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Ulverston

Why should I want an old photograph of Ulverston? What comes to mind when Ulverston is mentioned? For me it's the memory of uncles, aunts and cousins visited as a child in the 1950s. It's the cattle market to which my farmer uncle sent his animals. It's a volume of Wordsworth poetry here on my bookshelf, awarded to my mother by the Ulverston Victoria Grammar School in 1925. If you have any connection with or memory of the town, it will for you no doubt be something very different, but an old black and white photograph of Ulverston-past hanging on your wall could well become very important to you.

Photo of Ulverston, the Cross c1950, ref. U5008
Ulverston, the Cross c1950
Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

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Ulverston is a small market town on the A590 to the south of the Lake District. Although since 1974 it has been in the county of Cumbria it was historically in Lancashire, the northern part known as Lonsdale North of the Sands. Ulverston is not within the boundaries of the National Park but on the Furness Peninsula, an attractive area between the Leven estuary and Morecambe Bay to the south and the Duddon estuary to the north.

Photo of Ulverston, Hoad Hill and Monument 1912, ref. 64403
Ulverston, Hoad Hill and Monument 1912
Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

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High above the town is a prominent reminder of one of Ulverston's famous sons. The monument on Hoad Hill, with its circular staircase of 112 steps, is visible for many miles around and honours Sir John Barrow. He was born in Ulverston in 1764 and is sometimes described as the maker of the 19th century British navy, a powerful and effective organiser and administrator in post from 1804 for almost the whole of the next 40 years as 2nd Secretary of the Admiralty. He was also an enthusiastic promoter of Arctic exploration. His cottage birthplace, now known as the Sir John Barrow Cottage, is preserved by a local heritage organisation and is sometimes open to visitors.

Being the birthplace of Stan Laurel (born in 1890 as Arthur Stanley Jefferson) of Laurel & Hardy fame, Ulverston also has a museum in his honour in the Roxy cinema building on Brogden Street. For a small town it is also outstanding for having given birth to no less than three holders of the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for gallantry - one in the First World War amd two in the Second.

Photo of Ulverston, Swarthmoor Hall 1907, ref. 59142
Ulverston, Swarthmoor Hall 1907
Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

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The nearby village of Swarthmoor has strong connections with seventeenth century origins of the Quaker movement, Swarthmoor Hall being the home of Margaret Fell who after the death of husband, the circuit judge Thomas Fell, married George Fox the founder of the Society of Friends. There has been a Friends' Meeting House nearby since 1688.

Long before its much larger neighbour Barrow-in-Furness was developed as an industrial centre Ulverston had a busy harbour. It was the commercial centre for the Furness Peninsula and the region immediately around, having its market charter from 1280. The Ulverston Canal, built in 1795, leads inland from the Leven estuary and today is a good fishing water, especially for tench and bream.

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