J Aiken in his book A Description of the Country from 30 to 40 miles round Manchester, published in 1795 describes Blackburn thus: 'The town itself consists of several streets irregularly laid out, but intermixed with good houses, the consequences of commercial wealth. Besides the parish church, there is a newly erected chapel of the establishment, and five places of worship for different persuasions of dissenters'.
P A Whittle in Blackburn As It Is, published in 1852, states 'The public buildings (with the exception of those used for religious purposes), are few in number, and consist of a new market house, upon a splendid scale, and the noble erections in its immediate vicinity.'
The second part of the 19th century saw new building all over Blackburn. Mills were built away from the town centre, where land was cheaper and houses for the workers were constructed around them. Homes for the mill owners were built on the western fringes of the town. Housing for workers was of a fairly basic kind, though not as rudimentary as the back-to-backs common in other northern towns. The mill owners by contrast had gracious, spacious villas like Beardwood Cliffe and Billinge Scarr erected.
Public buildings like the Town Hall, the Cotton Exchange, the Public Library and the Technical School were built. Later came the sessions house and public halls.
Ambitious town centre redevelopment in the 1960s and 70s saw the demise of many much loved landmarks, especially the market hall and clock tower.
J Aiken has little to say about Darwen beyond that it 'is in a bleak and elevated situation, surrounded with moors and little cultivated.' Whitehall is its oldest building dating from 1557, with Holker House at Hoddlesden next, dated 1591. When the Manor of Over Darwen was offered for sale in 1799 the advertisement in the Manchester newspapers refers to sundry messuages, farms, tenements and hereditaments, let at about £260 per annum.
Handloom weavers' cottages appeared during the late 1700s. The town centre ones have long since been cleared by redevelopment,but examples remain at Chapels and Blacksnape and Pickup Bank. A water-powered spinning mill was erected at Printshop in 1791. Calico printing began here in 1810. After 1835 the building was converted into cottages. Bowling Green Mill was erected in 1819. Mills proliferated throughout the 19th century with their attendant housing for the workers. Large house for millowners such as Astley Bank and Woodlands.
India Mill, Darwen Tower and the Market Hall appeared later in the century. The library and the public baths were built in 1908 and 1933 respectively.
Click here to find details of the Listed Buildings of Blackburn and Darwen.