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Photographer: John C. Trotter

Abbey House

Gazetteer No. G0263

Date 1913

Address Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria LA13 0PA England


Lodge to Abbey House Hotel (qv). 1914. By Edwin Lutyens. For Vickers Ltd. Red ashlar sandstone, graduated slate roof. 2 storeys, 3 bays with short wing to rear left. Central doorway with panelled oak door under round arch with cornice. Outer bays on each floor have double-chamfered, 4-light mullioned windows with leaded lights and king mullions, the 1st-floor windows are shorter; matching 2-light window above door. Cast-iron rain-water hoppers with square downpipes. Coped parapet with gable over bay 1 having small window. End stack on left has 4 octagonal flues; projecting end stack to right has 2 flues which rise from coped gable. Rear: mullioned and transomed stair window. (Historic England, list entry 1208995) Abbey House Hotel, Abbey Road. In the nw corner of the abbey precinct, above but hidden from the car park. By Lutyens, 1913–14, i.e. a near-contemporary with the rigours of Castle Drogo (Devon), and the demure domesticity of Ednaston Manor (Derbys.). It was built for Vickers of Barrow, as a place to entertain ministers and heads of state for the purpose of selling them battleships. Vickers asked for a large hall, drawing room, billiard room and dining room on the ground floor, and ‘a full little apartment for McKechnie [managing director] where he can receive a couple of friends, and his apartment should have a private entrance of its own . . . and be cut off entirely from the rest of the house’. Neither country house nor hotel, but with elements of each.

Of red sandstone and based on the Tudor E, with extra, lower wings at the ends, the building’s startling austerity and rigid symmetry seem in tune with its purpose. The polygonal porch shows windows only at the very top. Windows are punched through, the mullions and transoms of the ground and top floors contrasting with intermittent bands of roundtopped mezzanine windows between. Where mezzanine windows are missing, e.g. in the fronts of the wings, there is just blank wall. No sills, no drips, no strings or plinths, and only the slightest roll forward as a cornice. All we are left with is powerful massing and sharp edges reinforced by Lutyens’s subtle battering, strong colour, a great run of roof behind its parapet, and massively grouped chimneys.

Entry is through the low domed porch to an equally low transverse hall with a pair of doors at each end; a claustrophobic and unsettling space. In order to reach the principal rooms you have to penetrate the spine wall. The great hall centres on the biggest bay at the back, despite which it is surprisingly dark. Through it climbs the main stair, wide and creaky, pausing on top of the screen. Over the whole is an unadorned coffered ceiling.The billiard room, now the bar, is double-height too, with a lower section originally containing the fireplace. Back-to-back with it is the former drawing room, with a saucer dome on pendentives. The dining room in the corresponding wing has a barrel-vault, a small gallery, and a suffocatingly large fireplace (many of the fireplaces are bolection-moulded). The main stair changes character when it cuts back through the spine wall to the mezzanine, abandoning the pale oak and symmetrically turned balusters of the lower part for black, chunky, cartoon-like slat balusters and newels.

A hotel extension to the n, 2001, kowtows to Lutyens in its red stone cladding, angled bays and strip windows; otherwise unremarkable. – lodge. Also by Lutyens, and equally austere. A wide entrance on Abbey Road, designed for a cavalcade of cars to sweep in to the turning circle. A raised grass plinth to the house. A row of windswept pines to the s. (Hyde & Pevsner, 2010, p.360)


Historic England. North Lodge to Abbey House. [Online] Available from:

Hyde M & Pevsner N (2010) Cumbria. The Buildings of England. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Also Cited In

Aslet, C. (1982) The Last Country Houses. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Butler, A., 1950. The architecture of Sir Edwin Lutyens: the Lutyens memorial series. Vol 1: Country Houses, Country Life: London and Scibners: New York.

MESSRS. VICKERS, 1921. COUNTRY HOMES, GARDENS OLD & NEW: ABBEY HOUSE, BARROW-IN-FURNESS. Country Life (Archive : 1901 – 2005), 49(1265), pp. 398-404.

Listing Grade


Listing Reference



Messrs Vickers