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…


It was a day of great celebration when, on Saturday 30th October 1909, Sir Thomas Barlow opened the doors of The Barlow Memorial Institute for the first time.

For the Barlow family it marked the completion of a splendid memorial to their parents, James and Alice Barlow, which had already seen the provision of the Recreation Ground, Tennis Courts, Bowling Green, Open-air Swimming Pool, Maze and Woodlands Park complete with a boating lake.

For the people of Edgworth and surrounding villages it was a magnificent benefaction, not only catering for their recreational needs, but now also taking care of their social and educational well-being with a Main Hall for lectures and concerts, Reading Room Coffee Shop, Library, Billiards Room, Teaching Kitchen, District Nurse Room, Public Wash-house and Public Bath.

Designed in the ‘Arts and Crafts’ style by architect George Faulkner Armitage, The Barlow still retains many of its original features and is still the centrepiece of the 10-acre Barlow Estate.

Who were James and Alice Barlow?

 Born in 1821, James Barlow was the son of a local farmer from Redisher who became a wealthy industrialist with interests in textiles, mining, banking and much more.  He married Alice Barnes from Rossendale in 1843 and they lived in Edgworth at Brandwood Fold before acquiring the neighbouring Greenthorne Estate in 1861 and building a grand new house set in extensive gardens.

With their wealth James and Alice set about realising their firmly held philanthropic beliefs.  They were staunch Methodists and strong supporters of the Temperance Movement and the abolition of slavery.  They helped fund the building of Edgworth Methodist Church in 1863 and set up the first National Children’s Home at Crowthorn in 1872.

James was also a Liberal Councillor and served as Mayor of Bolton (1867-69) with Alice as his Mayoress.

James died at Greenthorne in 1887, followed a year later by Alice in 1888.  They are buried in the graveyard at Edgworth Methodist Church – The Barlow is their lasting and cherished memorial.


 The Barlow Family

James and Alice had eight children, although only five survived into adulthood.  The family continued their parents’ good works and they, and their descendants, have gone on to make their mark in many ways but have never lost sight of supporting The Barlow.

Most notably,eldest son, Sir Thomas Barlow went on to become Royal Physician to Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V.


Younger son, John Robert Barlow, took over from his father in running the family’s business affairs and continuing their philanthropic works.

Daughter, Annie Barlow, hosted Mahatma Gandhi at Greenthorne when he visited the Lancashire cotton mills in 1931.  Annie was also the ‘Indiana Jones’ of her day and was influential in forming Bolton Museum’s Egyptology collection.

Sir Alan Barlow, son of Sir Thomas Barlow, was a leading civil servant and Private Secretary to Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, he married Nora Darwin, grand-daughter of renowned naturalist Charles Darwin. Their daughter, Hilda, married psychoanalyst John Hunter Padel and their daughter, well known poet and author Ruth Padel is currently the Honorary President of the Barlow Charitable Trust – demonstrating the ever present and continuing support of the Barlow Family. Indeed, in 2017, the Barlow family made a significant and much appreciated donation to The Barlow which has subsequently enabled major renovation works to be carried out including the provision of a new roof, windows and doors.



Early Development of the Barlow 


The early development of the Barlow Estate dates back to 1898 when the Recreation Ground and Bowling Green were laid out.  This was soon followed by the open-air swimming pool, maze, tennis court and woodland park.  The Memorial Institute, now known as The Barlow, was the final piece in the jigsaw, opening in 1909.


Barlow Open Air Swimming Pool

The rapid development of the Barlow estate at the turn of the 20th Century was entirely financed by the Barlow family and they continued to provide staff and funding for the Estate for many years.  John and Annie Barlow, in particular, also took a close interest in the running of The Barlow, although much of the responsibility for the day-to-day operations was under the control of William Kingsley who managed the estate on behalf of the Barlow family from its establishment in 1898 until his death in 1936.

William Kingsley – Early Manager of the Barlow Estate

Under the stewardship of William Kingsley the Barlow went from strength to strength.  A wide range of local groups and societies were established to make use of the facilities, activities such as dances and whist drives were held, and concerts and lectures were put on, including, in 1915, a first cinematography presentation.

 Following the death of John Robert Barlow in 1923, the family decided to entrust the care of the Institute and its lands to Turton Urban District Council (UDC), the local authority at the time, and the Charity Commissioners.  This was confirmed in a conveyance dated 19th July 1926 and a Trust Deed, dated 10th November 1926, made by Turton UDC enrolling the property with the Charity Commissioners.

 The Barlow continued to thrive and provide a hub for community activities but after the Second World War things began to change.  Returning men and women had gained much wider experience of life outside Edgworth and new outlets for entertainment were becoming more accessible.  Whilst the cricket and bowling clubs continued to thrive, many of the old clubs and societies ceased to operate during the post war period, the swimming pool closed and the tennis courts were little used.

Billards Room – Now Snooker Room

Barlow Library – Bookcases still retained although the gas lights have gone.

Reading Room Coffee Shop – still retains fireplace and settles

A major change to the operation of the Barlow took place on 30th July 1971 with a Deed of Modification allowing the sale and consumption of alcohol – something which would never have been allowed during the lifetime of Annie or Thomas Barlow!

Local authority involvement passed from Turton UDC to Blackburn with Darwen Council (BwDC) in 1974 with local government re-organisation.  North Turton Parish Council became Custodian Trustee.  In 2011, BwDC withdrew its staff resource support and this was followed in 2013, by BwDC withdrawing its financial support.  The last BwDC responsibility, concerning maintenance of the old Play Area, ended in 2021 with the opening of the new extended Play Area.

The early history of the Barlow is well documented in the Turton Local History Society publication No. 32 – The Barlow Institute Centenary by James F. Francis.

The Barlow Today

 Today the Barlow Estate operates as an entirely volunteer led charitable organisation. 

 The Barlow Charitable Trust and its Trustees are responsible for the upkeep and operation of the Barlow Estate and work with Edgworth Cricket and Recreation Club (ECRC) and Edgworth Bowling Club (EBC) to maintain and develop the Estate, generate funding and help provide a community hub for all to enjoy.

 Barlow Volunteers also manage the day-to-day operation of The Barlow Institute and work with a wide range of user groups and organisations to host community activities, put on events and provide a venue for private functions such as weddings, anniversaries and birthday parties.

 After a period of uncertainty and decline, The Barlow and its Estate is once again looking forward to a bright future and a programme of restoration and improvements is well underway. In recent years we have seen:

  • Re-roofing of The Barlow building, together with cleaning of the stonework and the replacement of windows and doors;
  • Restoration of the veranda and the addition of a deck area to provide outdoor seating to the Reading Room Coffee Shop;
  • Internal works to The Barlow including a new heating system, kitchen improvements, restoration of the Snooker Room and a start on redecoration;
  • Re-surfacing of the car park;
  • Provision of a new Multi-Use Games Area and children’s Play Area;
  • Extensions and improvements to the Cricket & Recreation Club; and
  • Restoration and improvements to Barlow Woods.

 The above works have been made possible thanks to some very generous donations, successful grant applications and the hard work of our trustees, volunteers, members of ECRC & EBC and other supporters. 

Barlow Memorial Institute following extensive renovation works in 2021/22

If you would like to help, we are always looking to welcome new volunteers or you can provide financial support by joining our ‘Friends of The Barlow’.