The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868
"BLACKBURN, a parish, municipal and parliamentary borough, and important seat of manufacture, in the hundred of Blackburn, in the county palatine of Lancaster, 23 miles to the N.W. of Manchester, and 209 miles from London by road, or 177¾ miles by the North-Western railway. It may also be approached viâ the Great Northern and Midland railways. It is a station on the western division of the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway, a branch of which also runs from Blackburn to Clitheroe. By the Leeds and Liverpool canal, which passes near the town, communication is opened with the principal rivers of the country, and the eastern and western seas. The parish, which is of great extent, being about 14 miles in length and 10 miles in breadth, is situated on the river Derwent, and comprises the chapelries of Balderston, Bamber Bridge, Over Darwen, Lower Darwen, Feniscowles, Great Harwood, Langho, Mellor, Salesbury, Samlesbury, Tockholes, Walton-le-Dale, and Witton, and the townships of Blackburn, Billington, Clayton-le-Dale, Cuerdale, Dinkley, Eccleshill, Little Harwood, Livesey, Osbaldeston, Pleasington, Ramsgrave, Rishton, and Wilpshire. The surrounding country, forming anciently the district called Blackburnshire, which included the present hundred of Blackburn, is for the most part barren, and remained till recently uncultivated. A ridge of high ground runs through the parish in a direction from north-east to north-west, extending from Whalley to Billinge Hill, at which point it has an elevation of about 630 feet. That part of the parish which lies on the north-west side of the hills, sloping to the river Ribble, has the best soil and most agreeable scenery. Clay soils predominate, and rest chiefly on sandstone. Coal is obtained in abundance, and some limestone. A mine of alumstone, which was formerly worked, has long been neglected. The staple business of Blackburn is the cotton manufacture, which has long been established there. In the 17th century the "Blackburn checks," a united fabric of linen and cotton, were well esteemed; and subsequently the manufacture of "Blackburn greys," a cloth not bleached before printing, flourished here. The number of hand-loom weavers is comparatively small, and they are employed mostly in the cheap muslin manufacture. From ten to eleven thousand persons are engaged in the various processes of making, printing, and bleaching the cotton and muslin goods; and the spinning of cotton alone is said to employ about 100,000 spindles. The invention of the spinning jenny, the introduction of which, was so violently resisted by the workmen, and which has since proved of such vast importance, was due to James Hargreaves, a native of Blackburn, and originally a carpenter. The manufacture of weaving machinery is now one of the most flourishing trades of the town, large orders being frequently received from Germany, France, Russia, Spain, and other parts of Europe. There are also several iron and brass foundries, four breweries, two corn mills, an extensive bobbin manufactory, besides works for gas-retort making, and several brick and tile yards. Previous to the cotton famine of 1862, Blackburn was conspicuous amongst the many thriving manufacturing towns of Lancashire for its progress and wealth. The town, the old parts of which are irregularly built, stands in a pleasant situation, sheltered by the ridge of hills which crosses the parish, and on the banks of a small rivulet called the Blackwater, or Blackburn, a branch of the river Derwent. There are many good houses of modern erection, and great improvements have been made in the streets and public establishments. The town is now lighted with gas, well paved, and has a good water supply. A magnificent townhall was erected in 1856, at the cost of 130,000; it is in the Italian style, and was designed by Patters. One side faces the market-place, which is surrounded by lofty and well-built shops and public buildings. There is a large cloth hall in Fleming-square, in which the sales of woollen cloth take place. The town contains a small theatre, two banks, the Blackburn Union Club, with good billiard and news-rooms a public subscription library, and a mechanics' institution. A savings-bank, a dispensary, and some other charitable institutions are established. The suburbs of the town are becoming dotted over with villa residences, chiefly inhabited by merchants, mill-owners, and wealthy shopkeepers. A public park has been recently formed at a short distance from the town, on the Preston New-road, embracing 50 acres of undulating ground, diversified with rocky hills, lakes, waterfalls, and four fine fountains. These latter are the munificent gift of the late mayor, William Pillkington, Esq. The horticultural shows, which take place in June and September, are held in the assembly-rooms of the townhall. Blackburn was created a borough by the Reform Act, returning two members to parliament, and was incorporated by royal charter in September, 1851. The number of registered voters in 1857 was 1,518. The bounds of the parliamentary and municipal boroughs coincide with those of the township, which contains, according to the census of 1861, 11,314 houses, inhabited by a population of 63,125, against 46,536 in 1851, showing an increase of no less than 16,589 in the decennial period. Blackburn is also the seat of a Poor-law Union, the head of a County Court district, and a polling place for the north division of the county. Petty sessions for the hundred are held here. The town contains the Union poorhouse. Two weekly newspapers are published here, called the Weekly Times and the Blackburn Standard. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Manchester, of the value of £893, in the patronage of the bishop. The church, a handsome structure, erected in 1826 on the site of the old grammar school, and restored, after partial destruction by fire, in 1831, is partly in the perpendicular style of architecture, and has a richly decorated tower, with crocketed pinnacles. The plan of the interior is greatly admired. The building, which was entirely redecorated in 1857, is dedicated to St. Mary. The original parish church was of earlier date than the Conquest, and belonged to the monastery of Whalley. It was twice rebuilt, and was taken down in 1819, the tower and the Duncan chapel alone remaining. The register dates from 1568. There are six other churches in the town, of recent erection,-viz., those of St. John, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Michael, and the Holy Trinity, and Christ Church, the livings of which are perpetual curacies, varying in value from £50 to £217, and in the patronage of the vicar. The places of worship for Dissenters are numerous, including two each for Roman Catholics, Baptists, and Independents, and one each for Wesleyan, Primitive, and Association Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Unitarians, and Swedenborgians. The charitable endowments of the parish are of the annual value of £526. The principal foundations are the following:-The free grammar school, founded by Queen Elizabeth for 30 boys, managed by 50 governors who are incorporated, and having a revenue of £120; and a free school for 90 children, founded and endowed by William Leyland in 1765, and further endowed by other benevolent persons since that time. There are also a very large National and numerous other schools. There are many gentlemen's seats in the neighbourhood, the principal of which are Feniscowles, the residence of Sir W. Fielden, Bart.; Witton, Woodfold, &c. Audley Hall, the ancient manorhouse, and old Samlesbury Hall, are among the most noteworthy of the older buildings. The Independent Theological Academy formerly established here has been united with the college near Manchester. The markets are held on Wednesday and Saturday. Fairs are held annually in Easter week, and on the 12th May, and the 17th October; and cattle fairs once a fortnight from February till Michaelmas."