Until the late 18th century handloom weaving in tandem with small-scale farming was the mainstay of the local economy. Handloom weavers would take their completed cloth-piece to the warehouse of a manufacturer who would supply them with the raw materials. 'Putters out' took the finished cloth and supplied the raw materials. A similar pattern emerged in Darwen where handloom weaving also dominated the Some enterprising manufacturers built weaving sheds to accommodate a number of handlooms, but it wasn't until the Industrial Revolution and the invention of the powerloom that the situation really began to change. The damp Lancashire climate, a local supply of coal to power steam engines, a plentiful local supply of building stone and access to skilled weavers meant that Blackburn was ideally placed for an expansion in cotton spinning and weaving. As the industry grew manufacturers' warehouses became mills, and terraced houses for the workers were built nearby.
The factory system was born and Blackburn began to boom. The 'putters out' became mill owners and the communities of handloom weavers were under threat. Wages began to fall but despite the riots of 1826 and the smashing of power looms at Carr's Mill, the Factory System was unstoppable. A new aristocracy of mill owners appeared and a new serfdom for those working in the mills. Communications played their part here too. The turnpike road that linked Darwen to Bolton and Blackburn was completed in 1797. The canal came no nearer than Blackburn, but the railway opened in 1847. The industrialisation of Blackburn demanded better communications. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal reached the town in 1810. The Turnpike Trust built Whalley New Road in 1820 and Preston New Road in 1825. In 1846 the railway to Preston opened. Lines to Accrington, Burnley and Colne following in 1848 and 1850 respectively. Workers and raw materials poured in; manufactured goods flowed out.
Photograph depicting Blackburn Market by kind permission of Cotton Town, one of several thousand such images appearing on the site. See Home page for details of the Consortium Web Page.
Andy Kirman and the Cotton Town Team
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Darwen and Accrington|