Audley is an area that was situated just outside the old Blackburn boundary which is on its south side with Lower Audley abutting the Town’s Moor which was later called Grimshaw Park, this being land beyond Darwen Street Bridge. Audley extends from here eastwards to Intack and northwards to Whinney Edge, Coalpit Moor and Shadsworth.
During Henry VIII’s reign, in 1545, the Town Moor was classified as free land to Blackburn inhabitants and was walled, being used for May Games and archery with the upper reaches used to quarry stone. By 1618, a Duchy of Lancaster decree said the moor was to be used for the services of his majesty, heirs and successors for mustering soldiers and training them along with recreation use. The name Audley probably developed from OLD or OWD LEY because its sloping lands running down to Blackburn’s boundary were used for pasture and arable land, offering a quiet rural landscape which only contained four farms. Over time Audley’s name developed from HAWDLEY (1557) and HADLEY (1616). The oldest and principal building of the area was Audley Hall whose history is shrouded in mystery. It stood on Glebe or Rectory land on the banks of Audley Brook at the meeting point of two rivulets. This Glebe land was owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury and was therefore rented. The Hall was first described as a Benedictine Nunnery whose nuns existed in 1532 (Edward VI reign) and was restored in Mary’s reign in 1554 when twelve sisters dispensed medicine and ointments to help cure the ailments of locals. They also had preserves, cordials and wines to give to those in need when they travelled to more distant areas. A chief nun or mother-superior called Dame Sybil who died in 1536 was interred in St. Mary’s Church in Blackburn near the altar. Haudley Hall was also described as a mansion belonging to the Blackburn Rectory in the reign of Henry VIII and later leased to Sir Thomas Talbot from the Archbishop of Canterbury for use as a parsonage farm (1557). In 1616, the house was described as being built of stone, brick and timber and having certain lands called Hadley demesne with the lease later passing to a Mrs. Fleetwood. At a later period the hall passed into the hands of the De-Blackburn family who provided St. Mary’s Church in Blackburn with its early rectors. By the 18th century the only other significant dwellings in the Audley area (see 1759 map) were Tommy Whittaker, a bridge keeper, at Smalding Cottage at Dam Hey’s Bridge which had a fine orchard and Richard Critchley (Oud Dick o Dads) of Higher Barn Farm who carried milk to his customers in Blackburn on his head. Another inhabitant was Edward Pomfret of Cicely Hole Farm also called Twenty Steps who also owned a piece of land where the railway station was later built with his fields running down to Mount Street where the original Blackburn Subscription Bowling Club was sited.
Watercolour, Audley Hall (c) Kind permission of the Bretherton Family, June 2020.
painting belonged to the Derbyshire family who were farming tenants of the
Moses Nightingale had Audley Hall Farm and Audley Hall itself was held by the Derbyshire family who were tenant farmers who inter-married with the Nightingales and between them held possession of the hall for many years. They also saw the first intrusion into the Audley landscape when the Leeds Liverpool Canal was built across the area.
A MAP OF THE AUDLEY AREA IN 1759
The 1759 map of Audley shows Blackburn Town Moor and the Glebe or Rectory land farmed by Audley Hall and its farms with individual field names (shown yellow green) and other land in Audley owned by Mr. Sudell and others (shown blue green). Names from fields that survive today include Stoney Butts, Harwood, Yate and Maudsley (spelt differently). At this time the landscape of Audley is totally rural with farming dominating. There were no roads crossing the area, at best there were only lanes but mostly footpaths as walking was the main means of transport other than the use of horse and cart. The only settlement shown is a few isolated farms (already mentioned) and early buildings in the north- west (Darwen Street) and around Cadman Inn on what later became Park Road. Audley House on the edge of the Audley area at Copy Nook was built by Henry Shaw the brewer and was later developed into Audley Working Men’s Club.
In 1826 the Derbyshires left Audley and went to Top of the Moor in Lower Darwen and the Nightingales survived them. Later up to the late 18th.Century the land around Audley Hall was ploughed and crops sown especially corn using lime brought from Clitheroe to improve the soil. Pasture land at this time was situated on the lower wetter lands nearer water sources. Moses Nightingale used the stream running close to Audley Hall Farm to turn a water wheel for churning milk into cheese and butter. James Derbyshire was brought up as a corn miller and later took the corn mill in Mill Lane or Mill Gate off Darwen Street as a business. Moses Nightingale apart from farming at Audley Hall Farm also farmed at Top of the Moor and was well known in Blackburn till he retired in1875 when his son Joseph took over. He introduced farming machinery with the first threshing machine in Blackburn which attracted many locals who turned out to watch the new-fangled machine at work. The fact that the Glebe/Rectory land was not made available for building purposes till the 1850’s enabled farming to continue but when the Ecclesiastical Commission relented and began breaking up the splendid estate with the first development being Queen’s Park and its lake which led to a huge urban development in the area.
A MAP OF THE AUDLEY AREA IN 1844
By 1844 the map shows little had changed from 1759 (85 years ago) other than an increase of sandstone quarries which was reflective of the need for building materials in the area especially in the Lower Audley area and on the edge of the Town moor. Here can be seen the early developments of the cotton textile manufacturing mills namely Park Place and Crossfield Mills huddled close to the new Leeds Liverpool Canal. Audley Brook which ran from Shadsworth and the Whinney Heights area was first used by the earliest cotton manufacturers in the area namely the Co-Operative Society who ran a shed powered by a water wheel. This eventually formed the nucleus of the large cotton manufacturer namely Eli Hayworth & Son with the brook also running close to Bannister Eccles old textile mill. Early textile mill housing can be seen in this Lower Audley area and in the north-west where Blackburn had grown outwards towards the canal with some of this early terraced housing probably being of primitive back to back types. Other major changes in the Lower Audley area were roads/toll roads with Grimshaw Park, Haslingden Old Road and Brandy House Brow now visible along with a lane past Audley House and its malt kilns. At this time Dame Hoyle Lane which later became Audley Lane ran in part where Lower Audley Street now runs leading out from Park Road and was the only route from there to Audley Hall Farm. It is not known exactly where Dame Hoyle lived who gave her name to the lane but close to the entrance were massive gates that opened up to a park like landscape in the centre of which was a carriage drive leading up to Park Place House the residence of James Pilkington who was a large mill owner and M.P. for Blackburn. The lane at this time was truly rustic surrounded by flowering hawthorns and brambles together with hay fields and pasture land. There was a large hay field where Mayson Street Industrial School was later built and the more recent site of the Post Office Sorting Office.
Between 1844 and 1900 a period of 56 years the whole area of Audley was transformed by the effects of the Industrial revolution especially the huge developments of the cotton textile manufacturing industry aided by steam power and the railway transport developments in the area. This resulted in the infant textile industry with early hand loom weavers and spinning systems moving into newly built textile mills. Audley Hall had been demolished in 1888 and by now there wqs Audley Hall Mill sited close by as a sign of the times. There had also been a slow sale of all the glebe land and other farm lands in the area for textile developments and its attendant housing needs. The farm lands slowly shrunk as new urban developments devoured the land till the early 1900’s when the whole area was covered by new terraced housing, industrial developments and public buildings providing the huge new population with the services they needed such as schools, churches, public houses, shops and other urban buildings.
AUDLEY RANGE SHOWING LOCAL SHOPS, TERRACED HOUSING
AND AUDLEY RANGE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH EARLY 1900’s
At this time a large workhouse had been built on Whinney Edge land to meet the needs of the poor, destitute and mentally ill. Lower Audley Street, Audley Range and Higher Audley Street had first been built stretching from Darwen Street Bridge to Intack before it was developed along it’s sides and created a grand parade across open land and members of the police force who had to patrol it’s full length hated it due to the dreadful monotony and when the east wind blew down it they nicknamed it “The Worm Hoyle”.
HIGHER AUDLEY STREET TERRACED HOUSING AND TEXTILE MILLS
IN EARLY 1900’S INCLUDING CICELY AND CANTON MILLS
Due to the huge building programme for textile mills, associated industry and their terraced housing brick making became important in the area between 1860 and 1900 alongside the existing quarrying. Audley Hall Brickworks was started in 1883 by James Dixon & Company to meet this need. Other ancillary industries in the area included River or Atlas Works off Higher Audley Street built in 1881 as a foundry but later changing to textile related activities and Bennington Street Foundry was created to make textile machinery castings being taken over later by Heatley & Sons. However cotton textile manufacturing dominated with Dewhurst Street Mill built in 1859/60 the first of many mills built on the former Audley Estate for cotton weaving. Audley Mill in Kent Street was also built in 1859/60 and was a larger cotton weaving mill. Audley Hall Mills had a warehouse known as “Cat Hoyle” due to the high loss of cats in its reservoir with mill one built 1860/61 where both spinning and weaving was carried out and mill two built in1877/78 was a weaving centre with both mills employing 985 workers. Audley Hall Mill three was built later in 1913 as another weaving mill and had a sports ground for all the mills workers. These mills were all connected to Eli Heyworth and his family. Audley Bridge Mill started as a small weaving shed in 1861/62 and was enlarged in the 1870’s with weaving ending in 1929. Higher Audley Street Mill built in the 62/64 period was both a weaving and spinning mill which later enlarged and continued to the 1970’s. Carlisle Street Mill was built in 1862 as a weaving shed, was enlarged in1867 and continued to 1936. Nearby was Walpole Street and Lucknow Mills of Lower Audley with Walpole Street having two weaving sheds and Lucknow one which was built in 1887 and continued till 1957. Another Audley mill was Alexandria built in 1865 as a weaving shed, later enlarged and continuing to 1934 when it changed into producing textile accessories.
AUDLEY RANGE WITH TERRACED HOUSING, AUDLEY RANGE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
AND ALEXANDRIA MILL IN THE BACKGROUND AND INTACK AREA IN THE DISTANCE
Canton Mill (name suggests an Indian connection as a source of cotton or market for same) of Higher Audley Street built first as a small weaving shed in 1865 but considerably enlarged later and surviving till 1939/40 and later used by Jones Textilities for the production of textile accessories until it was demolished in 1980. Other mills built along the Leeds Liverpool Canal for its transport and water supply for steam include the large Cicely Bridge Mill which had both spinning and weaving divisions, Alma, Bridgewater, Prospect, Eanam and Rose Hill Mills who were all involved in cotton weaving and built in the 1850/60’s. Due to this huge rise in cotton manufacturing in Audley there also developed a range of smaller attendant companies providing services and equipment including heald, reed and shuttles together with textile machinery at Rose Hill Works at the end of Dewhurst Street at its junction with higher Audley Street. By 1910 there was also a chemical works on the banks of the canal near Higher Audley Street Mil which would supply the dies, soaps and other products needed by the textile processes. The large Atlas Iron Works at the bottom of Lower Audley Street reflects the need for raw materials required by textile engineers and machine manufacturers. The only other new business in the area is the Rose Hill Laundry Works off Higher Audley Street. All these new textile mills and other works can be seen on the 1910 map of Audley.
MAP OF THE AUDLEY AREA IN 1910
This map clearly shows how the Audley area has become totally built up and developed with the distinctive street grid system of terraced housing built for the huge number of mill workers who moved into the Audley area to work in the its many mills All the new housing shows they have back yards and serviceable back alleys, very different to the earlier back to back properties. The whole area now looks very structured with most main streets having public houses and corner shops for the local inhabitants. What is missing from the view however is a total lack of open green areas with the former rural landscape totally obliterated. Close to the area can be seen Blackburn Railway Station and extensive goods yards to serve the needs of the textile industry and huge coal warfs alongside the Leeds Liverpool Canal illustrating the importance of coal for steam power to run the mill machinery. The evidence of a large timber yard is not surprising with wood needed in the area, especially for building purposes but there is still a smithy behind Audley Bridge Mill demonstrating that horses still played a significant place in the transport system prior to motorised vehicles. Audley Range now has a tramway as the need for more efficient public transport was required.
TRAMS ON THE WAY TO COPY NOOK
The population boom also led to the development of large churches and their schools such as St Matthews, St. Thomas, St Joseph, Park Road, Audley Range and Oxford Street. Audley Range Congregational Church was built in the Gothic style with a tower incorporating a spire rising 130 feet and had decorated buttresses with the buildings surrounded by a small wall and wrought iron fencing. The main entrance was from Audley Range and alongside the church was a school used for church purposes and the church was linked to Park Road Congregation Church.
AUDLEY RANGE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
At the rear of the church a minister’s vestry was built and a large lecture room. The church was built as a result of the population rise in the area from 1000 in 1874 to 16,000 in 1889 and was helped by financial aid from Mr. Heyworth via a £1000 donation.
Oxford Street Primitive Methodist Church was built in 1873/4 after a crusade to raise money by Primitive Methodists starting in 1865 and helped by its allegiance with the Band of Hope Movement which first led to a school being built on the site in 1867 with an infant school added in 1880. A young men’s Mutual Improvement Society was formed by 1878 and provided valuable help to many whose education had been limited at the time. The building of the church was helped by a £1000 donation from the Hindle family.
St. Matthew’s Church of England Church and school were sited on the opposite side of Oxford Street and were built in1886 from money raised with an infant’s school added in 1891, a vicarage in 1895 and a boys school in 1899. Between 1880 and 1894 £3400 was raised for education development by St. Matthew’s working members and the church was able to develop their church, school and vicarage all on one site.
ST. MATTHEW’S CHURCH SITE
St. Thomas Church of England parish whose church was on the edge of Audley near Bottomgate was sub-divided to it from St. Matthew’s parish as the population of the area grew rapidly and by 1906 its parish population had grown to 7,727. The church was built after an earlier mission school had been built on the site and become inadequate for the parishes needs and by 1906 a large site contained a fine church and up to date schools including an infants and a comfortable vicarage. This church was meeting the needs of a large working class area and was helped considerably by a donation from Sir. Harry Hornby and his family together with parish bazaars.
St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church was first begun in 1869 from three cottages in William Hopwood Street and then from a temporary school/chapel in 1874. Monsignor Maglione was then asked to go to Audley to meet catholic needs although there was no church or school, so his target was to build them. As a result he led the Blackburn Mission and his first building in 1876 had a room used for church and school purposes. This led to the development of a large Italian styled church and attendant school with £12,000 raised by the efforts of the church people and by 1905 the church had 3,600 members of its parish.
ST JOSEPH’S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Churches at this early period were the focal point of the local working family life and provide many social functions for them to enjoy during their leisure time especially sports and led to the development of many local football, cricket and bowls teams.
TWO CHURCH FOOTBALL TEAMS IN THE EARLY 1900’s
Audley Council School was the first school built with accommodation for both juniors and seniors. The seven acre site between Pringle Street and Queens Park Road had a boy’s entrance and a girl’s entrance on Chester Street. The school had an H plan shape with the Junior School on the south side and the senior on the north together with an assembly hall. Audley School still exists today but is now a large Junior School with pupils from a multi-ethnic background.
ORIGINAL PLAN OF AUDLEY COUNCIL SCHOOL
During the 1920’s/30’s the world dominance of our textile industry began to be challenged and with the 1920’s industrial depression following the first world war when times became harder as markets shrank. However the textile industry soldiered on till the 1950’s but by then many of our foreign markets especially those in Asia were lost as many countries developed their own textile industries especially as their climates allowed for the growth of cotton fibres eg India. As a result textile mills closed that hadn’t previously closed in the 1930’s and to add to the decline textile redundant machinery was bought by the new foreign textile industries which aided their growth. Between 1950 and 1970 and surviving textile industries in Audley had to diversify and specialize into a variety of textile related products but slowly the whole industry was lost. This led to another major change in the Audley landscape as closed mills had to be demolished creating new spaces and the “Audley Re-Development Scheme led to huge swathes of old terraced housing, shops and public houses etc being demolished completely clearing large areas of Audley especially Lower Audley and the area between Higher Audley Street and Audley Range.
HIGHER AUDLEY STREET CLEARANCE
View from the junction of Lower Audley-street and Park-road
with slip road from Bolton-road in the foreground, showing
major clearance in the Lower Audley area.
At the same time many large original churches and schools eg St Mathews, Audley Range, St. Josephs and Oxford Street Methodists were also demolished due to falling congregations being unable to sustain them and the changing nature of Audley’s population as it became more multi-ethnic in its nature.
2014 MAP OF THE AUDLEY AREA
The 2014 map of the Audley area today illustrates clearly the new landscape where now the large proportion of the Lower Audley Street area is dominated by modern retail parks containing well known national retail names and fast food outlets together with new large leisure centres to meet the needs of a population with more leisure time eg The Vue and the Ice Arena. Higher parts of Lower Audley Street have been developed to accommodate service industries and a new private housing estate with modern mixed housing types that run to the Leeds Liverpool Canal itself now used only for leisure purposes. Between Higher Audley Street and Audley Range has developed a large council housing estate with mixed housing types together with a new St Matthews School and a smaller modern St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church.
ST JOSEPH’S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Nearby in this area is a large new traditional styled Islamic Mosque to meet the needs of the areas multi-ethnic population that has grown here. Another area of service industries especially linked to the sale of motor vehicles lies on the edge of Bottomgate with other retail/service outlets on the other side of Bottomgate. Between Higher Audley Street and the Leeds Liverpool Canal are remnants of old textile mill buildings including small parts of Cicely and Canton Mills which have been split into small units offering fabrication services, food supplies, engineering and furniture supply along with parts of the original Rose Hill laundry Building still in use. A small modern private housing estate has also been developed on part of the demolished Cicely Mill site. The only complete textile mill remaining is Alma Mill on Cicely which is little changed and now occupied by Prestige Beds.
One area of Audley unaffected by the huge changes modern redevelopment has brought to the area is the south side of Audley Range between Bennington Street and Queens Park Road. Here can still be seen the grid system of original textile mill housing from the Industrial era related to Audley Hall and Audley Bridge Mills together with remnant shops but no public houses. This can be explained in that this area is very much a multi-cultural area, especially Muslim as evident with the large Audley Mosque built on the site of the original Audley Range Congregational Church.
PICTURE OF AUDLEY RANGE MOSQUE
The unchanged terraced property extends alongside many parts of Audley Range towards Intack apart from one large area of modern council housing. Although these areas of terraced housing still exist it is noticeable that many have been upgraded/ modernised by the use of council grants or private finance especially with extensions. This area ( Area C on the 2014 map) does also contain remnants of Audley Hall Mill buildings and their industrial textile past as some original weaving sheds have been sub-divided into smaller industrial units almost entirely used for motor vehicle services, apart from a kitchen/bedroom fitting centre. Although most of this mills former buildings have been demolished their site remains unused or developed. Another former textile mill namely Audley Bridge Mill mostly remains intact but with new modern internal fittings and roof being used by a timber supply business. However it is nice to see that the Audley Hall name associated with the origins of the Audley area is still in existence today 480 years later maintaining its historic roots.
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The Cotton Town website contains an excellent historical survey of the Audley District from medieval to modern times (please see above). This article attempts to record in detail the families, shops and businesses located on Audley Range from the end of WWII to the Council re-development of the late 1960s. This community was the last to live in the Victorian terraces and the last to gain any livelihood from cotton. The author, David Wharton, was born on Audley Range in 1949 and left the District just before the start of the re-development. The article is based on personal recollections as well as various pieces of documentary evidence for the particular property, 95 Audley Range in which his family lived.
Audley Range ran north-east from its bridge over the Leeds-Liverpool canal towards Audley lane, Queen’s Park Road and the Congregational Church. On the south side of Audley Range the terraced rows of houses were built in a direction parallel to the Range; on the north side the rows were in a perpendicular direction. Because of this not all the cross streets made it across the Range: Chester Street did, its neighbouring streets, Riley and Snape, didn’t. The whole district of Higher Audley was built on the side of a gentle hill slope, the Range running half-way up and the summit road named, perhaps appropriately, Scotland Road.
My parents, Harry and Eva Wharton, moved into 95 Audley Range in January, 1948 after 8 years of marriage. I, their second son, was born there in May 1949. The property was a family dwelling with a front shop. I grew up there happily, but we had to leave in October 1964 on account of my father’s ill-health. The property became unsaleable because of the council decision to demolish and redevelop Higher Audley, so a rental arrangement (at a low market rent) with a Mr and Mrs Whalley was agreed which lasted until 1974 when the property was compulsorily purchased and subsequently demolished by the Council.
The house had been built in 1868 and my parents bought it in 1948 paying £700 for it, part funded by a £425 mortgage from the Temperance Permanent Building Society. At the time of our leaving in 1964, without the threat of re-development the property value would have been approximately £1250. At the end of the rental arrangement in 1974, the value should have been approximately £2100; the family received £513 for it (after a hard fight) through the compulsory purchase scheme.
Reproduced by courtesy of Mike Sumner, Cotton Town website
95 Audley Range was an end-of terrace building at the crossing of Audley Range by Chester Street, it was at the north-east corner, or top right, of the crossing. The shop sold fruit, vegetables, tinned food, fish and, later, frozen food and flowers. It advertised itself as a ‘high quality’ green grocers, fish mongers and florists. The shop fronted Audley Range with the dwelling behind running up Chester Street. There was a level of cooperation between the shop businesses: if one shop didn’t have what a customer wanted, a runner, typically the youngest member of the family, was sent to find and buy it from the nearest equivalent shop. Cars, buses, trucks rumbled past all day.
Across Chester Street, at the north-west corner of the crossing, was the ‘Lord Howard’, a Thwaites public house, Thwaites being one of the local Blackburn breweries. Since we were a completely tee-total family, we never went in and from what I can remember, not many other people did either. It provided occasional entertainment when deliveries were rolled into the cellar which could be watched from the anonymity of our bedrooms.
Diagonally across from ‘95’, at the south-west corner of the crossing, was the Audley Range Working Men’s Club. This was quiet during the week but buzzed on Saturday evenings. It was again another place of beer and smoke which might help to explain the relatively low custom at the ‘Lord Howard’.
The final corner of the crossing, the south-east, was occupied by a butcher’s shop. This was a lock-up, the owner, Stanley Moore and his family living elsewhere. Burglars were fond of lock-ups and Stan arrived one morning to find his knives and other trade tools had been taken. From then on, they were packed in his boot and taken home every evening. The south side of Audley Range was not part of the late 1960s demolition and rebuild, so Stan butchered on, though the view through his front shop window must have been a constant surprise during the re-building.
Returning to ‘95’ on the north-east corner and moving along the terrace, the adjacent shop was a baker’s run by Mr and Mrs Hoyle. This was again a lockup: Mr and Mrs Hoyle lived on Queen’s Park Road with their son, Harold (amid an extensive model railway!).
All the shopkeepers started weekday work very early. Blackburn Market had to be visited at 6 am by the green grocer, my father, to find and select the best fish and vegetables; The baker’s ovens next door would be started even earlier to make the bread and cakes needed at 8 am for packed lunches and the rest of the day. Since the baker’s ovens were built against our party wall, this had the effect of conveniently heating our house early in the morning as well as baking his bread.
Continuing along the terrace, the next house was a private residence, the next after that was a post office shop and dwelling run by Mr. and a Mrs. Martin and family complete with a red pillar box outside. The Martins provided a level of free official advice to the terraces about strange, occasional items like ‘applying for a passport’, ‘death certificates’, etc.
Further still along the terrace was another baker’s, Mr and Mrs Perkins, less popular than the Hoyles in terms of customers but still running a reasonable business. We tended to use them for party items such as birthday cakes. Next to that were two more private dwellings and then at the end of the row on the corner of Snape Street a proper hardware shop.
Crossing the Range and moving back along the other side of the road, the first shop of interest was a small ‘sweet’ shop and dwelling (opposite the hardware shop) run by Mr and Mrs Entwistle. They had a son (Melvyn) and a daughter. In this shop 6d (2.5p) went a long way in boyish pleasure. Next door was Monk’s the chemist (aka in modern times as a pharmacist). With few health and safety regulations, chemists sometimes stocked chemicals which today would not be allowed but were of interest to hobbyists. Monk’s didn’t but these could be found in the chemists at Copy Nook and provided many evening party tricks in our home.
Next to the chemists was a private dwelling whose occupant was believed to have been a steam train driver but was never seen. Another two private dwellings, then a shop which sometimes sold ladies wear as well as furniture, then a plumber’s and, finally, back to the Moore’s the butchers on the south-east corner of Chester Street. The plumbers were a Mr and Mrs Thompson with a son called Keith. It was a shop and dwelling with the family living at the back.
Across the Range again, next to the ‘Lord Howard’ pub was a small shop selling tripe. Previously, it had been a chippie, then a range of private dwellings with front gardens. On the corner of Riley Street was Woods the newsagents which sold the usual range of newspapers and artefacts. We had an account for daily paper delivery with Woods which was typically settled weekly on Friday evening. They also sold cigarettes including ‘Wills Woodbines’ which proved to be the undoing of my father.
On the opposite side of Audley Range to the newsagents, a dwelling had been converted into doctors’ surgeries who provided some degree of medical support for the community. Conveniently, outside the newsagents and the surgeries were the bus stops for buses out of and into the town, single adult fare 3d (1.25p).
In summary, within less than 100 paces from our front door, we had all the necessities of life in Cotton Town: not one but two bakeries, a post office, hardware store, greengrocers, fishmongers, florists, sweet shop, chemists, doctors surgeries, newsagents, butchers, plumbers and two places of alcoholic refreshment. A few more paces and there were several primary schools, and CofE, Catholic, Congregational and Methodist churches. To travel further, we had a short, regular bus service.
However, In the 1950s and early 1960s, Blackburn had long lost its cotton town pre-eminence. Mills still operated but employment was neither full nor consistent. Residents had to look outside the mill and, indeed, outside Higher Audley for a livelihood. The commercial reasons for the area’s creation and self-sustainment in the 1860s had substantially vanished. Also, the area’s intricate network of shops and small businesses would
not be able to survive the future rise of the out-of-town or edge-of-town supermarkets. And the Winds of Change were blowing hard in Blackburn in the 1960s – a delightful, hard-working Asian family moved into the first house on the right in Chester Street in the late 1950s and more were to follow. Arguably, Higher Audley would change more in the next two decades than it had in the previous hundred years.
The Victorian houses themselves had been slowly upgraded by their occupants, a back-boiler for hot water here, an inside bathroom and toilet there, usually as a result of central government financial incentives. Coal fires were still the norm for warmth; cold water ran into the sinks in lead pipes; stairs were narrow, steep and poorly lit; windows single glazed and poorly fitting. Realistically though, the Victorians had built just too many houses for a sympathetic upgrade and the demolition plan was the only viable alternative.
In a phased re-development in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Blackburn Town Council chose to compulsorily purchase all the properties and land between Higher Audley Street and Audley Range, dismiss the thrifty, hardworking, post-War population and re-build as a modern development of residential council houses. The Victorian terraces and district south of Audley Range were left essentially untouched. So ended Cotton and the vibrant post-War community in Higher Audley.
David Wharton, 95 Audley Range 1949-1964. Submitted April 2020.