Henry Schneider founded an ironworks in 1857, and in 1865 the two steel and ironworks combined to form the Barrow Haematite Steel Company. At its height in the 1870s and early 1880s, this was an efficient and integrated industrial powerhouse that dominated the landscape.
Satellite industries of the great Hindpool iron and steel works were set up in the 1860s and 1870s, these included boiler works, wire works, wagon works and even a modest little shipyard on Barrow Island. The Steel Company produced a wide range of goods, but its "signature product” was the steel rail, laid on tracks throughout Britain, Europe, America and wherever the British Empire held sway.
The final quarter of the nineteenth century was a curious time in Barrow, a period of hesitancy and anticlimax. A new process, invented in the 1880s, allowed phosphoric ore to be used, instead of the high-grade haematite, and so opened the floodgates of competition for Barrow steel. Now the one weak link in the Hindpool chain was exposed. With Furness not having any coal and importation costly Barrow iron and steel began to lose their markets. At the same time, Furness ore reserves were depleting and as the mines went deeper they were more and more prone to flooding. King Vulcan no longer ruled with the same optimism of the 1860s and 1870s. Profits were still made but on a much reduced scale and there was no other industry in Barrow to compensate for steel’s decline.
As Barrow was then a one-industry town, the difficulties of the Haematite Steel Company had grave social consequences. When the Hindpool furnaces were shut down for weeks or months, the thousands of men became unemployed – in 1884, 1887, 1891, 1893, 1895, 1905, 1908 and so on.