BLACKBURN, a town, a township, a parish, a subdistrict, a district, and a hundred in Lancashire. The town stands on the river Blackwater, 9 miles E by S of Preston, and 12½ N by W of Bolton. The Leeds and Liverpool canal passes through it; and railways go from it N, S, E, and W. The country around it possesses little scenic interest, yet is sheltered by hills on the NE and NW; and it lay for ages wild and barren, but has been much improved by cultivation. All of it was given by William the Conqueror to Hubert de Lacy; and it was divided among that baron's followers and descendants. The town is large; was very prosperous up to the juncture of the cotton distress in 1862; and has owed most of its importance to modern manufactures. The older streets are irregularly built; but extensive improvements have been made since 1850; many of the houses now are good and neat; and the suburbs contain a number of villas. The market-place is surrounded by ornate public-buildings, and by other lofty, well-built houses, with good shops. The town hall faces two sides of the market-place; was built in 1856, at a cost of £30,000; and is in the Italian style, with Doric and Corinthian decorations. The exchange stands opposite the townhall; was built in 1862-5; is in the pointed style, with chief entrance under an ornate octagonal tower; and has a principal apartment 140 feet by 53. The county courthouse was built in 1863. The public park comprises about 50 acres, and is picturesque and tasteful.
The waterworks were constructed at a cost of more than £70,000. The infirmary was completed in 1865, at a cost of about £25,000; and is in the Italian style. The workhouse was built in 1864, at a cost of nearly £30,000. The mechanics' institute and the free public library are on a large scale. The Reform club and the Conservative club were built in 1864. St. Mary's church originated in the Saxon times, and belonged to Whalley Abbey; was rebuilt in 1824, and redecorated in 1857; and is in the pointed style of the 14th century. St. John's church was built about 1790, and is in the Grecian style. St. Peter's church is transition-Norman. Trinity church was built in 1846, has a lofty tower of 1855, and is in the decorated English style. The United Presbyterian church is a handsome edifice of 1866. Two Independent chapels of 1840 and 1858 also are handsome. Two Roman Catholic chapels of 1826 and 1865 are ornamental; and a convent of 1864 is elegant. The places of worship in 1869 were 12 of the Church of England, 17 of Dissenters, and 3 of Roman Catholics. The ultra-mural cemetery was opened in 1857, and has three chapels.
There are an endowed grammar school with 120 a year, a charity-school for educating and clothing 90 children, 14 national schools, and 15 other public schools. The manufactures of Blackburn arose about the year 1658. The first of note was "Blackburn checks;" the next was "Blackburn greys;" the next, about 1765, was calicoes; and this, after being taken up by the power looms, was followed by low-priced muslins. Cottonmills and print works are numerous, and employ a large proportion of the inhabitants. The value of cotton goods produced prior to 1862 exceeded £2,000,000 a year. The cotton-spinning was much advanced by an invention of James Hargrave, a native, originally a carpenter; and the cotton-printing was introduced by the family of Sir Robert Peel. Some woollen cloth also is made; considerable industry is carried on in breweries, foundries, and machine-works, particularly in the manufacture of weaving-machinery; and much business is done in connexion with neighbouring factories, corn mills, paper-mills, and collieries.
Weekly markets are held on Wednesday and Saturday; and fairs on the Wednesday before 2 Feb., on every alternate Wednesday thence till Michaelmas, and on Easter Monday, 11 and 12 May, 29 Sept., and 17 Oct. The town has a head post office, a telegraph station, four banking offices, and three chief inns; and publishes four weekly newspapers. It is a seat of courts. and a polling-place; it was constituted, by the act of 1832, a parliamentary borough sending two members to parliament; and it was made municipal in 1851, with government by a mayor, twelve aldermen, and thirty-six councillors. Acres, 3,610. Real property, in 1860, £170,703. Direct taxes, in 1857, £26,354. Electors in 1868, 1,894. Pop. in 1841, 36,629; in 1861, 63,126. Houses, 11,306. Robert Bolton, the compiler of the Liturgy, who died in 1631, was a native. The township and the subdistrict are conterminate with the borough.
The parish includes also nineteen other townships in the district of Blackburn, and the townships of Walton-le-Dale, Cuerdale, and Samlesbury, in the district of Preston. It was originally part of Whalley parish; and it measures 14 miles in length, 10 miles in breadth, and 45,269 acres in area. Real property, £314,105. Charities, 526. Pop. in 1841, 71,711; in 1861, 110,349. Houses, 20,139. Parts of the surface are embellished, and have Witton Park, Woodfold, Feniscowles, and other seats; but much is poor or waste land, with clay soil. A ridge of high ground goes across it, and culminates, at an altitude of about 630 feet, on Billinge hill. Sandstone abounds; and coal and alum. stone occur.
The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Manchester. Value, £893.* Patron, the Bishop of Manchester. The separate vicarage of St. Thomas and p. curacies of Christ Church, St. John, St. Paul, St. Michael, Trinity Church, and St. Peter-with-St. Luke are in the town; and the chapelries of Great Harwood, Samlesbury, Walton-le-Dale, Balderston, Lower-Darwen, Over-Darwen-St. James, Over-Darwen-Trinity, Over-Darwen-St. John, Langho, Mellor, Salesbury, Tockholes, Witton, Feniscowles, Hoddlesden, Higher Walton, and Bamber-Bridge are in the other parts. Value of St. Thomas, £300; of each of the others in the town, £300.* Patron of St. Thomas, the Bishop of Manchester; of Christ Church, the Bishop and others; of all the rest, the Vicar of Blackburn. The chapelries not in the town are separately noticed.
The district comprehends Blackburn subdistrict, conterminate with the borough; Billington subdistrict, containing Billington-Langho, Dinkley, Salesbury, and Wilpshire townships in Blackburn parish; Mellor subdistrict, containing Mellor, Balderstone, Osbaldeston, Clayton-le-Dale, and Ramsgreave townships in Blackburn parish; Witton subdistrict, containing Witton, Pleasington, Livesey, and Tockholes townships in Blackburn parish; Darwen subdistrict, containing Lower-Darwen, Over-Darwen, and Eccleshill townships in Blackburn parish, and Yate-and-Pickupbank township in Whalley parish; Harwood subdistrict, containing Great Harwood, Little Harwood, and Rishton townships in Blackburn parish, and Clayton-le-Moors chapelry in Whalley parish; and Oswaldtwistle subdistrict, containing Oswaldtwistle and Church-Kirk townships-in Whalley parish. Acres, 43,569. Poor-rates in 1866, £39,712. Pop. in 1841, 75,088; in 1861, 119,942. Houses, 21,883. Marriages in 1866, 1,284; births, 5,171, of which 277 were illegitimate; deaths, 3,913, of which 2,068 were at ages under 5 years, and 28 at ages above 85 years. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 10,180; births, 42,610: deaths, 27,750.
The places of worship in 1851 were 23 of the Church of England, with 18,988 sittings; 1 of the United Presbyterian church, with 800 s.; 16 of Independents, with 8,163 s.; 7 of Baptists, with 1,199 s.; 2 of Quakers, with 600 s.; 9 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 4,363 s.; 3 of Primitive Methodists, with 1,507 s.; 6 of the Wesleyan Association, with 1,686 s.; 1 of Wesleyan Reformers, with 700 s.; 1 of the New Church, with 154 s.; 1 of Latter Day Saints, with 100 s.; and 6 of Roman Catholics, with 2,445 s. The schools were 52 public day schools, with 7,000 scholars; 33 private day schools, with 1,341 s.; 76 Sunday schools, with 21,375 s.; and 15 evening schools for adults, with 408 s.
The hundred was anciently called Blackburnshire; extends 24 miles along the boundary with Yorkshire; goes westward to the vicinity of Preston, and south-eastward beyond Haslingden; and is cut into two divisions, higher and lower. Acres of the h. division, 87,190. Pop. in 1851, 116,544. Acres of the l. division, 79,773. Pop. in 1851, 57,931. Pop. of both divisions in 1861, 188,129. Houses, 36,208.
John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72)