Road and the Devonshire Dock, the two large warehouses for grain storage, etc. (which are connected to the Mill by an overhead bridge), being directly on the edge of the dock. These mills were built by the old Barrow Corn Mill Company in 1870, but the business not being a success, the mills were leased in 1881 to the firm which now occupies them. Soon after this date Messrs Walmsley and Smith adopted the new Hungarian roller system, being one of the first milling firms in this country to do so, and entirely dispensed with the use of the time-honoured millstone. Since that date, however, great changes have been effected in the milling trade, and the plant has had to be entirely remodelled several times.

The mill premises now contain two complete and separate flour mills with a total capacity of 3,000 sacks per week, in addition to the usual machinery for production of provender; most of the machinery is by H Simon of Manchester, but several of the other milling engineers are also represented. The machinery is driven by a compound horizontal condensing engine of about 400 HP, which runs continuously from Monday to Saturday without stopping; steam is supplied by three Lancashire boilers 30 feet by 7 feet, working at a pressure of 95 pounds; one these boilers is a spare one. The firm have their own electric lighting plant, which with exception of the arc lighting at the Ramsden Dock, was the earliest application in the town of electric lighting, and been running since the beginning of 1885.

The warehouses are two commodious buildings connected together with an arcade which is used for the purpose of loading and unloading railway wagons, and have a total capacity of 10,000 tons. Grain is lifted off the vessels lying alongside by a series of hydraulic cranes, and conveyed across the bridge afore-mentioned into the mill adjoining by means of a 12-inch band conveyor. A scheme is now in hand for the erection of a silo adjacent to the present warehouses, which will be fitted with a suitable elevator for lifting the grain in bulk in a continuous stream out of the vessels, and storing it in bins on the silo system, which now more generally adopted.