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 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 1960’s 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 Phylidda Barlow RA.

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

Woodland Walk

Why not enjoy a bit of the outdoors and head out to explore the Barlow’s beautiful Woodland Walk? Offering something a little bit special, the trails meander through the dense trees giving a sense of real escapism. Equally as enchanting through dappled sunlight as with a crisp frost under foot, the woodlands offer year round delights. Go on a bug hunt in the summer, walk amongst a carpet of bluebells in spring, be dazzled by a riot of colour as the leaves fall in autumn or enjoy the tranquillity of the snow muffled woods on a winters day.

Walkers can join the woodland walks as part of a larger route, with ample countryside around the Barlow and the wider village, you can happily while away the hours with some serious mileage accompanied by stunning scenery.

For those younger outdoor enthusiasts, a trip to the Barlow Woodland Walk is a must. Hunt out an army of mini beasts, count how many squirrels you can spot, collect a leaf in every colour or maybe just enjoy some old fashioned muddy good fun. There is so much to do, but don’t worry, the trails are just the right length for little legs.

Sports & Recreation

The Barlow started life as a recreation ground and it is still very much at its heart today. Both the cricket club and the bowling green date back further than the Barlow building itself and both are enjoyed by many players from the surrounding area, embedding the clubs firmly in the community.

Be captivated by an afternoon of cricket as you watch from the comfort of the clubs viewing deck, or join the bowling club and discover this delightful game at this friendly club.

For some fabulously fun family time, the Barlow’s two playgrounds are sure to bring a smile to your little ones face. For little adventurers the enclosed playground equipped with swings, slides and roundabouts in a variety of sizes, will keep them entertained for hours. The big kids aren’t forgotten either, with a wooden adventure playground complete with wobbly bridge and climbing fort.

Tennis courts and a small 5-a-side pitch are also available for use establishing the Barlow as a truly diverse recreation ground.

Diane Radcliffe
Office Team Leader

Reading Room Manager

Andrew Waller
Facilities Lead

Liz Waller
Customer Service Lead

Linda Spencer 
Group Lead – Marketing

Sandra Taylor
Chair, Events Committee





Jackie Emmett
Group Lead, Promotions


Sara Lobley
Wedding Co-ordinator

Judith Pugh