Abbey House Hotel, Barrow-in-Furness (Heritage Assessment)

Abbey House Hotel, Abbey Road, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria: Heritage Assessment

Prior to the submission of a planning application for a range of alterations to the Abbey House Hotel, Abbey Road, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria and its grounds Historic England was consulted. The hotel, which is a Grade II* Listed Building, is located within the precinct of Furness Abbey and therefore within a Scheduled Monument. Following this consultation it was requested that a heritage assessment of the site be compiled and as a result Greenlane Archaeology was commissioned to carry this out. This was intended to establish at an early stage whether there were likely to be any sites of archaeological interest within the proposed development area and assess how the proposals might affect these sites. The work for the project, including a site visit, was carried out in February 2017.

The map evidence revealed that the proposed development area was within two fields, one named ‘Marrs’ on the earliest maps, although the significance of this is uncertain. A number of plans relating to the construction of the Abbey House, dated 1913 and 1914, provide considerable detail about the various elements of the building and its grounds, even including the position of the drains and a tennis court.
The site is located within the precinct of the Furness Abbey, which was established in 1127 and became one of the most powerful monastic houses in the country. However, the wider area contains remains ranging from the end of the last Ice Age and there are have been a number of significant Roman and early medieval finds from the area around the abbey. The site was essentially undeveloped until the construction of the Abbey House, to the designs of Sir Edward Lutyens, in 1914. It was built by Vickers to form a guest house for visitors and also as a residence for the director, but became an old people’s home in 1951 and was converted to a hotel in 1985. A new addition was built on the north end in c2000, and elements of this work were subject to archaeological monitoring at the time. Further monitoring for the installation of new signage was also carried out in 2014; neither of these pieces of work revealed any particularly significant archaeological remains, although a section of wall, perhaps part of the precinct boundary, was revealed in the early watching brief. An earlier geophysical survey was carried out on land immediately to the south of the site in 1988, which revealed a number of features of interest, although none were investigated further at the time.

The assessment demonstrated that while the site is located in an area of some archaeological interest and potential most of the proposed development areas are likely to have been disturbed by previous work relating to the construction of the Abbey House and its subsequent extension. The exception is the area of proposed overflow car parking (Area 5c), which is some distance from the buildings. In most cases the associated ground works are likely to be of limited depth so it is recommended that an archaeological watching brief would be appropriate mitigation. However, in the case of Area 5c some investigative work in the form of an archaeological evaluation or geophysical survey would be more appropriate, although the appropriate consents would be needed for work of this type within the Scheduled Monument.

The full report will be made available on the Archaeology Data Service website.