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History Project

James Thompson with Barton Farm’s horse in 1918 – standing in what now is the hall at Barton Road Centre


From Cowshed to Community Centre

From Cow Shed to Community Centre is a community project to investigate the history and development of our Centre, an 18th Century building which many people pass every day without realising its fascinating past.

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project involves interviewing people on film about their memories of the building from when it was a barn to its time as a school kitchen and its life as a community centre.

The building, which was known as Barton House in the 1820s, is thought to date back to at least 1780.

Locally, there is one family who lived in the building from the end of the 1800s –  the Thompsons. One member of the Thompson family was the acclaimed photographer, Sam Thompson.

Sam’s images of Lancaster life and local worthies taken from the 1890s-1940s won him recognition nationally and internationally and provide a valuable archive of long gone characters and places.

One of his photographs featuring his nephew is a rare image of the barn in around 1918.

Barton Road, as passed by hundreds of drivers every day, was originally just a track known as Barton Lane, so called because there were a lot of farmers, husbandmen and a couple of gentlemen with the surname Barton living in Scotforth in the second half of the 18th Century.

It is thought that the land including the barn and farm was bought for educational purposes after the Thomsons stopped farming there in 1941 and in later years the building was converted into school kitchens, while the adjacent land became a playing field, mostly used by Greaves School pupils.

Another chapter in the life of the barn began in 1988 when it became a youth and community centre run by Lancashire County Council.

The council still own the building but, in 2010, withdrew community provision from Barton Road Centre. Since then, the day-to-day management and delivery of more than 20 community activities and groups there have been overseen by trustees of the Barton Road Centre Charity.  These are local people committed to keeping the centre available as a community resource for residents in south Lancaster.

Once From Cow Shed To Community is completed, the 20 films will be screened later this year and can be viewed on the community centre’s website. They will be available to local schools and churches and be sent to the North West Film Archive for inclusion in their collection

Share your memories!

Lancaster-based film-maker, Janine Bebbington is leading the project and is appealing for people with memories of the building to contact her.

“I would like to find people who traditionally may have been unheard in the community such as the  people who came to youth groups in the 1980s to the staff who worked in the building when it was a school kitchen from the 1950s-1970s,” Janine said.

Until the Sixties, there were other farm outbuildings on the Barton Road site which were converted into changing rooms for Greaves Secondary School and anyone who remembers using that facility are welcome to share their memories too.

Janine already has several interviewees lined up including a great niece of Sam Thompson and a woman who remembers visiting the barn to collect milk from churns when she was a girl.

“We hope that this project will inspire people to continue finding out about where they live and  take a more active interest in what is happening at Barton Road Centre now,” said Janine.

Anyone with memories of the Barton Road building should attend the February 15 drop-in, ring 01524 65622 or visit