The village of Barrow-upon-Soar has had several differing names in its long past. Amongst others it has been known as Barogh-on-Sore, Barow, Barowe-upon-Sore, Baro, Barrough, and the entry in the Domesday Book is that of Barhoo, which is a derivation of the word 'barrow' meaning 'a burial place'.
R H Bennett surmised in his 'Short history of Barrow' that the naming may have arisen from the useage of the locality as a burial ground as it falls along the Great Salt Way which passes via Barrow from Six Hills, either by:- a) The Druids on the way to Beacon hill for their festivities b) The Romans, who used the road to transport salt from the Droitwich mines. Roman burial remains and artifacts have been found in Barrow lime delphs and are now in Leicester museum.
For over a thousand years, Barrow has been noted for its excellent quality of lime. In the past, the village had an active industry of removing chalk from the ground and burning in Lime Kilns, which have been found scattered throughout the village. In 1845 there were 11 lime delphs in operation. It was later commercialised by John Ellis Ltd. The lime is believed to have been used by the Romans for laying pavements in Leicester; during Norman times; Kirby Muxloe Castle in 1480; Ramsgate Pier and many of the tube railways beneath London. Cement, made from Barrow lime, was found to harden under water , and was often used for building work in these circumstances.
The pungent smell of the lime could be smelt all over the village and it was said that the aromatic air was the reason for people being cured of consumption. At the turn of the 19th century, it was common for London doctors to send tuberculous patients to the village for ‘the Barrow cure’. This practise carried on for about 10 years but eventually petered out. The practise was born out by the fact that many old-established families of Barrow appeared to possess stamina and longevity. However, the lime dust did result in many quarrymen suffering from asthma and bronchial complaints.
Barrow was noted for this industry in the late 1800s. Most cottages had a stocking frame on the premises and entire families were involved in the knitting and making-up of stockings, gloves etc. Men were usually responsible for the knitting and the womenfolk did the seaming
Chair-bottom making and mending, either in cane or rushes flourished in the village. It was carried out in the old cottages of Hallam’s Yard.
Thomas Freer, the Barrow wheelwright, who died in 1866, was known throughout England as a maker of cricket bats and he made bats for many of the county cricketers of the time.
There were stone-masons of renown, and another Barrow craftsman was Thomas Bakewell, the clockmaker, who specialised in grandfather clocks
It is recorded that following the severe winter of 1794-5, food prices had risen greatly and there was a serious shortage of grain. Riots were breaking out, as many poor were starving. On 5th August 1795, a wagon of corn was passing through Barrow to Leicester and it was seized and detained by hungry villagers. The Leicester Magistrate arrived, supported by Leicester Yeomanry and he read the Riot Act to the villagers, ordering them to disperse and hand over the corn. They refused to do this and bombarded the Yeomanry with stones. The Yeomanry then discharged a volley, killing 3 villagers and dangerously wounding 8.
In 1794, the Canal was constructed by Leicester Navigation Co. It was several hundred yards long and joined Barrow Mill to below the Lock. This new waterway gave access to Birmingham, Hull and London and was used to bring coal to Barrow and transport lime from Barrow until the later introduction of the railway.
It was agreed to install gas street lighting to the village in 1862. The lamps were first lit in 1863 for the marriage of King Edward VII and Queen Alexander. There were 38 street lamps and John Kettle was elected as ‘Lamplighter’. He was required to light, extinguish and keep them clean and maintained for an annual wage of £6.00 p.a.