If anybody suggested that Barrow once had a reputation as a place to come for the treatment of tuberculosis, one of the major diseases of the 19th and early 20th century, you might be forgiven for more than a disbelieving shake of the head. However, in the 19th century at a time when this terrible disease was common, the sulphurous Barrow air which was the result of lime burning in Barrow's many local kilns was believed to have curative powers. A local news story of the time, mentioned in the first volume of Barry and John Wilford's "Bygone Barrow upon Soar". reported that London GPs would often recommend patients to visit the village to seek the so-called Barrow Cure.
The story resurfaced again recently through a reference spotted in a forthcoming history of the ancient Cresswell family", who had links withBarrow at one time. Dr Francis Cresswell, with his wife Emily and family moved to Barrow about 1904 and lived in Barrow's old House of Industry - the Work House (now No. 49 Beveridge Street):". Dr Cresswell died in 1920 but older village residents recall that Mrs Cresswell was well known for her good works in the village in the 1920's and in particular her links with Holy Trinity church. Their son Frank who attended Loughborough Grammar School was killed in the Great War and his name is recorded on the village war memorial.
We might be tempted to dismiss the story of the Barrow Cure as fanciful, but interestingly, the details have been confirmed by one of the older residents of the village, Mr Jim Lockwood, who recalls his grandfather, born in the 1840's, speaking of it. Harold Mitchell also remembers tales of the "white haze" which drifted over Barrow when lime burning was in progress. Apparently, it was common for villagers who suffered from consumption to gather round the edge of the lime pits and breathe the acrid smoke coming from the kilns.
Nowadays, we would consider this practice as little short of madness, more likely to worsen any respiratory illness than cure it, but in those days, before the development of modern medicines, many such ideas would be tried in the hope that they might give relief. The popularity of the Barrow Cure died out around the turn of the century with the gradual demise of lime burning in the area and the advent of more enlightened treatments.
It would be interesting to hear of any other memories or references to this almost forgotten aspect of Barrow's past.
** "The Cresswells of Winchmore Hilr by Peter Hodge (soon to be published by the Southgate District Civic Trust).
**Roger Chappell is the author of the boolklet "Barrow upon Soar's House of Industry" (1994); Steve Joyce is currently undertaking research for a PhD on 20th century Barrow.
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