Go Away: Barrow AFC

the front cover of an A to Z map for Barrow-in-Furness on a red background

Barrow is known as Barrow-in-Furness ironically, because it’s actually f***ing freezing. Located on the Furness peninsula in what is now Cumbria, historically Barrow is part of the hundred of Lonsdale – a collection of fifty pairs of cheap trainers. In the Middle Ages the Furness peninsula was controlled by the Cistercian monks of Furness Abbey. The abbey was located in the Vale of Nightshade, named, as you might imagine, after the Duel specialist on Gladiators.

As with many a northern town the industrial revolution brought rapid growth to Barrow, beginning when Henry Schneider discovered large deposits of haematite in 1839. You know what they say about haematite, you either love it or you hate it, well Schneider loved it as he could use it to make iron and steel. He established mines for the stuff, and then railways and dockyards to transport it. The growth of the dockyards prompted Prime Minister William Gladstone to state that ‘Barrow would become another Liverpool’, as if one wasn’t enough.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Barrow was nicknamed ‘the English Chicago’, presumably because it’s quite windy, and also because no-one in Barrow at that time had ever actually seen Chicago. Despite these comparisons, Barrow has long struggled to set the worlds of baseball and basketball alight, whilst its pizzas leave a lot to be desired. Mind, if it’s a deep dish hot-pot you’re after.

These days, one of the lasting reminders of Barrow’s former industry is its infamous Slag Bank; destination of many a disappointed desperate visitor who hadn’t bothered to read beyond the name before hurriedly starting the car. From here you can see across the town and also towards the Morecambe Bay and the Duddon Estuary, both of which are characterised by large areas of quicksand and fast-moving tidal bores – these are people who quickly approach you in pubs to drone on and on about the tide.

Apparently there are plans to build a cruise ship terminal at Barrow, which suggests that Barrovians are nothing if not wildly optimistic people.

What’s it famous for?

Submarine building. As long ago as 1880, the Ottoman submarine Abdül Hamid was built in Barrow. This submarine was famous for being the first to fire a live torpedo underwater, and for doubling as a handy store for spare bed linen, duvets and towels. You’d think the fact that people would rather climb into a metal tube and disappear off underwater than hang around in your town would give you a bit of a complex, but fair play to Barrow, it really embraced submarine building, and even allowing for a decrease in spending since the end of the Cold War (or as it was known here, The T-shirt Weather War), it continues to be a main employer in the town.

Barrow is also the hometown of Maurice Flitcroft, popularly known as ‘the world’s worst golfer’ after shooting a score of 121 in the qualifying round of the 1976 Open Championship. Flitcroft had exploited a loophole in Open entry rules, having decided to pass himself off as a professional golfer despite not possessing anything like the required skill level… you can add in your own ex-Rovers player of choice to finish this gag, I’ve got stuff to do.

How to blend in

Barrow has a distinct local accent, so use ‘a’ instead of ‘I’, ‘us’ instead of me; if going for a walk, proclaim yourself to be ‘going on a bod’, and don’t get drunk but get ‘ratted or ‘recked’. The latter will certainly be useful for helping pass the time here. Apparently another trait of the local vernacular is that Barrovians can often be observed to be T-glottaling, but frankly what they get up to in their own homes is none of our business.

What’s the stadium like?

Initially opened in 1909 Barrow’s Holker Street ground was constructed on what was previously the site of a rubbish dump… another golden opportunity for you to fill in your own punchline. I say Holker Street, the ground is actually currently known as the So Legal Stadium, a name which arguably makes it sound more suspiciously illegal.

Holker Street was a well proportioned ground during what passes for a heyday round here, but when the club dropped into the fourth division in 1972 they decided to demolish big chunks of it to fit in a speedway circuit. And in an approach that anyone who has ever attempted a spot of DIY can relate to, unsatisfied with the changes, they promptly demolished a load more of it a few years later.

These days the ground has been described as having ‘a traditional, old fashioned feel’, which as we all know, is polite phraseology for ‘distinctly unmodern shithole’. Apparently the away end has been enhanced since the club’s return to the Football League, which suggests that previously it was little more than an open pit.

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