NW Cotton Towns Learning Journey
Your guide: John Mortimer, author of "Industrial Lancashire" (1897)
Step 1: Liverpool to Manchester; Manchester to Stockport; Stockport to Ashton
Step 2: Ashton to Manchester; Manchester to Oldham; Oldham to Rochdale
Step 3: Rochdale to Bury; Bury to Accrington; Accrington to Blackburn
Step 4: Blackburn to Burnley; Burnley to Clitheroe; Clitheroe to Preston
Step 5: Preston to Wigan via Chorley; Wigan to Bolton
Step 6: Bolton to Salford; Salford to Manchester
Click on the steps below to explore.
North West Cotton Towns Learning Journey Step 4
BLACKBURN TO BURNLEY
On our approach, Blackburn spreads out before us, dim from the smoke of many chimneys, and with a labyrinth of streets. We reach the parish church and the railway station, where there are also other pleasant buildings: Blackburn is more attractive than in the 1830s when a traveller remembers: "we became conscious that we had once more got into the dark and troubled vortex of manufactures." There is now a gymnasium and Mechanics' Institute; a Public Free Library and Museum, Public Baths and a beautiful Public Park. Blackburn saw some of the bitterest opposition to new machinery. Grindon notes that, "at one time Manchester had powerful rivals in Blackburn and Bolton. Blackburn lost its chance through the frantic hostility of the lower orders towards machinery." However, Blackburn has recovered, and many of its 120,000 inhabitants work to maintain the output of 1.2 million spindles and 75,000 looms, producing almost every type of cotton known. We bypass Darwen, with its paper and cotton industries, which employs some 400,000 spindles and around 27,000 looms, taking the train now to Burnley.
BURNLEY TO CLITHEROE
We arrive in Burnley, noting the gentle slopes of Pendle in the background. There is the usual haze of smoke darkening the atmosphere above the town roofs and the factory chimneys are very thickly sown. A former wool and worsted town, Burnley had 2,000 inhabitants in 1790; there are now over 87,000. Burnley spins 700,000 spindles annually, but operates some 62,000 looms! The streets resound with the clatter of clogs, the people cheery and friendly. We travel three miles north by steam tram to Nelson, named for the English naval hero, its population having doubled to 23,000 in the last ten years. In the 1830s Nelson had one mill employing 30 people; it now has more than 33,000 looms! We take a pleasant walk to Colne, on the far edge of Lancashire cotton country, some 31 miles distant from Manchester. Colne has 16,600 inhabitants, its stone buildings offset against its square-towered church. An ancient woollen town, Colne's weavers date back to 1311. Cotton yarn output is around 150,000 spindles, cloth woven on some 15,000 looms.
CLITHEROE TO PRESTON
We skirt around the Pendle hills now, scene of the Pendle Witches, the subjects of solemn trials at Lancaster in the 17th Century, resulting in some of the 'weird sisters' being put to death, while others stood in the pillories of local market towns. The country lying at the foot of Pendle is beautiful, stretching away in all directions, rich and green, through undulations of field and moorland to distant hills and feels, with the Ribble and Hodder flowing between. On a lofty limestone crag, is the Castlekeep of Clitheroe. There is still an old-world atmosphere about Clitheroe. However, the town both spins and weaves cotton, producing fabrics such as muslins, jacconettes, cambrics and printers' cloths. From here, to the west, is Longridge, where they weave cambrics, jacconettes and fancy muslins. From here we look across the Ribble valley to the chimneys, spires and towers of Proud Preston.