Vickerstown was developed in the early years of the 20th century in response to the rapid expansion of the town of Barrow, which had led to an acute housing shortage. The local shipyard was growing very quickly after having been taken over in 1897 by the Yorkshire steel firm of Vickers Ltd.

There had been little support for "Walney-on-Sea" - an ambitious proposal a year or two previously to develop the island as a major holiday resort. This left the way clear for The Isle of Walney Estates Company (a subsidiary of Vickers) to press ahead with an extensive programme of residential provision. 

There are really two estates (to the north and the south of St Mary's parish church ), which were built in two main phases. North Vickerstown was constructed between 1900 and 1904, whilst the southern estate was finished around 1904-1905. This all created around one thousand new houses. Many of the streets were named after soldiers who had distinguished themselves in the recent Boer War (such as Sir Robert Baden-Powell, and Lord Roberts of Kandahah) or after some of the main ships being built by Vickers - e.g. Powerful Street, Vengeance Street and Niobe Street. ( The large cruiser "HMS Terrible", sister-ship to "HMS Powerful",  could unfortunately not be considered, having been built at Clydebank!)

Main amenities like shops, public houses, a park, a farm - and churches - were all included within the overall scheme. Additional houses and streets were subsequently added from c.1913 onwards. In 1915, a Picture Theatre opened in Natal Road. There were certain similiarities to later and more famous model villages - like Bourneville in Birmingham or Port Sunlight on Merseyside. Vickerstown has therefore been described as "A Marine Garden City" - even though there was never quite the same attempt to create a rural atmosphere as in the other places.. James Dunn Park, Vickerstown, with previous St. Mary's Church above. (For more pictures like this please visit our Gallery.

The Promenade

The first tenant moved into Latona Street, Vickerstown, in November 1900. The estate architect, W. Moss Settle, had designed a fair variety of styles of house - the largest being on The Promenade, overlooking the Walney Channel. The estates company was notoriously strict in allocating the houses in accordance with the tenants' status in the shipyard - regardless of any ability to pay extra.

Initially there were also definite rules about retaining the original colour scheme and the external appearance of the houses. But all this began to break down after the first dwellings were sold off in the 1930s. Early in 1951 only a handful of houses remained unsold, and the Isle of Walney Estates Company was wound up the following December.

By the 1980s, all except about fifty houses had lost at least some of their original features. Nevertheless in January 1988 Barrow Borough Council recognised the historical significance of the north and south estates - and it therefore declared Vickerstown to be a Conservation Area, creating special incentives and special responsibilities for preserving its distinctive character.

Douglas Street and Niobe Street

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