A Day at the Dock Musuem

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Fiver29 on July 11, 2009

The Dock Museum in Barrow in Furness is named because it’s built into an old dock once used by the shipbuilding firms over the years.


If you’re coming in by car you can reach the Dock Museum by driving straight down the A590 from the M6 motorway, it takes about 35 minutes from the motorway to reach Barrow. There’s a free car park at the museum that holds more than enough cars on any given day. Beware though if by some strange chance the car park is full, don’t be tempted to park at Tesco across the road, you will get fined.

If you arrive by train, you’ll have to walk to the museum from the station or get a taxi, as the only bus service which runs past the museum doesn’t go close to the railway station. The walk would take about 10-15 minutes on average.

Opening Times (Copied from the website for ease)

Easter to October Inclusive (Summer)
Tuesday to Friday 10am - 5pm.
Saturday and Sunday 11am - 5pm.
Last Admission 4.15pm.
Open Bank Holiday Mondays - High Season Only
November to Easter (Winter)
Wednesday to Friday 10.30am - 4pm.
Last Admission 3.15pm.
Saturday and Sunday 11am - 4.30pm.
Last Admission 3.45pm.


The museum if fully accessible for people in wheelchairs as there is a lift that covers all three floors. They also have touch tours for the visually impaired, with information sheets in large print and Braille. For those with hearing difficulties, the film has a hearing loop. Guide dogs are the only dogs allowed in the museum itself, although many people walk their dogs along the channel front.

Outside the Museum

There are a couple of exhibits outside the museum, the main one being the retired lifeboat, and the large rudder. The main thing outside however is the playground. This is quite well used by local children and it’s rare you’ll find a quiet time, unless you are visiting during the school day. There is a large wooden boat in the centre of the playground, with various slides and climbing ropes. There’s also a large rope climbing frame, and rope roundabout. For smaller children there’s a smaller wooden boat in a sandpit area. However, be aware that the area is not supervised by any staff, and many children are left to their own devises in the playground, and on occasion I have seen older children entering the sand pit and throwing sand around.

There’s also a walk from the front of the Dock Museum along Walney Channel (a small body of water that separates Barrow in Furness centre from Walney Island). This is popular with dog walkers, and with families.

They also have a few picnic tables, which many people use after buying food from the cafe, so they can watch the children at the same time.

Inside the Museum

Admission to the museum is free, however at the front you’ll find a gift shop, and they are also happy to take donations. The gift shop is only small, and mainly sells little items such as pens and pencils, books about the history of the area and the history of shipbuilding.

There is also a small cafe at the front; they sell a small variety of hot and cold food and drinks, as well as a selection of ice creams and lollies. The cafe has informal tables and chairs for eating, or comfy lounge chairs if you’re just stopping for a drink.

On to the museum itself; well unsurprisingly much of it is all very nautical, there are a lot of glass houses exhibits showing scaled models of different boats, items which can be found on boats (missile launchers and such like), and various wartime nautical memorabilia. They do have some none nautical bits and pieces, for instance they show how life had changed in Barrow over the years with a couple of small interactive exhibits, and displays showing how homes and schools would have looked when Barrow first began to expand into a town in the Victorian era.

In the depths of the dock there’s a cinema, which shows 6 different films. The first shows Barrow from above, there’s a film about Furness Abbey, one about the railways, two about the shipyard, but my favourite is entitled ‘Is it grim up North?’ which is a rather funny look at how life is in Barrow.

Throughout the year the Museum does various activities for children, for example at Easter they’ll do an egg hunt or have chick handling opportunities. Or later this year they are having a circus skills day where you can learn to juggle, spin plates, etc. These sessions often get very busy, because many of the locals take their children to these events.

My Thoughts

The museum itself is rather small, and if you’re not interested in all things nautical you’ll probably find it rather dull. There are a few things about Barrow and its history, but because Barrow is so wrapped up by the shipbuilding industry, even these bits of history are nautically based.

I find that the scaled models don’t really give a sense of how impressive these ships are when you see the full scale version. I remember seeing HMS Invincible (the last aircraft carrier built in Barrow) and it was phenomenal, but seeing these ships, as nice as they look and as detailed as they are, just doesn’t have the same wow factor.

The playground and Channelside walk suffer from the problem many places have, in that it is spoilt for the majority by the minority. The parents who let their children run riot in the playground spoil it for the children who are well behaved, and the dog owners who don’t pick up after their dogs spoil it for people who want to walk without being worried about what they might step in.

The various activities that the museum run during the school holidays are always enjoyable, if a bit crowded, but my two have always enjoyed joining in, although my son is getting to that age where it’s not ‘cool’ to be seen to be enjoying it. So I’d say that they’re are probably activities best suited to under 10’s, or to girls, as girls seem to enjoy these sorts of things for longer than boys.

The food in the cafe is nice and not too expensive either. Personally I wouldn’t bother with the gift shop, but for anyone with a keen interest in shipbuilding and industrial history, then it’s probably a good source for books.

The museum probably takes about an hour to look round thoroughly, depending on the films of course. So I wouldn’t recommend anyone travel for hours to get there, but if you’re in the South Lakes area it’s well worth popping in for a visit.
Dock Museum
The Dock, North Road
Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, England
01229 876400


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