Eccleshill, because of its proximity to Blackburn, Darwen and other centers of development during the early days of the Industrial Revolution, was deeply involved in, and impacted by, the development. The industrial heritage of the site has been well documented by Mike Rothwell1. The following summary is provided for its textiles development.
Darwen shares a common heritage with many other towns of North-East Lancashire, and the industry’s growth was similar to that in the neighbouring districts of Blackburn and Oswaldtwistle.
Documentary evidence suggests that woollen cloth was produced from at least the sixteenth century onwards, and there is a possibility that flax pits existed near Whittlestone Head during the early 1700’s.
In the last quarter of the eighteenth century the manufacture of cotton overtook other fabrics, and colonies of handloom weavers’ cottages were built. Many of the farmhouses erected during these years were also provided with loomshops.
A number of water-powered carding and spinning mills were established after 1780, and at least one appears to have been built on the Arkwright model. At Yate and Pickup Bank there were seven of these early mills, all established by local farmers on streams running through their lands. From available evidence such mills seem to have been small, vernacular buildings, easily converted to residential or agricultural use. Most probably contained two or three carding engines, roving billies and a few hand jennies. It seems likely that such mills were producing weft for handloom manufacturers, or in the case of workshops without jennies, carded cotton for hand spinners. The productive life of the carding and jenny mills was short, and most ceased production at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The first record of a bleach croft in Darwen appears in 1768, and a calico printing works had been started by 1776.
The initial period of growth in the cotton trade was followed by an era of inactivity, and it was not until 1824 that the first steam driven factory was opened in Darwen. There followed a time of steady growth during the 1830’s and 1840’s, when a number of spinning and weaving mills were erected.
The years cl850 to 1865 were an era of spectacular economic development in the town and thirty one new mills were established. Although the Cotton Famine halted development for a number of years, mill building commenced again after 1870, and another fourteen mills had been constructed by 1890.
The final period of growth took place between 1905 and 1913 and was marked by the activities of mill building companies.
1Rothwell, Michael, 1992, Industrial Heritage A guide to the Industrial Archeology of Darwen, Including Hoddleston, Yates & Pickup Bank, Eccleshill and Tockholes: Bridgestone Press, Printed by Caxton Printing Co., Accrington, 72 p.
Webpage posted August 2000. Updated with additional clarification as to source.