The 'barrows' (burial mounds) of the village name may be those to be seen to the north-east of the village.
St Peter's church is situated at the south-west end of the village, not far from the picturesque main green and duck pond. The ancient custom of 'rush bearing' is still observed at the Patronal Festival each year, when the church floor is strewn with rushes gathered from the banks of the nearby river Welland.
In 1829, a Thomas Cook met Marianne Mason, a farmer's daughter living at West Farm, Barrowden. He was an itinerant Baptist missionary, but due to a lack of funds, he became a wood turner and cabinet-maker. They married in 1833 and moved to Market Harborough. On 5th July 1841, they hired a special train to take some Leicester Temperance supporter to a rally at Loughborough. This was the foundation of the Thomas Cook travel agency.
A water mill is mentioned in 1259, and was probably the site on which the 1637 mill was constructed by Mr Bullingham, on the river Welland. The mill has now been demolished, but a survey made in 1955 of the various dates etched on the inside of the remaining wall, revealed: 1677, 1688, BF 1705, and 1787. 'BF' is thought to refer to 'The Big Flood', as lines were cut in against that date. Floods must have been higher than any in living memory, and it is suggested that this was before the fens were drained. These etched stones and a mill stone now decorate a garden in the Old Tannery Yard.
Behind the mill was the tannery, where hides from local cows were processed to make rugs, parchment for drums and also glue. The tannery closed in 1885, but an outbuilding was turned into a large shop by Mr Kirby, who toured villages selling his various goods. When Mr Kirby died in 1934, the contents of the shop were sold by auction.
The old shop, and Mr Kirby's house were bought by Mr Frank Ellis, who converted and drove what is believed to have been the first motorised travelling fish and chip van in the country. During the Second World War, the old tannery was used as a factory, making ammunition cases, and in recent years, as a plastics factory. Sadly in 1986, it was demolished to make way for new houses.
In 1900 there were three bakehouses, five shops, three butchers, four shoemakers, three tailors, two smiths, and five public houses. Tippings Lane took its name from the blacksmith, who worked on the green in the 19th century. Besides his usual work, he made muzzle-loading guns. Kings Lane is named after a tailor who lived there.
Many present villagers can recall taking the Sunday joints to be roasted, at two pence a time, in the huge oven of the last remaining bakehouse, which has now been converted into a home. The village school closed in the 1960s, and has also suffered the same fate.
Fortunately, one shop remains, combining the post office counter with the traditional village shop goods and service. The shop provides some free groceries each month for many elderly residents, under two village charities. One was set up by Mr John Brown in 1833, who left property in Hammersmith, the other by the rector's daughter, Mary Cary, who in 1876 left invested money, which also provides some free coal each winter to qualifying pensioners.
(The above extract from 'The Leicestershire & Rutland Village Book', compiled by the Leicestershire & Rutland Federation of Women's Institutes, is reproduced by kind permission of the publishers, Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire)