A Market Hall for Darwen?
It is difficult now to appreciate the rapidity of Darwen's growth in the 19th century. In one person's lifetime it was transformed from a hamlet of a few thousand souls into a modern town of over 30,000 people, and during the period 1850 to 1880 the population almost trebled. Local government did not develop at the same rate and for a long time the Board of Health was the town's only administrative body. It was not until borough status was achieved in 1878 that an appropriate level of civic response was at last begun.
Private initiative had taken the lead in developing services. The waterworks, gasworks, and tramways were all begun as commercial ventures and indeed the first purpose built market, the Greenway Market, was built with private capital by Eccles Shorrock in 1847. However, the scale of such enterprise was not large enough to meet the town's needs.
It was at the last meeting of the Local Board on 3rd June 1878 that the proposal to acquire land to build a market hall and town hall was made. For many years Blackburn had taken custom from local traders and it was not uncommon for customers travelling from Darwen to have their tram fare paid by grateful Blackburn shopkeepers. Even more than a town hall, a market was seen as essential to the town's independence.