Blackburn (St. Mary)

BLACKBURN (St. Mary), a parish, and the head of a union, in the Lower division of the hundred of Blackburn, N. division of the county of Lancaster; comprising the market-town and newly-enfranchised borough of Blackburn, the chapelries of Balderston, Billington-Langho, Over Darwen, Salesbury, Samlesbury, and Tockholes, and the townships of Clayton-le-Dale, Cuerdale, Lower Darwen, Dinkley, Eccleshill, Great and Little Harwood, Livesey, Mellor, Osbaldeston, Pleasington, Ramsgrave, Rishton, Walton-le-Dale, Wilpshire, and Witton; and containing 71,711 inhabitants, of whom 36,629 are in the town, 31 miles (S. E. by S.) from Lancaster, and 210 (N. N. W.) from London. This place takes its name from a small rivulet near the town, which, from the turbid state of the water, was anciently called Blakeburn, or "the yellow bourne." A castle is said to have been built here, probably by the Romans, which, after their departure from the island, was occupied successively by the Britons and the Saxons; but there are no vestiges of it, nor can even its site be distinctly ascertained. Blackburn was formerly the capital of a district called Blackburnshire, which for many ages was a dreary and uncultivated waste. In the reign of Elizabeth, it was distinguished as a good market-town, and in the middle of the following century was celebrated for its supplies of corn, cattle, and provisions. The town is pleasantly situated at the distance of about half a mile from the river Derwent, in a valley sheltered by a ridge of hills, extending from the north-east to the north-west, and consists of several streets, irregularly formed, but containing some wellbuilt and many respectable houses: it is only indifferently paved, is lighted with gas, and amply supplied with water under an act passed in 1845. There are assembly-rooms, a subscription library, a scientific institution, and a theatre, which was erected in 1818.

The manufacture of Blackburn checks, and subsequently that of Blackburn greys, a mixture of linen and cotton, which formerly flourished here to a considerable extent, have been superseded by the manufacture of calico, muslin, and cotton goods: nearly 50,000 pieces of the last are on an average made weekly, about 10,000 persons being employed; and the value of these goods, exclusively of dyeing and printing, is estimated at more than £2,000,000 sterling per annum. There are large factories for the spinning of cotton; and throughout the entire parish are printing, dyeing, bleaching, and other establishments connected with the manufacture. Some of the earliest and most important improvements in the spinning and manufacture of cotton originated with James Hargreave, a carpenter in this town, who was the inventor and patentee of the spinning-jenny, since so generally adopted. The introduction of machinery excited a powerful sensation among the workmen of the neighbourhood, and created such tumultuous proceedings on the part of the populace, who destroyed several of the factories in which it was used, that the inventor was driven from the town; while many individuals who had invested large capitals in the establishment of cotton-factories, were so intimidated, that they embraced the earliest opportunity of withdrawing their investments, and of removing to places where they might employ them with security. There are at present about 100,000 spindles in operation in the town and neighbourhood, which produce about 35,000lb. of yarn weekly.

The Leeds and Liverpool canal passes the town, and affords communication with the Mersey, the Dee, the Ouse, the Trent, the Humber, the Severn, and the Thames, forming a most extensive line of inland navigation. The Blackburn and Preston railway, running hence to the Farington station of the North-Union line, three miles south of Preston, was opened in June, 1846; and the distance by railway between the two towns has been since diminished, by avoiding the angle at Farington. The Blackburn, Darwen, and Bolton railway, 14½ miles in length, was opened in May 1847. The station here is on a large scale, the length of the building being 252 feet and its mean breadth about 40 feet: the platform is 330 feet long, and the four lines of rails in front of it are covered with an iron roof in one span: the station is lighted by a plate-glass Louvre light, 16 feet wide at the top of the roof, and extending along its whole length. There is a railway to Accrington, Burnley, &c.; also a line to Clitheroe, &c. The market-days are Wednesday and Saturday: the fairs are held on Easter-Monday (which continues during the whole week), May 12th and the two following days, and October 17th; a cattle-fair is also held every second Wednesday throughout the year. An act was passed in 1841, for improving the streets, and for the erection of a town-hall and market-places. A spacious covered market was erected in 1847, in King William-street; it is a rectangular building in the Italian style, 60 feet long and 36 wide, with an iron roof supported by two rows of iron pillars dividing the market into three parallel walks, with distinct entrances at both ends to each. Over the middle entrance of the front elevation rises a lofty campanile tower, containing a public clock; and excellent light and ventilation are afforded by a series of windows at each side, where are also entrances. The fish-market is held in Fleming's-square. One side of this square is occupied by a spacious cloth-hall, built for the exhibition and sale of Yorkshire woollen-cloths, a great quantity of which is brought hither; but it is now seldom used for that purpose, the stalls for the sale of these cloths being erected in the streets. Blackburn is within the jurisdiction of the magistrates acting for the hundred to which it gives name, and which is co-extensive with the ancient Blackburnshire; and two high constables are appointed, one for the upper, and one for the lower, division, for which latter, together with Whalley, a court of petty-session is held here: its local concerns are under the superintendence of commissioners. An act was passed in 1841, vesting in the overseers of the poor the town moor for sale or other disposal. The powers of the county debt-court of Blackburn, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Blackburn. By the 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, the place was constituted a borough, with the privilege of sending two members to parliament, to be elected by the £10 householders of the township, including about 4160 acres: the returning officer is appointed annually by the sheriff.

This extensive parish, which is fourteen miles in length, and ten in breadth, was formerly part of Whalley, on being separated from which it was, on account of its sterility, endowed with a fourth part of the tithes of that parish, in addition to its own. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £8. 1. 8.; net income, £893; patron and appropriator, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The church, formerly the conventual church of the monastery of Whalley, was rebuilt in the reign of Edward III., and again in that of Henry VIII.; but in 1819 it was taken down, with the exception of the tower and the Dunken chapel, and a new building was completed in 1826, on the site of the old grammar school, at an expense of upwards of £30,000, raised by a rate. The Dunken chapel was used for the performance of parochial duties during the interval, but has been since taken down, so that the tower is the only part of the old church now remaining. The present spacious and elegant edifice is in the later English style, with a lofty square tower, highly enriched, and crowned with a pierced parapet and crocketed pinnacles; the roof of the nave was burned down in January, 1831. The district church of St. Paul remained unconsecrated from the time of its erection until a few years since, when it was united to the Establishment: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Vicar of Blackburn, with a net income of £150. The district churches of St. John and St. Peter are both neat modern edifices: the livings are perpetual curacies; net income of St. John's, £150, and of St. Peter's, £153. They are in the patronage of the Vicar, in whom is also vested the presentation of the perpetual curacies of St. Michael and Trinity, both formed in 1839, and of All Saints; net income of St. Michael's, £150, and of All Saints', £100. A chapel dedicated to St. Clement has been erected; and the Vicar likewise presents to the incumbencies of Balderstone, Bamber-Bridge, Billington-Langho, Lower and Over Darwen, Feniscowles, Great Harwood, Mellor, Mellor-Brook, Salesbury, Samlesbury, Tockholes, Walton, and Witton. In the town are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and Warrenites, also a Scottish kirk and a Roman Catholic chapel; and in the rural parts of the parish are various other meeting-houses for different denominations.

The free grammar school was founded in the reign of Elizabeth, who placed it under the superintendence of fifty governors resident in the town, who are a corporate body, and appoint a master: it is endowed with land in the neighbourhood, producing £120 per annum; and there are 30 boys on the foundation. The Rev. Robert Bolton, an eminent divine, and one of the compilers of the Liturgy, was a native of the town, and received the rudiments of his education in this school. In 1764, Mr. John Leyland bequeathed £250 for the instruction of girls, which sum has been augmented by subsequent benefactions, and at present 90 girls are taught and clothed. Several national schools have been erected; a dispensary was established in the year 1823; and there are a ladies' society for the relief of poor women during child-birth at their own houses, a strangers' friend society, and several other charitable institutions. The union of Blackburn comprises the entire parish, with the exception of the townships of Cuerdale, Samlesbury, and Walton, which are in the union of Preston; together with four townships of the parish of Whalley: it contains a population of 75,091.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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