Cotton was King in Blackburn and Darwen, but Cotton's kingdom needed the support and services of other industries. Some of these were closely connected to textiles. The cloth had to be bleached. It needed patterns printing on it. It needed dyeing. The looms needed shuttles and bobbins. Looms needed replacing, new parts were needed. Boilers were needed for new mills. All of these industries sprang up to serve King Cotton. Some of them became important industries in their own right and exported their goods and expertise throughout the world.
Not so closely connected to textiles, but no less vital to the lives and welfare of King Cotton's subjects were the brick making, coal mining, and corn milling industries. People needed homes. They needed fires. They needed bread. Brewing too was an important support industry. Alcohol and the social life of the pub made the harsh conditions in Cotton Town tolerable.
Paper making, wallpaper making and paint making grew to be important industries in Darwen. New industries: chemicals, plastics, electronics and light engineering came along and prospered when King Cotton's reign came to a close.
The production of textile accessories, including reeds, healds, bobbins, picking sticks, creel pegs, springs, shed rods and shuttles, has been an important occupation in Blackburn for over one hundred and fifty years. During the early nineteenth century such accessories appear to have been made by local carpenters and craftsmen, or by blacksmiths. However, as the cotton trade grew in Blackburn, this work increasingly became specialized, with certain firms concentrating on particular items. By the last half of the nineteenth century a large group of reed and heald makers, shuttle, shuttle tip makers, dobby and jacquard furnishers, were operating in the town. Some, particularly reed and heald manufacturers, also traded as yarn doublers.
As might be expected the majority of these firms were concerned with the supply of accessories to the weaving trade. Many of the businesses established during the nineteenth century survived well into the twentieth. Examples include Thomas Dawson and Rowland Baugley & Company, both shuttle makers, J. & R. Astley, McQuirk & Sons, and Haydock & Drake, reed and heald manufacturers, Ward Brothers, makers of dobby motions, and Peter Walker, jacquard machinist. One of the most important firms was Jones Brothers, who offered a complete range of weaving accessories.
The industry declined with the local cotton trade, although the surviving firms, first established to service local industry, were able to build up a thriving export market. Today, only two of the businesses remain, Jones Textilaties Limited, now based at Eclipse Mill, Feniscowles, and Ward Textile Machinery Limited, currently located at Walpole Street Mill. Unfortunately the redevelopment of large areas of Audley and Belle Vue has swept away many of the buildings used for the production of textile accessories. The surviving works are mainly located on the outskirts of the town and are of twentieth century origin. These are usually single storey workshops, built of engineering brick with northern light roofs. Exceptions include the multi-storey blocks of Higson Street and Moorgate Works.
by Mike Rothwell