Blackburn with Darwen

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Blackburn is a minster and industrial town. In fact, it is on the southern edge of the Ribble Valley, 9 miles east of Preston. Blackburn is bounded to the south by Darwen, with which it forms the unitary authority of Blackburn with Darwen.

At the 2001 census, Blackburn had a population of 105,085, whilst the wider borough of Blackburn with Darwen had a population of 148,850. Blackburn had a population of 117,963 in 2011.

A Former Mill Town

A former mill town, textiles have been produced in Blackburn since the middle of the 13th century, when wool was woven in people’s houses in the domestic system. Flemish weavers who settled in the area in the 14th century helped to develop the woollen cottage industry. The most rapid period of growth and development in Blackburn’s history coincided with the industrialisation and expansion of textile manufacturing. Blackburn was a boomtown of the Industrial Revolution and amongst the first industrialised towns in the world.

Darwen Market Town

Darwen is a traditional Market Town retaining its heritage and set in miles of stunning countryside. Indeed, there is a good variety of restaurants, cafes and bars in the town centre offering all types of festive cuisine and entertainment. Darwen is renowned for hospitality and a warm welcome as well as fine food and ales.

Darwen Town Hall and Market recently underwent refurbishment. This created five traditional shops in the front of the building. As a result, this helped restore it to it’s former state of the 1880’s. The units provide a retail frontage to the market linking with the public square which hosts a number of events throughout the year. The new shops include an Italian deli, traditional sweet shop, barbers and children’s clothing and gifts store.

Darwen Market has over 130 stalls offering amazing choice, quality and value. The Market specialises in local produce from local traders for fruit and Veg. In addition to meat, cheese, fish and local delicacies, shoppers can also get arts & crafts, collector’s items and gifts.

There are many groups and clubs in Blackburn with Darwen which play an important part in the community.

Groups & Club

1) ‘All Hallows Spring’ is believed to have been the site of a Roman Temple. Later, it became a place of medieval ‘pilgrimage and healing’. It led to a nearby Anglo-Saxon Church nearby recorded in 598AD. This became the Parish Church and is now the Cathedral.

2) Blackburn Rovers Football Club’s distinctive Blue and White quartered shirts are not a result of the town’s famous cotton checks. Moreover, it was formed by a group of public schoolboys in 1875.

3) Darwen Street is the oldest place of settlement in town. Made a Conservation area in 1994,  it is Blackburn’s earliest historic centre. In fact, it includes the course of a Roman road that historically ran north-wards between Manchester and Ribchester.

4) The King’s Head was the oldest pub in Blackburn. However, the historic grade two-listed building. Built in 1765, it was ravaged by fire in 2003 and is now offices. Furthermore, the deeds to the King’s Head show it was bought by alekeeper John Ainsworth in 1777. Later, it became Thwaites brewery in 1853. 

More facts….

5) Blackburn became the first town to undertake the mass finger-printing of people. This followed the murder of June Anne Devaney in May 1948. Indeed, she was a three-year-old patient at Queens Park Hospital when she was abducted from her cot and murdered on 15 May 1948.

Fingerprints on a bottle underneath her cot led the police to fingerprint every male over the age of 16 who was present in Blackburn on 14 and 15 May 1948. After taking over 46,500 sets of fingerprints, a match was made with Peter Griffiths, a 22-year-old ex-serviceman. Griffiths admitted his guilt and his trial ascertained if he was sane or not.

After deliberating for 23 minutes, the jury found him sane and he was hanged at Liverpool Prison on Friday 19 November 1948. After his conviction, the police destroyed all fingerprints they had taken.

Luddite Riots

6) In 1826, Blackburn was at the centre of anti-powerloom ‘Luddite’ riots when a mob arrived in the town after attacking powerlooms in Accrington. Proceeding to Bannister Eccles’ Jubilee Factory on Jubilee Street, the mob destroyed 212 powerlooms in the space of 35 minutes.

They then turned their attention to John Houghton and Sons’ Park Place factory, located nearby, and destroyed another 25 looms, before seeking more machinery to attack.

Troops were called to quell the rioting. Textile manufacturing in Blackburn dates from the mid-13th century, when wool produced by locally farmers was woven in their homes. Flemish weavers who settled in the area in the 14th century developed the industry.

The General Election

7) On 16 March 1869, the result of the 1868 general election in borough of Blackburn was declared null and void. This came after allegations of intimidation of voters and bribing them with ale.

There was no secret ballot until 1872, so voting was conducted in public at the hustings, at Blakey Moor. Indeed, these were attended by a large number of police armed with cutlasses. Furthermore, a show of hands was taken and pronounced to be in favour of Fielden and Hornby. However, a vote was demanded on behalf of the Liberal candidates.

After the result was declared, stones were thrown at Conservative supporters in Penny Street. In fact, Policeman was shot in the arm, other shots were fired from windows and there was serious fighting.

Since 1945, Parliamentary elections have been a bit quieter with just two MPs for the town, Barbara Castle and Jack Straw.

Established in 1875, Blackburn Rovers were one of the founding members of the Football League when it was established in 1888. Rovers play their home games at Ewood Park which was built in 1882.  Along with Aston Villa and Everton it is one of only three clubs that helped to found both the Premier League and the Football League. In 1992 they appointed former Liverpool hero and managerial maestro Kenny Dalglish as manager. Within three years he achieved the ultimate prize, winning the Premier League title in the last game of the season – at Anfield of all places. They are the only club apart from the ‘big four’ of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City to win the title since the top-tier was re-formed as the Premier League.

Trophies

The club has a motto which in Latin is ‘Arte et Labore’, but when translated to English becomes ‘by skill and hard work’. They have won the FA Cup six times, most recently in 1928. They won the League Cup a little bit more recently that that in 2002, whilst they won the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2007. Although their Premier League win is the most famous of their trophies they’ve actually won the top-tier of the English game three times and finished as runners-up in the Premier League the year before they won it.

Witton Country Park at 480 acres is one of the largest urban open spaces in the country. In fact, the land was purchased by the municipal authorities in 1946. Indeed, it was the ancestral home of the Feilden family. Nowadays, it is larger than all the town’s other parks and playing fields put together.

With a full-size athletic track, currently being redeveloped, it is home to the Blackburn Harriers. Famous for producing three finalists in London 2012 Olympic Games. These include hammer thrower Sophie Hitchon, pole-vaulter Holy Bleasdale, and modern pentathlon silver medallist Sam Murray.