History of

On the Saturday afternoon of October 30th 1909, the Barlow Memorial Institute in Edgworth was officially opened in an atmosphere of great celebration and communal pride..

The History of The Barlow..

On the Saturday afternoon of October 30th 1909, the Barlow Memorial Institute in Edgworth was officially opened in an atmosphere of great celebration and communal pride. This “large and handsome building” was the result of a private benefaction and dedicated to the memory of James and Alice Barlow by their children, most notably Sir Thomas Barlow (1845– 1945).

Sir Thomas was born in Brandwood Fold, and after studying medicine in Manchester and London rose to become Professor of clinical medicine at University College London, and Royal Physician to Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V. It was he, together with his brothers and sisters, who opened the doors at the dedication ceremony.

The villagers had long enjoyed the privilege of a Recreation Ground and this latest gift completed the memorial. The Recreation Ground consisted of a bowling green, a cricket pitch, an open-air swimming pool, tennis courts, a football pitch, a maze, and a decorative park complete with a boating lake. What this must have looked like back in 1909 must have been truly spectacular – a 10-acre site centred on the Institute dedicated to outdoor and indoor recreation of all types.

While the Recreation Grounds catered for the physical welfare of the local residents, the Institute catered for their minds and spirits with its reading rooms, library, lecture hall, gymnasium, billiard room and coffee room. Public baths were provided – it was a time of poor domestic sanitation – and welfare schemes put in place to support the more needy members of the community “no matter of what creed or politics”; the district nurse had consulting rooms there.

It was in this building that the local people could take shelter from the “boisterous, roysterous breezes” for which the moorland village was famous, and find an alternative to the many licensed houses of which Edgworth was “well supplied” at the time.

It was an act of selfless munificence, which in turn was repeated once again in the 1960s when Sir Alan Barlow, the eldest son of Sir Thomas died, and his wife Nora – who lived to the grand old age of 103 – bequeathed their family home, “The Orchard” in Cambridge, to the University. It became New Hall College now Murray Edwards College. So the students, staff and alumni of Cambridge share a common bond with residents of Edgworth.

Nora, Sir Thomas’s daughter-in-law, carried the maiden name of Darwin – she was the granddaughter of Charles Darwin the famous naturalist and his wife Emma Wedgwood, the youngest daughter of Josiah Wedgwood the famous pottery manufacturer. The eminent poet Ruth Padel, is the granddaughter of Sir Thomas Barlow as is the artist Phyllida Barlow RA.

The Barlow family can boast no fewer than four Knights of the Realm.

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