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This page is still being prepared and will contain a brief history of Darwen. 
Darwen Collection
  Darwen, Whitehall Park circa 1896.                              Darwen, the Market Hall circa 1955


Darwen formerly known as Over Darwen, now includes part of the former area known as Lower Darwen, Pickup & Yate Bank and Eccleshill.


The imprint of history goes deeply at Darwen. The important road constructed by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago from Manchester to Ribchester and on to Carlisle and into Scotland, can be traced through the Borough along the hillside on the east of the town, being called Roman Road between Whittlestone Head and Blacksnape.

After the withdrawal of the Roman legions from Britain in the 5th century the defenseless country was overrun by Continental invaders who subsequently settled here. The derivation of various local place names, including that of the present town of Darwen confirms the fact that this district became occupied by the Saxons.

Following the Norman Conquest the de Lacy family was granted land and manorial rights here in the latter part of the 11th century, the name of the place being recorded as Darwynd. The first reference to Darwen, and what is now Lower Darwen was in 1154 as the two Darwentas. The former place became known in 1280 as Superior Derwent, which was recorded as Over Darwen forming part of the parish of Blackburn in 1616.

The earliest industries at Darwen were farming, quarrying and later coal mining; but the population of those days was comparatively small, being only a few hundred people. It is recorded at the beginning of the 18th century that many of these were 'coal-getters', this improved form of fuel and industrial power being either cut from the near-surface seams or dug from pits.

The Wool Industry

The traditional textile trade also developed, with the workers spinning and weaving the cloth in their own homes both in the town and on the surrounding farms where much of the raw material was provided by the wool of the moorland sheep. The industry passed through various phases of relative prosperity and depression as master weavers gained more and more control.

The merchandise which had originally been taken into surrounding town markets by the workers themselves was now sent by teams of packhorses, and the later by wagons. The master weavers took the enhanced profits of better marketing, paying their employed workers a low wage for long hours of labor, and housing them under crowded and far from pleasant conditions. Those who because of sickness or age could no longer put in the required amount of labor were all too often turned out of their homes.

The Coming of Cotton

With the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century hand looms were displaced by power looms, and work was concentrated in mills and factories instead of in houses in the town. A greater output with less labor resulted in considerable unemployment, and there were strikes and riots. Samuel Crompton, who is remembered as the inventor of the spinning mule, opened a mill at Darwen in 1812. There followed much unrest amongst the workers with considerable rioting in 1826 due to privation resulting from insufficient work.

The old packhorse routes, were now disused, four turnpike trusts had been set up to make good roads, the upkeep of these being paid for by the tolls levied on all traffic. A slower alternative freight transport was by canals. Then came the railways, the line between Bolton and Blackburn being opened in 1848. About this time the local paper-staining and wallpaper industry began to develop.

Practically all the woolen mills had now gone over to cotton; but the hard times of the 1820's were again experienced with even greater severity in the early 1860's when the American Civil War cut off all the supplies of raw cotton from the Southern States into the port of Liverpool. The distress in Darwen, as in all the other Lancashire cotton towns, now amounted to famine. The tragedy of these times, although a century ago, still lives on as a poignant memory.

Conditions subsequently improved with better working and living conditions and higher pay; but this great Lancashire industry has continued to fluctuate between trade boons and recessions. Paper has been one of the town's major industries for more than a century. Other major industries include engineering, paints and plastics.



Census Information:

1801     3,587               1851    11,702

1811     4,411               1861    16,492

1821     6,711               1871    21,278

1831     6,972               1881

1841     9,348               1891



The written information on this webpage was taken directly from the following webpage: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/GAFOSTER/darwen.htm .  Ownership of the written material belongs to:

Tony Foster

142 Cotswold Crescent, Bury, Lancs BL8 1QP, England
Phone: +44 161 764 2821
Email address - gafoster@compuserve.com

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Last Updated 09 June 2004