Audley Hall.jpg 
Audley is an area that was situated just outside the old Blackburn boundary which is on its south side with Lower Audley abutting the Town’s Moor which was later called Grimshaw Park, this being land beyond Darwen Street Bridge. Audley extends from here eastwards to Intack and northwards to Whinney Edge, Coalpit Moor and Shadsworth.
During Henry VIII’s reign in 1545 the Town Moor was classified as free land to Blackburn inhabitants and was walled, being used for May Games and archery with the upper reaches used to quarry stone. By 1618 a Duchy of Lancaster decree said the moor was to be used for the services of his majesty, heirs and successors for mustering soldiers and training them along with recreation use. The name Audley probably developed from OLD or OWD LEY because its sloping lands running down to Blackburn’s boundary were used for pasture and arable land, offering a quiet rural landscape which only contained four farms. Over time Audley’s name developed from HAWDLEY (1557) and HADLEY (1616). The oldest and principal building of the area was Audley Hall whose history is shrouded in mystery. It stood on Glebe or Rectory land on the banks of Audley Brook at the meeting point of two rivulets. This Glebe land was owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury and was therefore rented. The Hall was first described as a Benedictine Nunnery whose nuns existed in 1532 (Edward VI reign) and was restored in Mary’s reign in 1554 when twelve sisters dispensed medicine and oitments to help cure the ailments of locals. They also had preserves, cordials and wines to give to those in need when they travelled to more distant areas. A chief nun or mother-superior called Dame Sybil who died in 1536 was interred in St. Mary’s Church in Blackburn near the altar. Haudley Hall was also described as a mansion belonging to the Blackburn Rectory in the reign of Henry VIII and later leased to Sir Thomas Talbot from the Archbishop of Canterbury for use as a parsonage farm (1557). In 1616 the house was described as being built of stone, brick and timber and having certain lands called Hadley demesne with the lease later passing to a Mrs. Fleetwood. At a later period the hall passed into the hands of the De-Blackburn family who provided St. Mary’s Church in Blackburn with its early rectors. By the 18 century the only other significant dwellings in the Audley area (see 1759 map) were Tommy Whittaker at Smalding Cottage at Dam Hey’s Bridge which had a fine orchard and Richard Critchley ( Oud Dick o Dads) of Higher Barn Farm who carried milk to his customers in Blackburn on his head. Another inhabitant was Edward Pomfret of Cicely Hole Farm also called Twenty Steps who also owned a piece of land where the railway station was later built with his fields running down to Mount Street where the original Blackburn Subscription Bowling Club was sited. Moses Nightingale had Audley Hall Farm and Audley Hall itself was held by the Derbyshire family who were tenant farmers who inter-married with the Nightingales and between them held possession of the hall for many years. They also saw the first intrusion into the Audley landscape when the Leeds Liverpool Canal was built across the area.
Map 4.jpg 

The 1759 map of Audley shows Blackburn Town Moor and the Glebe or Rectory land farmed by Audley Hall and its farms with individual field names (shown yellow green) and other land in Audley owned by Mr. Sudell and others (shown blue green). Names from fields that survive today include Stoney Butts, Harwood, Yate and Maudsley (spelt differently). At this time the landscape of Audley is totally rural with farming dominating. There were no roads crossing the area, at best there were only lanes but mostly footpaths as walking was the main means of transport other than the use of horse and cart. The only settlement shown is a few isolated farms (already mentioned) and early buildings in the north- west (Darwen Street) and around Cadman Inn on what later became Park Road. Audley House on the edge of the Audley area at Copy Nook was built by Henry Shaw the brewer and was later developed into Audley Working Men’s Club.

In 1826 the Derbyshires left Audley and went to Top of the Moor in Lower Darwen and the Nightingales survived them. Later up to the late 18th.Century the land around Audley Hall was ploughed and crops sown especially corn using lime brought from Clitheroe to improve the soil. Pasture land at this time was situated on the lower wetter lands nearer water sources. Moses Nightingale used the stream running close to Audley Hall Farm to turn a water wheel for churning milk into cheese and butter. James Derbyshire was brought up as a corn miller and later took the corn mill in Mill Lane or Mill Gate off Darwen Street as a business. Moses Nightingale apart from farming at Audley Hall Farm also farmed at Top of the Moor and was well known in Blackburn till he retired in1875 when his son Joseph took over. He introduced farming machinery with the first threshing machine in Blackburn which attracted many locals who turned out to watch the new-fangled machine at work. The fact that the Glebe/Rectory land was not made available for building purposes till the 1850’s enabled farming to continue but when the Ecclesiastical Commission relented and began breaking up the splendid estate with the first development being Queen’s Park and its lake which led to a huge urban development in the area.
Map 3.jpg 
By 1844 the map shows little had changed from 1759 (85 years ago) other than an increase of sandstone quarries which was reflective of the need for building materials in the area especially in the Lower Audley area and on the edge of the Town moor. Here can be seen the early developments of the cotton textile manufacturing mills namely Park Place and Crossfield Mills huddled close to the new Leeds Liverpool Canal. Audley Brook which ran from Shadsworth and the Whinney Heights area was first used by the earliest cotton manufacturers in the area namely the Co-Operative Society who ran a shed powered by a water wheel. This eventually formed the nucleus of the large cotton manufacturer namely Eli Hayworth & Son with the brook also running close to Bannister Eccles old textile mill. Early textile mill housing can be seen in this Lower Audley area and in the north-west where Blackburn had grown outwards towards the canal with some of this early terraced housing probably being of primitive back to back types. Other major changes in the Lower Audley area were roads/toll roads with Grimshaw Park, Haslingden Old Road and Brandy House Brow now visible along with a lane past Audley House and its malt kilns. At this time Dame Hoyle Lane which later became Audley Lane ran in part where Lower Audley Street now runs leading out from Park Road and was the only route from there to Audley Hall Farm. It is not known exactly where Dame Hoyle lived who gave her name to the lane but close to the entrance were massive gates that opened up to a park like landscape in the centre of which was a carriage drive leading up to Park Place House the residence of James Pilkington who was a large mill owner and M.P. for Blackburn. The lane at this time was truly rustic surrounded by flowering hawthorns and brambles together with hay fields and pasture land. There was a large hay field where Mayson Street Industrial School was later built and the more recent site of the Post Office Sorting Office.  
Between 1844 and 1900 a period of 56 years the whole area of Audley was transformed by the effects of the Industrial revolution especially the huge developments of the cotton textile manufacturing industry aided by steam power and the railway transport developments in the area. This resulted in the infant textile industry with early hand loom weavers and spinning systems moving into newly built textile mills. Audley Hall had been demolished in 1888 and by now there wqs Audley Hall Mill sited close by as a sign of the times. There had also been a slow sale of all the glebe land and other farm lands in the area for textile developments and its attendant housing needs. The farm lands slowly shrunk as new urban developments devoured the land till the early 1900’s when the whole area was covered by new terraced housing, industrial developments and public buildings providing the huge new population with the services they needed such as schools, churches, public houses, shops and other urban buildings.      
Audley Range shops.jpg
At this time a large workhouse had been built on Whinney Edge land to meet the needs of the poor, destitute and mentally ill. Lower Audley Street, Audley Range and Higher Audley Street had first been built stretching from Darwen Street Bridge to Intack before it was developed along it’s sides and created a grand parade across open land and members of the police force who had to patrol it’s full length hated it due to the dreadful monotony and when the east wind blew down it they nicknamed it “The Worm Hoyle”.
Audley Ariel.jpg 
Due to the huge building programme for textile mills, associated industry and their terraced housing brick making became important in the area between 1860 and 1900 alongside the existing quarrying. Audley Hall Brickworks was started in 1883 by James Dixon & Company to meet this need. Other ancillary industries in the area included River or Atlas Works off Higher Audley Street built in 1881 as a foundry but later changing to textile related activities and Bennington Street Foundry was created to make textile machinery castings being taken over later by Heatley & Sons. However cotton textile manufacturing dominated with Dewhurst Street Mill built in 1859/60 the first of many mills built on the former Audley Estate for cotton weaving. Audley Mill in Kent Street was also built in 1859/60 and was a larger cotton weaving mill. Audley Hall Mills had a warehouse known as “Cat Hoyle” due to the high loss of cats in its reservoir with mill one built 1860/61 where both spinning and weaving was carried out and mill two built in1877/78 was a weaving centre with both mills employing 985 workers. Audley Hall Mill three was built later in 1913 as another weaving mill and had a sports ground for all the mills workers. These mills were all connected to Eli Heyworth and his family. Audley Bridge Mill started as a small weaving shed in 1861/62 and was enlarged in the 1870’s with weaving ending in 1929. Higher Audley Street Mill built in the 62/64 period was both a weaving and spinning mill which later enlarged and continued to the 1970’s. Carlisle Street Mill was built in 1862 as a weaving shed, was enlarged in1867 and continued to 1936. Nearby was Walpole Street and Lucknow Mills of Lower Audley with Walpole Street having two weaving sheds and Lucknow one which was built in 1887 and continued till 1957. Another Audley mill was Alexandria built in 1865 as a weaving shed, later enlarged and continuing to 1934 when it changed into producing textile accessories.
 Audley Range with Church.jpg
Canton Mill (name suggests an Indian connection as a source of cotton or market for same) of Higher Audley Street built first as a small weaving shed in 1865 but considerably enlarged later and surviving till 1939/40  and later used by Jones Textilities for the production of textile accessories until it was demolished in 1980. Other mills built along the Leeds Liverpool Canal for its transport and water supply for steam include the large Cicely Bridge Mill which had both spinning and weaving divisions, Alma, Bridgewater, Prospect, Eanam and Rose Hill Mills who were all involved in cotton weaving and built in the 1850/60’s. Due to this huge rise in cotton manufacturing in Audley there also developed a range of smaller attendant companies providing services and equipment including heald, reed and shuttles together with textile machinery at Rose Hill Works at the end of Dewhurst Street at its junction with higher Audley Street. By 1910 there was also a chemical works on the banks of the canal near Higher Audley Street Mil which would supply the dies, soaps and other products needed by the textile processes. The large Atlas Iron Works at the bottom of Lower Audley Street reflects the need for raw materials required by textile engineers and machine manufacturers. The only other new business in the area is the Rose Hill Laundry Works off Higher Audley Street. All these new textile mills and other works can be seen on the 1910 map of Audley.
Map 2.jpg 
This map clearly shows how the Audley area has become totally built up and developed with the distinctive street grid system of terraced housing built for the huge number of mill workers who moved into the Audley area to work in the its many mills All the new housing shows they have back yards and serviceable back alleys, very different to the earlier back to back properties. The whole area now looks very structured with most main streets having public houses and corner shops for the local inhabitants. What is missing from the view however is a total lack of open green areas with the former rural landscape totally obliterated. Close to the area can be seen Blackburn Railway Station and extensive goods yards to serve the needs of the textile industry and huge coal warfs alongside the Leeds Liverpool Canal illustrating the importance of coal for steam power to run the mill machinery. The evidence of a large timber yard is not surprising with wood needed in the area, especially for building purposes but there is still a smithy behind Audley Bridge Mill demonstrating that horses still played a significant place in the transport system prior to motorised vehicles. Audley Range now has a tramway as the need for more efficient public transport was required.
 Audley Range with trams.jpg
The population boom also led to the development of large churches and their schools such as St Matthews, St. Thomas, St Joseph, Park Road, Audley Range and Oxford Street. Audley Range Congregational Church was built in the Gothic style with a tower incorporating a spire rising 130 feet and had decorated buttresses with the buildings surrounded by a small wall and wrought iron fencing. The main entrance was from Audley Range and alongside the church was a school used for church purposes and the church was linked to Park Road Congregation Church.
 Congregational Church.jpg

At the rear of the church a minister’s vestry was built and a large lecture room. The church was built as a result of the population rise in the area from 1000 in 1874 to 16,000 in 1889 and was helped by financial aid from Mr. Heyworth via a £1000 donation.
Oxford Street Primitive Methodist Church was built in 1873/4 after a crusade to raise money by Primitive Methodists starting in 1865 and helped by its allegiance with the Band of Hope Movement which first led to a school being built on the site in 1867 with an infant school added in 1880. A young men’s Mutual Improvement Society was formed by 1878 and provided valuable help to many whose education had been limited at the time. The building of the church was helped by a £1000 donation from the Hindle family.
Oxford St Primitive Methodist church.jpg 
St. Matthew’s Church of England Church and school were sited on the opposite side of Oxford Street and were built in1886 from money raised with an infant’s school added in 1891, a vicarage in 1895 and a boys school in 1899. Between 1880 and 1894 £3400 was raised for education development by St. Matthew’s working members and the church was able to develop their church, school and vicarage all on one site.





St. Thomas Church of England parish whose church was on the edge of Audley near Bottomgate was sub-divided to it from St. Matthew’s parish as the population of the area grew rapidly and by 1906 its parish population had grown to 7,727. The church was built after an earlier mission school had been built on the site and become inadequate for the parishes needs and by 1906 a large site contained a fine church and up to date schools including an infants and a comfortable vicarage. This church was meeting the needs of a large working class area and was helped considerably by a donation from Sir. Harry Hornby and his family together with parish bazaars.

St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church was first begun in 1869 from three cottages in William Hopwood Street and then from a temporary school/chapel in 1874. Monsignor Maglione was then asked to go to Audley to meet catholic needs although there was no church or school, so his target was to build them. As a result he led the Blackburn Mission and his first building in 1876 had a room used for church and school purposes. This led to the development of a large Italian styled church and attendant school with £12,000 raised by the efforts of the church people and by 1905 the church had 3,600 members of its parish.
 St Josephs Church.jpg
Churches at this early period were the focal point of the local working family life and provide many social functions for them to enjoy during their leisure time especially sports and led to the development of many local football, cricket and bowls teams.
 Audley Football Team.jpg
St Thomas's Football Team.jpg 
Audley Council School was the first school built with accommodation for both juniors and seniors. The seven acre site between Pringle Street and Queens Park Road had a boy’s entrance and a girl’s entrance on Chester Street. The school had an H plan shape with the Junior School on the south side and the senior on the north together with an assembly hall. Audley School still exists today but is now a large Junior School with pupils from a multi-ethnic background. 
Audley school.jpg 
Baby Class.jpg 
Senior Class.jpg 
During the 1920’s/30’s the world dominance of our textile industry began to be challenged and with the 1920’s industrial depression following the first world war when times became harder as markets shrank. However the textile industry soldiered on till the 1950’s but by then many of our foreign markets especially those in Asia were lost as many countries developed their own textile industries especially as their climates allowed for the growth of cotton fibres eg India. As a result textile mills closed that hadn’t previously closed in the 1930’s and to add to the decline textile redundant machinery was bought by the new foreign textile industries which aided their growth. Between 1950 and 1970 and surviving textile industries in Audley had to diversify and specialize into a variety of textile related products but slowly the whole industry was lost. This led to another major change in the Audley landscape as closed mills had to be demolished creating new spaces and the “Audley Re-Development Scheme led to huge swathes of old terraced housing, shops and public houses etc being demolished completely clearing large areas of Audley especially Lower Audley and the area between Higher Audley Street and Audley Range.
road works.jpg 
View from the junction of Lower Audley-street and Park-road
with slip road from Bolton-road in the foreground, showing
major clearance in the Lower Audley area.
At the same time many large original churches and schools eg St Mathews, Audley Range, St. Josephs and Oxford Street Methodists were also demolished due to falling congregations being unable to sustain them and the changing nature of Audley’s population as it became more multi-ethnic in its nature.
Map 1.jpg 
The 2014 map of the Audley area today illustrates clearly the new landscape where now the large proportion of the Lower Audley Street area is dominated by modern retail parks containing well known national retail names and fast food outlets together with new large leisure centres to meet the needs of a population with more leisure time eg The Vue and the Ice Arena. Higher parts of Lower Audley Street have been developed to accommodate service industries and a new private housing estate with modern mixed housing types that run to the Leeds Liverpool Canal itself now used only for leisure purposes. Between Higher Audley Street and Audley Range has developed a large council housing estate with mixed housing types together with a new St Matthews School and a smaller modern St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church.


St Josephs new Church.jpg 


Nearby in this area is a large new traditional styled Islamic Mosque to meet the needs of the areas multi-ethnic population that has grown here. Another area of service industries especially linked to the sale of motor vehicles lies on the edge of Bottomgate with other retail/service outlets on the other side of Bottomgate. Between Higher Audley Street and the Leeds Liverpool Canal are remnants of old textile mill buildings including small parts of Cicely and Canton Mills which have been split into small units offering fabrication services, food supplies, engineering and furniture supply along with parts of the original Rose Hill laundry Building still in use. A small modern private housing estate has also been developed on part of the demolished Cicely Mill site. The only complete textile mill remaining is Alma Mill on Cicely which is little changed and now occupied by Prestige Beds.
One area of Audley unaffected by the huge changes modern redevelopment has brought to the area is the south side of Audley Range between Bennington Street and Queens Park Road. Here can still be seen the grid system of original textile mill housing from the Industrial era related to Audley Hall and Audley Bridge Mills together with remnant shops but no public houses. This can be explained in that this area is very much a multi-cultural area, especially Muslim as evident with the large Audley Mosque built on the site of the original Audley Range Congregational Church.
Audley Mosque.jpg
The unchanged terraced property extends alongside many parts of Audley Range towards Intack apart from one large area of modern council housing. Although these areas of terraced housing still exist it is noticeable that many have been upgraded/ modernised by the use of council grants or private finance especially with extensions. This area ( Area C on the 2014 map) does also contain remnants of Audley Hall Mill buildings and their industrial textile past as some original weaving sheds have been sub-divided into smaller industrial units almost entirely used for motor vehicle services, apart from a kitchen/bedroom fitting centre. Although most of this mills former buildings have been demolished their site remains unused or developed. Another former textile mill namely Audley Bridge Mill mostly remains intact but with new modern internal fittings and roof being used by a timber supply business. However it is nice to see that the Audley Hall name associated with the origins of the Audley area is still in existence today 480 years later maintaining its historic roots.

back to top​​