Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery
In 1871 The Free Library committee purchased land in Richmond Terrace for £1,120 for a Museum and Free Library.
A competition for the best design for the Museum and Free Library, in an early French gothic style, was won by Messrs Woodzell and Colcutt, Architects, of Finsbury Place, London.
On July 18th 1872.The Mayor, Thomas Bury Esq, laid the foundation stone.
Local firms were commissioned to erect the building used the best materials available. Angelo Simpson, a local firm of architects from Blackburn, was appointed to oversee the construction of the museum. The main contractors were Marshall and Dent, to whom the building works contract was given for £6,929.
John Catterall constructed all masonry and brickwork using stone brought from quarries in Bath. For the gables and frontage of the Museum, stone was bought from quarries in Longridge and Bradford. Plaster-work was done by John Binns and the firm of Wilkinson and Miller did the slating.
Floors were of ‘fire-proof’ construction using the Fox and Barrett system of iron and concrete. Cases and internal woodwork was crafted by John Thompson; master cabinet maker.
James Bell of London provided the stained glass windows. (Three out of five of the original windows representing art, literature and science are now displayed in the Hart Gallery).
Sculpture panels were commissioned from G W Searle of London. Three panels on Frances St (now Museum Street, over the main entrance) represent the Arts, Music and Sciences, and includes the figures of Homer, Plato, Chaucer and Milton, Francis Bacon, Walter Scott, Newton. There are also figures representing a miner, engineer, geographer, navigator and mechanic.
Three panels along the museum overlooking Richmond Terrace bear testament to the growth of Blackburn and show the foundations of the town through agriculture, iron industry, the mills and trade. A panel representing arts and humanities may well be images of the original committee members including Alderman James Thompson, W E Briggs Esq MP; H M Fielden Esq; John Fish Esq of Livsey; and John Dugdale, machinist and cotton spinner.
The official opening of the Museum and Free Library was on Thursday 11th June 1874.