Although there had been local gentry living with servants at Billinge Scar since Elizabethan times, the spot came into prominence only in 1876 when millionaire brewer and sometime Blackburn MP Daniel Thwaites decided to make it his family home. Building around the existing property, Thwaites created what must have seemed an overwhelming structure with an Elizabethan façade complete with battlements, as if to prove him and his fellow industrialists the equals of the aristocracy. Stretching from the cellar to the second floor, there were twelve bedrooms, a coachman's quarters and yard, several rooms for entertaining downstairs, and a library and a school room for his daughter, Elma. When Elma married Robert Yerburgh (the MP for Chester) in 1888, they took over the property and added a conservatory with an Italian mosaic floor.
After they had moved on to Woodfold Hall, Billinge Scar was taken over by William Birtwistle, and from 1921 his son Brigadier-General Arthur Birtwistle: through Abbey, Carr and Woodfold mills and other interests, they were said to control more looms than any other individual in the world. In the traditions of the industrial aristocracy, the Birtwistles owned yachts and cars, and had eight full-time servants as well as gardeners and mechanics with their own inspection pits on site. The five-acre estate came to include tennis courts and an indoor swimming pool, and the Birtwistles' yacht, S.Y. Iolaire, had its own tour itinerary cards printed, detailing visits to golfing resorts around the coast. A brother of the family, Richard, who lived at Springfield House further up Preston New Road, even scored Rovers' first goal in their F.A. Cup win of 1884 - and in his spare time was a director of Roe Lee mills!
The Birtwistles also felt they had social responsibilities: they drew their domestic staff from depressed industrial areas, welcomed an annual parade of children from Blackburn's Ragged School, and provided land in Mellor for the jobless between the wars. It is a reflection of both the principle and the prosperity of the Birtwistles that they were reliable supporters of the James Street Congregationalist Church - but occupied the best and most expensive pews.
Upon the death of Arthur in 1937, the property was put up for sale, but finding no buyer, Billinge Scar was put to public use during the Second World War, and then sold off for materials in the late 1940s. Only the coach house and derelict gardens can be seen today, but these photographs give us a glimpse into the world of the glamorous days of Billinge Scar.