It began about 300 million years ago during the Carboniferous Period when much of the planet's coal formation occurred. Swamps covered most of the earth and giant ferns and tree-like plants grew, died and formed peat. It took a layer of dead plants seven feet thick to produce a one foot thick seam of.Little is known about the position of land masses on the planet at that time, but it was to be two hundred million years later before the arrangement we recognise today emerged, and even then the land that was later to become the British Isles was still joined to the continent.
Less than a million years ago human beings appeared, their population waxing and waning as Ice Ages came and went. The effect of the last Ice Age was to wipe out all human habitation and it was seven or eight thousand years later before people reappeared.
The land link to the continent was gradually eroded and sometime between 6000 and 5000 BC it disappeared altogether creating the group of islands now known as the British Isles. Many of the factors that were to make Lancashire a centre of manufacturing were now in place. As well as the coal already referred to, there were deposits of iron ore in the Furness and Ulverston districts. There was limestone and millstone grit for road making and building purposes and there were thick layers of boulder clay suitable for brick making.
One more important factor was the. Climates change. A thousand years ago northern Europe was warmer than it is today. Climate varies according to various factors, among them latitude, altitude, topography and atmospheric circulation. The higher the latitude the less intense the sun's rays. Altitude also affects temperature, dropping about three degrees Fahrenheit for every 1000 feet. The earth is circled by six belts of wind; one of them, known as the 'westerlies', blows between 30 and 60 degrees north of the equator. Finally topography affects climate. High land that faces the prevailing wind has a damp and cloudy climate with plenty of rainfall to swell the many streams that descend the slopes.
The site that was to become Blackburn is at latitude 53 degrees north, between three and four hundred feet above sea level, on the western slopes of the Pennines facing the prevailing westerly wind. It has a cold, wet climate ideal for the spinning and weaving of cotton threads, lots of fast flowing streams for water powered machinery, huge coal deposits nearby for steam powered inventions, and plentiful stone for building purposes. It was to be many years before all these factors were to be exploited and a 'cotton town' created, but already, even at a time when the sparse population lived a nomadic, almost stone-age existence, everything was in place.