Visiting Barrow Country - Lancashire, England

Beth Ruyle (Barrow) Hullinger and Craig Hullinger traveled to England to check out Beth’s Barrow family roots during the Christmas Holidays in 2009. Beth was adopted at birth and knew nothing about her roots until 2008. She discovered her sister Serena Windham and a number of cousins. Both Serena and Beth were only children so finding a sister for both of them was a pleasant shock.

One of their family names is Barrow. Beth and Serena’s founding member is Thomas Barrow who immigrated to Virginia from Lancashire, England in the early 1600’s. The Barrow family association provided a great deal of information about the Barrow family history which has included distinguished (and infamous) personages both in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

Beth and Craig travelled to Lancashire to see the land where the Barrow family had originated. The following is a discussion of what they saw and learned.  It will also offer some tips for individuals or the Barrow Family organization who desire to visit and see “the old sod”. They have provided a great deal of information, maps, and photos on their blog at

The following is their account:

While we were visiting the “Barrow Trail” it snowed every day, which slowed down our touring effort. At one point we could not even get into Barrow towns in the Lake District.   Part of the area had also undergone recent flooding, limiting our ability to stay in certain locations.  Many small towns have been merged into larger areas and, therefore, have no records—even church records that are over 100 years old.   Finally, we discovered that a number of municipal functions are closed the entire week between Christmas and New Years.  This further limited our access to records and knowledgeable staff. 

However, we were still able to discern some information and enjoyed what we could see and learn.  We secured a map that showed locations of individuals with the Barrow name in 1881 in England. The map demonstrates that the north shore of the former Lancashire County between Barrow-in-Furness and Lancaster had the highest concentration of people named Barrow. 

We don't know what part of Lancashire our Barrow family originated from. We theorize that they may have come from a village or area with the name Barrow - hence our visits with the name Barrow incorporated into the name. But there are other areas that also had that featured “Barrow residents”--so it is possible that the Barrows who are our ancestral line originated elsewhere in Lancashire.

Barrow Place Names - North Lancashire

Barrow Isle                              
Village of Barrow
Barrow Isle
Cartmel (Barrow Church)            Lancaster(County Seat)
Ulverston (Baron Barrow Monument)

Lancashire is a lovely area on the northwest coast of England, on the north shore of Morecambe Bay. It has rugged, wooded hillsides overlooking the very large bay. Lancashire is just south of the Lake Country, a famous area for tourism in England. Scotland is a short trip north and York a short trip east.  This allows a trip to the area to be not just an excursion for seeking ancestral information, but also a very delightful holiday.

Lancashire was a very large county when our original Barrows left in the 1600's.  It included Manchester to the south and Barrows-in-Furness to the north. These areas were excised from Lancashire County and incorporated into other counties. The larger Lancashire had about 150,000 people in the early 1600's. The same geographic area now has over 5 million people.

There are parish records from about 1590 that include marriages, christenings, and deaths. Many of these have been typed and printed and are in local libraries. Craig reviewed some of them in the Lancaster Central Library. There are many Barrow entries. If someone had the time and interest he might be able to tie it back to the original Barrow brothers and their father if they were born in Lancashire and if the Parish records were preserved.

The County of Lancashire County seat is Lancaster, which is a fine historic town. Hugh Barrow was the Vicar (Pastor) of the large historic downtown cathedral in 1660. The town has a stately castle.  We toured the castle and found that it had mainly been used as a prison.  One theme that you will discover in visiting this type of facility is that times were very different and treatment of prisoners was very harsh and dehumanizing.  The outside of the castle, however, is very picturesque and they still hold court in a portion of the castle.

The city also has a number of streets that are lined with shops.  This type of shopping is the base for festival market places.  The shops are fun to browse and merchandise is reasonably priced. Unlike festival market places where items are mostly kitche, these stores are the real shopping area for the city.  Many items you need may be located in this shopping area, but it is not the source for souvenirs and neither will you find large book stores or electronic stores.  Small shops are the predominate commercial culture.

The city library in downtown Lancaster has a wealth of genealogical records. The telephone book indicates a large number of Barrows in the north part of Lancashire, part of which has been transferred to the County of Cumbria. This was the portion that was excised from the County of Lancashire.

We travelled to the Town of Ulverston, home of Baron Barrow.  Baron Barrow was a brilliant self made man. The Town of Ulverston has honored him by erecting a large monument on top of a high hill above the town. It seems likely that a number of Barrows would have immigrated to the United States from this area, possibly our ancestor.

Backbarrow is a beautiful place with a large fast river running through it. A lovely picturesque hotel sits on the banks of the river, but was closed this winter due to the flood.  There is also a mill along the banks of the river.

We also spent time in Barrow-in-Furness, which is a larger ship building city. The city was a tiny village when our Barrow left the country. This is a location where you can find American style stores in a shopping center to replace items that you forgot to bring or need to replace.  The downtown also features a smaller, but similar shopping area to Lancaster. 

This city’s waterfront was a working harbor with ship building facilities.  As a result it is not picturesque. The Maritine Museum on the harbor, that describes the ship building empire which once existed in the city, is worth seeing.  It too is found on the water.

The city is also the location for the Abbey.  The Abbey was the onus for the creation of this town.  The Abbey continued to be the power behind the town until its destruction. Its history is very interesting.  The Abbey remains are very interesting and picturesque and the part of the community that adjoins it is quite lovely.  An effort should be made to view and stay in this area.  The Abbey Hotel where we stayed is the former home of a wealthy patron of the city.  It has lovely rooms that are very reasonably priced for England’s standards.  It also has a restaurant and bar on the facilities.

Taking This Trip Yourself

Travelling to England is easy, although they do speak a foreign language, especially when giving directions.  Fly into the Manchester Airport, which is a large international airport with affordable international service from the United States.

Barrow-in-Furness and Lancaster are only two hour’s drive from the Manchester Airport. You can drive or take the train. You could choose to base your trip in Lancaster or Barrow-in-Furnace, or the nice small towns of Ulverston, Backbarrow, or Cartmel which are in between the two larger cities.  Remember they drive on the left side of the road and the manual shift is also on the left. (Most rental cars are not automatic shifts.)It takes a while to get the hang of driving. You could also take the train to your base town and rent a car there.

You can spend a pleasant week or two in Barrow country exploring the area.  As noted, part of the area is in the Lake Country—an acknowledged tourism location. Either by itself or combining your vacation with a jaunt to Scotland in the north and/or York to east makes a delightful vacation. You may also wish to fly to London and drive or take the train to the area expanding your stay and visiting a world famous city.

Christmas may not be the best time to visit.  While it was fun experiencing an English Christmas, the weather was not good and many facilities were closed.  Our previous trips to England have been in the Fall and Spring, lovely times of the year.  However, England is always subject to rain and on almost all trips you will need at least a light jacket, even in the summer.

Beth has been on a number of trips exploring Craig’s well documented ancestry east of Lancashire in York.  This was her first time to visit her roots and see part of her heritage.  She found the trip to be fun combining tourism, history and education. She notes, “It was fun to find out that I had been only fifty miles away from my heritage when we explored Craig’s ancestry in York.  We had bypassed the Lake County on previous trips due to time constraints.  This was a mistake, as we know it now, as those were my roots.  However, it was also mistake because it is really one of the loveliest parts of the country with a great deal of historic information.  Little did I know that I was the white rose from Lancashire compared to Craig’s red in the War of the Roses.” 

Group Tours

Ann Taylforth is the Town Centre and Festivals Manager for the  Barrow Borough Council Tel 01229 876389, Fax 01229 876524  Ann Taylforth .

She would be glad to work with the Barrow Family Organization to help them set up a tour with a tour group.

I would think you would want a one week to ten day tour. The Bus could pick you up at the Manchester Airport. You could base out of Barrow-in-Furnace. This is a large city today, but was a very small village in the 1660’s.  Day trips to Ulverston, Backbarrow, Cartmel, Lancaster, and the Lake Country would be nice trips.  You could also take an overnight trip to York or to Scotland as part of the tour, or arrange for people to stay on to take an additional tour if they chose.

If you do this it might be fun to invite English Barrow’s to a reception to develop relationships.

There is a great deal of information on the following blogs. You can go to the first blog to get this article on line and so that you won’t have to type all the addresses.

Feel free to contact Beth or Craig if you would like more info:  309 966 1616