The Incorporation of Blackburn and Darwen
The burgeoning industrial towns of Darwen and Blackburn were presenting authorities with problems they had never encountered before. For centuries overseers or commissioners had been sufficient to deal with minor nuisances and health hazards. When thousands of people were brought together in hastily built and often ill thought out warrens of streets, problems proliferated. It became evident that with the growth of both towns (largely due to the growth of the cotton trade) a different way of governing affairs had become necessary.
Powers were needed to deal with the situation. Bodies were needed to run these new areas of responsibility: policing, health, cemeteries, parks etc. Increasing populations meant that the social welfare of both towns was in question and Incorporation was the answer. Blackburn obtained its charter in 1851 and Darwen in 1878.
Incorporation of Darwen as a Borough
Darwen, (then known as 'Over Darwen') was incorporated by Royal Charter on the 22nd March 1878. This was in response to a petition from the 'inhabitant householders' of the town. The resolution to apply for a Charter of Incorporation was decided at a public meeting in the Co-operative Hall on the 20th March 1877. A petition to the Queen was signed by 670 ratepayers and despatched within ten days. Mr. William Snape J.P. (the first Mayor of Darwen) arrived with the Charter in his posession on the 25th March 1878. The bells of Holy Trinity Church were rung and fog signals were set off on the railway whilst crowds gathered in the streets. Mr. Charles Costeker (Clerk to the Board) read the Charter to an assembly in the Free Library and the meeting then dispersed with three cheers for the Queen. In the early years after incorporation Darwen owed much to William Snape and his good governance. He ensured further growth for Darwen by paying great attention to such matters as sanitary improvements and the extension of gas and waterworks. He pursued improvements of the highways and the erection of the Market House and Municipal Offices. He was also responsible for the reform of the financial system of the borough.
Incorporation of Blackburn as a Borough
On November 28th 1850 a Petition for a Charter of Incorporation to the Queen in Council was drawn up. A Charter of Incorporation was granted on the 28th August 1851. It consisted of three skins of parchment with a large seal of green wax, being under the Great Seal of England.
Before Incorporation it was the responsibility of Improvement Commissioners to maintain and improve areas. These duties would have been taken up by the newly formed town council, largely made up the elite population of the town, usually cotton merchants and magnates. This according to Derek Beattie allowed them to 'exert throughout the remaining half of the nineteenth century a greater and greater influence over the daily lives of Blackburn's populace and the physical environment in which they lived'.