A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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The borough of Blackburn is situated on hilly ground rising from the valley of the River Darwen, which flows through the south-western suburbs, and from both banks of the tributary Blackwater, the ancient 'blake burn' which gave name to the township. On the north-west the town extends almost to the summit of Revidge, an eminence 750 ft. above the ordnance datum, and extends in the opposite direction nearly to Whinney Edge, where the elevation is 664 ft. The lowest level, about 320 ft., is reached by the banks of the River Darwen on the south-west. (fn. 1)
The northern part of the original township lies upon the Millstone Grit, the remainder-from the top of Revidge southward—on the Coal Measures. The agricultural land is almost entirely confined to the northern part of the township, and is devoted to dairy produce. The agricultural returns of 1905 give arable land 6 acres, permanent grass 1,416 acres, woods and plantations 44 acres.
Seven main roads lead to the neighbouring towns of Preston, Chorley, Darwen, Haslingden, Accrington, Rishton and Whalley. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company's main line from Liverpool and Preston to Accrington and Burnley, connecting with their Yorkshire system, and the Bolton and Hellifield branch of the same company, pass through the town, with a large station in a central position near the church. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal also traverses the town, from north-east to south-west, at a level of about 420 ft. The corporation of Blackburn own and work a system of tramways, opened in 1887–8, arranged in four sections, having a total length of nearly 14 miles, and worked entirely by electricity. Another tramway, about 5 miles in length, opened in 1881, connects the borough with the neighbouring town of Darwen.
Among the more prominent buildings is the Exchange Hall, erected in 1864 and enlarged in 1897; it includes a large exchange room and an assembly room. The post office was built in 1907, to replace one which was opened in 1880. (fn. 2) The Theatre Royal and Opera House, originally built in 1818, was reconstructed on the old site in 1886; the New Palace Theatre dates from 1899. There are numerous political clubs, a Literary club, and an institute of the Incorporated Law Society. A savings bank was founded in 1831. Statues of the late Queen Victoria and W. E. Gladstone have been erected in the town.
In the town are the headquarters of the 3rd Lancashire Royal Garrison Artillery (Volunteers) and the 1st Volunteer Battalion East Lancashire Regiment. Under the Territorial system the latter has become the 4th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment and the former the 1st East Lancashire Brigade Royal Field Artillery.
The first newspaper was the Mail, in 1793. (fn. 3) There are three weekly newspapers, the Advertiser, Times, and Telegraph; an evening paper, the Northern Daily Telegraph, is also issued.
There were two ancient crosses—in the marketplace and near White Birk; a spring was called All Hallows' Spring. (fn. 4)
The worthies of the town include Robert Bolton, a Puritan divine, born there in 1572. He was educated at Oxford, and became rector of Broughton, Northants, in 1610. He died there in 1631, having a high reputation as a scholar and divine, being particularly 'famous for relieving afflicted consciences.' (fn. 5) John Bailey of Blackburn, 1644–97, was a Nonconformist divine of note. After imprisonment at Lancaster, about 1670, he went to Ireland, from which further persecution drove him in 1683 to New England. (fn. 6) Thomas Starkie, son of the vicar of that name, was born at Blackburn in 1782, and, like his father, was Senior Wrangler at Cambridge; he became a legal writer and professor of note and a county court judge; he died in 1849. (fn. 7) Edward Cardwell, D.D., 1787–1861, was also a native of the town; educated at Oxford, he attained distinction as a Church historian, publishing books and making collections for the history of the Church of England in the period 1546–1717. (fn. 8) Another native was William Winstanley Hull, 1794–1873, who was a Low Church writer on liturgical subjects and hymnology. (fn. 9) A distinguished resident was Alexander Balloch Grosart, LL.D., 1827–99, of Scotch birth, and for many years (1868–92) minister of the Presbyterian Church at Blackburn, editing numerous reprints of the Puritan divines and old English writers. (fn. 10) Yet another was the author of the excellent history of the parish frequently quoted in the present work, William Alexander Abram. He was the son of a Congregational minister and born at Lydiate in 1835; he spent most of his public life at Blackburn, where he edited the Times, and contributed many essays and other works to newspapers, magazines and the Record Society; he served on the school board and town council. He died in May 1894. (fn. 11)
The manor of BLACKBURN, assessed as two plough-lands, perhaps formed part of the royal manor of fourteen plough-lands in 1066, (fn. 12) and was, according to later tradition, held by the rectors. The difficulties of the descent have already been touched upon in the account of the advowson, and it is clear that the church was held in moieties during a large part of the 12th century. Probably the manor was also divided. Each of the lords, therefore, would hold one plough-land of the lay-fee. The glebe may have remained in common. So far as the church was concerned the whole was acquired by the Lacys for the monks of Stanlaw, and a moiety of the manor also. This moiety became annexed to the rectory in consequence, and after the suppression of the abbey was granted, by exchange, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and so has come into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Its seat was at Haudley or Audley Hall.
The other moiety, that held by Adam de Blackburn in the time of Henry III, must have been kept separate from the grant of Adam's part of the church to Stanlaw, for it descended otherwise. A traditional account states that Adam married Agnes, one of his daughters, to David de Hulton, and Beatrice, another daughter, to William de Hulton, brother of David, and divided his manor of Blackburn between them. There being no issue of the latter marriage, David and his issue succeeded to the whole of Adam's estate in Blackburn. It descended, like Over Hulton, to Richard de Hulton, who about 1330 sold it to Robert de Radcliffe. (fn. 13) From that time it descended in the same way as Smithills in Halliwell until the middle of the 18th century.
Some support, or rather correction, is afforded to the tradition by a fine of 1256, by which David de Hulton allowed his plough-land in Blackburn, 'wheresoever it lay in that town,' to Beatrice widow of William de Hulton in lieu of her dower in Blackburn, Hulton, Heaton and Pendleton. (fn. 14) It is noteworthy that Richard de Hulton, father of David and William, gave a release of the advowson, that David had the whole after his brother's death, and that Beatrice claimed as widow only, not as heir; so that Adam de Blackburn's (fn. 15) grant must have been to the husbands of his daughters or to Richard de Hulton. After the manor came into the hands of the Radcliffes the Abbot of Whalley put forward a claim, alleging that it had been included in the grant of the church to his house; he asserted that it was the free-alms of St. Mary's, Blackburn, while Cecily, widow of another Robert de Radcliffe, tenant for life, said that it was a lay-fee. (fn. 16) This may have been the continuation of some previous dispute, for in 1335 the Abbot of Whalley had called upon Richard de Hulton to hold to a convention regarding a moiety of the town of Blackburn. (fn. 17) The abbot's claim appears to have failed.
In 1349 it was recorded that William de Radcliffe held of the Duke of Lancaster one plough-land in Blackburn for the tenth part of a knight's fee, the Abbot of Whalley holding the other plough-land in alms. (fn. 18) Sir Ralph Radcliffe died in 1406 holding a moiety of the vill of Blackburn of the king as duke by knight's service and a payment of 4s. yearly for ward of the castle of Clitheroe, performing suit also at the wapentake court of Clitheroe from three weeks to three weeks. (fn. 19) In 1445–6 his son Sir Ralph Radcliffe held the tenth part of a knight's fee in Blackburn, (fn. 20) and in 1483 Katherine widow of the next Sir Ralph was tenant. (fn. 21)
The Bartons and their heirs succeeded, but little is on record as to their tenure. (fn. 22) Thomas Belasyse fourth Viscount Fauconberg, on selling his Lancashire estates, disposed of his manor of Blackburn in 1721 to William Baldwin, Henry Feilden and William Sudell. (fn. 23) Their descendants retained the manor for some time, but by descent and purchase it became vested in Joseph Feilden (heir of Henry) and his uncle John Feilden. (fn. 24) After the death of the latter in 1859 his share was acquired by his said nephew, who thus became sole lord of this part of the manor. (fn. 25) It does not appear that any courts are held or that any rights of lordship are exercised. (fn. 26)
The wastes and commons were inclosed in 1618. (fn. 27)
Down to modern times the lords of the manor were not resident, and the yeoman occupiers of the land are seldom mentioned in the pleadings or other records. (fn. 28) The families surnamed Blackburn appear in other townships, (fn. 29) and some of the adjacent landowners had lands in Blackburn, as appears by the inquisitions. (fn. 30) The great changes brought about by the introduction of manufactures had some ill results in an increasing population without proper government, and the town became a byword for 'rudeness and want of civilisation. (fn. 31) This was gradually remedied by the aid of suitable authorities and the action of religious and social organizations. The first Sunday school was opened in 1786 by the vicar, and others quickly followed. (fn. 32)
Prior to 1803 the town was under the authority of the constable, but in that year a body of twelve commissioners appointed by statute were invested with certain powers of local government. (fn. 33) Under a local Act of Parliament passed in 1847 their powers were merged in those of the improvement commissioners appointed under that Act. (fn. 34) In consequence of a petition from the inhabitants the borough was incorporated in 1851, and divided into six wards, each returning six councillors and having two aldermen; in 1854 the functions of the improvement commissioners were transferred to the town council. (fn. 35) A coat of arms was granted the same year. (fn. 36) By the Reform Act, 1832, Blackburn had been constituted a parliamentary borough and it returns two members. (fn. 37) The limits of the parliamentary and municipal boroughs were co-extensive and identical with the ancient township, having an area of 3,681 acres. By the Blackburn Borough Extension Act, 1877, the municipal limits were enlarged by the inclusion of part of the townships of Witton, Livesey and a small portion of Little Harwood. (fn. 38) By the Improvement Act, 1879, the remainder of Little Harwood and the greater part of the township of Lower Darwen were included in the municipal borough. (fn. 39) Under the Local Government Act, 1888, the town was constituted a county borough, and has a commission of the peace and a police force. It was constituted by charter in 1886 a quarter sessions borough. Under the Blackburn Corporation Act, 1892, the number of wards in the borough was increased to fourteen, (fn. 40) each having an alderman and three councillors, and the townships and parts of townships included within the borough were consolidated into one civil parish (fn. 41); by a further Act in 1901 parts of the civil parishes of Livesey and Witton were added to the civil parish and county borough, which has now an area of 7,418 acres. (fn. 42) The corporation consists of the mayor, fourteen aldermen and forty-two councillors. The population in 1901 was 127,626. (fn. 43)
Among other public buildings in the town are the town hall and central police station in the market place opened in 1856; municipal offices in Victoria Street, near the former, erected in 1880; county court offices in the same street, built in 1862; county police offices erected in 1873.
Blackburn was a market town in the time of Elizabeth, but no charter for market or fair is known. Till about 1774 the market day was Monday, but a change was afterwards made to Wednesday and Saturday. The old fair day was 1 May. (fn. 44) The general market was erected in 1848, a market house in 1872, a fish market in 1874, and a cattle market in Harrison Street, with public slaughter-houses adjoining.
Public baths were built in 1868 and enlarged in 1884. There is a fire brigade station. A free library was opened in 1862 (fn. 45); the building in Library Street was opened in 1873, and extended in 1893. It contains about 65,000 volumes, and also includes a museum of natural history and antiquities and an art gallery. The municipal technical school on Blakey Moor was founded in 1887–91 and extended in 1894. A school board was formed in 1870.
The corporation fever hospital in Longshawe Lane can accommodate ninety-eight patients. It was erected in 1895 and enlarged in 1901. A dispensary was opened in 1824 and closed in 1838, owing to the falling off of subscriptions. (fn. 46) The Blackburn and East Lancashire Infirmary at Hollin Bank, to which the funds of the old dispensary were given, was commenced in 1858, enlarged in 1884 and again in 1900 by the addition of the Victoria Wing in commemoration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The present accommodation provides about 110 beds.
On the southern slope of Revidge Hill, lying towards the town, is the Corporation Park of 56 acres, opened in 1857. Queen's Park, on the eastern side of the town, containing 33 acres, was opened in 1887. There is a cemetery of 41 acres lying on the hill side near the Whalley road, opened in 1857. It is under the control of the corporation.
The first water-works were established in 1772 and purchased by a company in 1848 from Mr. Joseph Feilden. In 1845–7 reservoirs were constructed at Pickup Bank, Hoddlesden and Guide, at Daisy Green in 1849, and New Audley in 1856, and Fishmoor in 1861. These undertakings were purchased by the corporation in 1875. Additional supplies are now obtained from the upper watershed of the River Hodder in Bowland Forest, co. York., and from the Rivers Brennand, Whitendale and Dunsop. The first gas-works were established in 1818 and acquired by the corporation in 1877. Electric-lighting works were established in 1894.
In connexion with the Church of England there are now in the town fourteen churches, several of which have mission rooms and chapels of ease attached. The parish church has been described above. (fn. 47) No other was required till 1789, when St. John's, to the north, was built by subscription as a chapel of ease; St. Peter's, in the Bull Meadow, 1821, was aided by the parliamentary grant; St. Paul's, Blakeley Moor, was built in 1791, but used by the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion till 1829. These three churches had districts assigned to them in 1842, (fn. 48) and the vicar of Blackburn is patron. There is a deaf and dumb chapel attached to St. John's. The vicar also presents to St. Michael and All Angels', Daisyfield, acquired from the Wesleyans in 1839 and rebuilt in 1869, (fn. 49) and to Holy Trinity, Mount Pleasant, 1846 (fn. 50); the former of these has a mission church, St. Gabriel's. Christ Church, built in 1859, (fn. 51) has mission rooms and a chapel of ease of the Saviour; the Bishop of Manchester and trustees present alternately. St. Thomas's, (fn. 52) 1865, has St. Jude's mission church; the Bishop of Manchester collates. All Saints', Nova Scotia, was built in 1872 as a memorial to Archdeacon Rushton, the late vicar of Blackburn (fn. 53); it has a school church of Emmanuel attached; five trustees present. More recent are St. James's, Shear Brow, 1874, patron the Bishop of Manchester (fn. 54); St. Luke's, 1877, five trustees (fn. 55); St. Matthew's and St. Barnabas's, both 1886, (fn. 56) and in the gift of the Bishop of Manchester; St. Silas's, Billinge, begun in 1877, consecrated in 1900, five trustees. (fn. 57) The Church Army has a mission station.
Methodism has been represented since 1780, (fn. 58) when the Old Calender House was turned into a chapel and opened by John Wesley in 1780 or 1781; but the numbers grew so rapidly that a proper building was erected in Clayton Street in 1786, and Blackburn was soon after made a circuit. The chapel was enlarged and almost rebuilt in 1816 and others were added, so that there are now eight Wesleyan Methodist churches here. The Primitive Methodists began at Eanam about 1820, and have now seven churches in two circuits. The United Free Methodists originated in 1836 and 1853, and have now four churches. The Bible Christians, recently united with them, had a church and a mission room. The Methodist New Connexion opened a mission room in 1865. (fn. 59)
David Crossley, the Baptist minister at Bacup, preached at Shorrock Green Hall about 1736 (fn. 60) and probably at Mellor also, this being the beginning of Baptist work near Blackburn. Adam Holden in 1758 removed from Bacup to Blackburn and the following year a church was formed in his house, but he died before the chapel at Islington was opened in 1765. This was the first Nonconformist chapel within the township, and it is still used by the Particular Baptists. (fn. 61) The Baptist Union hired a room in Ainsworth Street (fn. 62) in 1838 and a church was formed the next year; in 1840 they built a chapel, called the Tabernacle, in what is now Montague Street. A secession from it, lasting from 1848 to 1863, had a chapel or chapels called Rehoboth. (fn. 63) From the reunited Montague Street congregation a new chapel in Leamington Road sprang in 1895–6.
Though after 1662 Nonconformity was strong in the neighbourhood, it does not appear that any organized congregation existed in Blackburn itself, but after the Toleration of 1689 Charles Sagar, who had had to withdraw from the mastership of the grammar school in 1666, registered his house in Blackburn as a meeting-place for Presbyterians. (fn. 64) This does not seem to have endured for long, Tockholes Chapel being used, and it was not till 1778 that the Independents were strong enough to constitute themselves into a separate church and build a chapel in Chapel Street. (fn. 65) A large number of Scottish settlers in Blackburn worshipped with them. A minister of more than local distinction was connected with it, the Rev. Joseph Fletcher, D.D., pastor from 1806 to 1822, he then removing to Stepney. (fn. 66) The present church, on the old site, was opened in 1874. James Street Church was opened in 1842 and others have followed, the Congregationalists now having nine churches and chapels. An Academy or college for the education of candidates for the ministry was established at Blackburn in 1816, under the rule of Dr. Fletcher. Its home was in Ainsworth Street till it was removed to Manchester in 1843. (fn. 67)
The Scottish Presbyterians, together with some malcontents, appear to have separated themselves from the Independents about 1810, for in that year a chapel was built in Mount Street and its ministers were obtained from the Burgher Seceders' Church in Scotland. (fn. 68) It was for a time Congregational and the Rev. George Payne, a tutor in the Academy, became its minister in 1823. (fn. 69) In 1828 it was acquired by the United Secession Church of Scotland, and so was afterwards in the hands of the United Presbyterians, now the Presbyterian Church of England. Its minister for many years was Dr. Grosart, who has been mentioned above. A new church, called St. George's, replaced it in 1868; this is in Preston New Road. There is another church, built in 1901 for a cause founded in 1885, at Whalley Range. Old Scotch Independents are named in 1877. (fn. 70)
The Society of Friends, first mentioned in 1777, built a meeting-place in 1818; the Swedenborgians in 1854—New Jerusalem (fn. 71); the Christian Brethren in 1872; the Catholic Apostolic Church (Irvingites) appeared about 1876, using the old Free Library building for a time; the Salvation Army has several stations; and there are two Gospel halls, an Evangelical Protestant Church, an Ecclesia of the Messiah, and a Christadelphian meeting-place. In 1825 there was a Unitarian chapel in Ainsworth Street, but it has disappeared
Although the vicar ejected by Queen Elizabeth in 1562 contrived for more than twenty years to minister in the neighbourhood, and although a small group of Roman Catholics (fn. 72) continued to reside there, no place for the proscribed worship is known to have existed within it until the end of the 18th century. (fn. 73) About 1770 mass was said at Wensley Fold, on the western edge of the township, in a house belonging to Mr. Anderton, the builder of the first cotton factory in the town. (fn. 74) In 1773 a temporary place of worship was formed in an upper room in Chapel Street, (fn. 75) and in 1781 a resident priest (fn. 76) took charge of the chapel opened that year in the space between Chapel Street and King Street. (fn. 77) This was deserted in 1826 for St. Alban's, Lark Hill, (fn. 78) on the eastern side of the town, and this church, with some enlargement, was used until 1901, when the present church was opened. St. Ann's mission was begun in 1846, the church being opened in 1849; St. Mary's, Islington, 1860–4; St. Joseph's, Audley, 1870–7; and the Sacred Heart, formerly a chapel of ease to St. Ann's, 1901–5. There are convents of sisters of Notre Dame and Franciscan sisters; connected with the former is a large girls' school and pupil-teachers' college.