Eccles Shorrock: Events During the 1860s
Attention needs to be paid to world and social events impacting on the Town in an attempt to glean the tenor of life in Darwen during this period, and to fully understand what inspired Eccles Shorrock. The 1860s proved to be a fascinating period in the life of Eccles Shorrock, and Darwen. This decade saw the culmination of the building of India Mill Chimney, followed by the prestigious Art Treasures Exhibition (1868), set against the backdrop of poverty and distress caused by the Cotton Famine. These years seem to define Eccles Shorrock. He emerges from the 1860s as a man of vision, a powerful business force and yet compassionate and responsible to his large workforce. He worked assiduously, along with others to assist Darwen's poor and starving, with the 'Relief Effort' throughout the crisis in the Cotton Industry.
During 1861-1865 the American Civil War raged and its impact devastated Lancashire and surrounding areas dependent upon the Cotton Trade. Basically, the supply of raw cotton from the South ceased. Poorer quality cotton was imported from India. Sources indicate that before the end of 1862, the price of raw material advanced by as much as 300%, and no-one could afford to purchase at those prices.
However, some firms like 'E.Shorrock' had bought in extra raw material at the start of the war - those that did not - shut down. Spinning Mills were affected first, because they could not function without the raw material.
By October 1862, four spinning mills including three belonging to Eccles Shorrock were on short time. Weaving mills fared better to begin with. At one point, in Darwen alone over 3,300 looms were idle. The firm of E. Shorrock & Co. continued working on short time using existing stocks of cotton. However, needless to say, the distress caused to the 'laid off' working folk of the town was evident to all.
Eccles Shorrock gave £1000 towards the Darwen Relief Fund. The Company offered training to operatives in order to re-skill them for other trades. The William Street School, founded and built by the first Eccles Shorrock became a centre for assistance to the poor. The upper room was opened for unemployed youth and men from 9am - 9pm. It was warm, well lit and lessons were provided.
The numbers of those requiring assistance rose from six hundred at the beginning of 1862, to over nearly three thousand by that Christmas.
Eccles Shorrock and others on the Relief Committee gave out two thousand Christmas Dinner Tickets and William Duckworth, Lord of the Manor gave the money for a further two thousand. Tickets were also issued for clogs and coal.
There was even an attempt to persuade people to emigrate. A deputation from the Queensland Cotton Growing Company was invited to the Assembly Room in 1863. The title of the address was "Emigration or Starvation!". Life must have been hard.
The education of Eccles and Ralph
Death and Marriage
Events during the 1860s
Decline in fortunes
The end of an era
Bibliography and Acknowledgments