A Short History of Barrow

While it is not known when Barrow was first settled, implements have been found dating back to the Palaeolithic era (which ended approximately 8500 BCE). However, the name of the village most probably comes from the Old English bearu, a grove, and not, as is sometimes thought, from the burial mounds of the same name.

In the late Anglo-Saxon age, the village of Barrow belonged to King Edward the Confessor (r. 1042-1066) and is listed in the Domesday Book. Under the Normans, various noble families had the overlordship, including the Marshals, the Passelewes, Giffards and Tibetofts.

In 1267, King Henry III (r. 1216-1277) granted Maud Passelewe the right to hold a weekly market at her manor in Barewe (sic).

Under the Tudors, the manor of Barrow was sold in 1540 to Sir Clement Heigham. A devout Catholic, he rallied to the standard of Queen Mary, who was of course living at Framlingham Castle when the news came to her in July 1553 that her half-brother, Edward VI, had died. The Queen amply rewarded Sir Clement, making him Speaker of the House of Commons in the 1554 Parliament, which reunited the English Church with Rome, and eventually, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer. With the accession of Mary’s Protestant half-sister, Elizabeth, Sir Clement was obliged to retire from public life and died in 1570 in the manor house he had recently constructed. His splendid tomb may be seen in Barrow Church. Sir Clement’s son, Sir John, was also a Member of Parliament, but in contrast to his father, was a staunch Puritan. He is believed to have entertained Queen Elizabeth at the Manor House.

Another prominent Barrovian is Mary Beale (1633-1699), born in the village as the daughter of the rector, John Cradock. She is almost certainly the first woman in England to earn her living from her art as a portrait painter. She studied under Sir Peter Lely among others and had a studio in London (where her husband was her assistant!) from 1670 until her death. She is buried at St James’s, Piccadilly. Some of her portraits may be seen in Moyses Hall Museum in Bury and at the National Portrait Gallery.

A second lady of note is Edith Crack. She was the last of several generations of hurdle makers, and is believed to have been the only female hurdle maker in England. When she retired in 1978, this ancient craft ceased to be practised in Barrow.

Barrow Church (All Saints) is a Grade I listed building. Some way off from the main settlement but adjacent to the former manor (as is often the pattern), the present building, although much altered and added to, is believed to have been erected in the 13th Century during the reign of Henry III, replacing an earlier Norman church, which would itself have replaced a wooden Saxon church. Nearby is Barrow Hall, a Grade II listed building, which has a moat enclosing the site of an ancient manor house. Another building of note is the Town Estate Room, which dates from the 17th Century but has a probable mediaeval core. Barrow Mill was demolished in 1926.

The village hall was completed in 1955 and was built in honour of the coronation of the present Queen Elizabeth. The village sign was erected in 1991 and designed locally. It features a sword (to represent the Bronze Age swords uncovered in 1850), a steam traction engine (used extensively a century ago to help with harvesting and ploughing), a hurdle (see above), trees (to symbolise the village’s name) and ducks (another Barrow attraction!).

Until comparatively recently, like most villages, Barrow was almost entirely self-sufficient, although most people of working age now travel to work. It is interesting to note that as late as 1981, there were a village shop (Watson’s Stores), a hairdresser’s, a pottery, a veterinary surgery and a doctor’s surgery all around the Green alone. Even today, unlike many of its neighbours, Barrow can boast a doctor’s surgery, two mini-supermarkets, a post office, a café, a fish bar, a flower shop, and a pub among its amenities.

Under St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Vision 2031, Barrow has been designated as a ‘Key Service Centre’ and is planned to grow by 25% in the medium term.

© Zigurds Kronbergs, 2015

With acknowledgements and thanks to Mrs Sylvia Greening and the Local History Society and the authors of the Barrow cum Denham Parish Plan