​Rubbish Disposal in Nineteenth Century Blackburn

Originally rubbish was thrown into the Streets, where it was trodden into the ground by passing traffic, or blown away. When the population started to increase, this was no longer sufficient, and the large piles of material caused a public nuisance and were a hazard to health as they decayed.
The Blackburn Police Act of 1803 set up Commissioners to supervise the cleaning of streets and disposal of rubbish.

A lot of household waste also found its way into the Blakewater. As factories developed, the owners built numerous weirs, which slowed down the flow of water and caused pools of water to form behind them. This encouraged householders in nearby houses to deposit their rubbish in the ponds.
The 1840 public Health Act laid down upon local Boards and Sanitary Authorities the duty to provide places for the deposit of rubbish and to collect waste from households.

Nevertheless, much rubbish continued to be left in the streets. Common practice when rows of houses were being built was to make bricks on the site by utilising the clay which formed the subsoil, a small brick kiln being constructed. When the builder moved on, the clay pits were filled with rubbish.
In 1853 there were 22 miles of streets in Blackburn unpaved and with no scavenging. These all too frequently contained pools of stagnant water and accumulations of filth. While streets remained unpaved it was not possible to keep them clean
Owners of houses with large gardens used a secluded part of the estate to deposit bottles, ashes, broken crockery and tea leaves. Proprietors of cotton mills also had a problem with rubbish disposal, but this would be mainly ashes, and clinker from the boiler fires, with a few used pirns* and broken bobbins.

The 1854 Blackburn Improvement Act gave increased powers to the Corporation. Building of houses in courts was forbidden, and streets were made wider. All formed on ground purchased by the Corporation were to be public highways. It was an offence to discharge sewage or throw rubbish into the bed of the Blakewater. However, the Corporation could not borrow enough money to pave all existing streets.

The 1858 Local Government Act gave additional powers in regard to removal of rubbish. It also enabled adjoining districts to combine with Blackburn for refuse disposal and sanitation if they so wished.

The Cotton Famine of 1861 to 1865 brought unemployment to the cotton workers, but gave an opportunity to carry out roadworks. Under the Public Works (Manufacturing Districts) Act of 1863, the Town Council could borrow money from Public Works Commissioners to finance road schemes and similar improvements. The bed of the Blakewater was cleared of debris and the channel paved. Several miles of streets were also paved with stone setts.

Work continued to be financed under this act for several years after the end of the Cotton Famine.

The decline in use of stone for house building purposes meant that several small quarries in the town ceased to be used for stone, and could be filled with household rubbish. There were also numerous worked out sand pits which became tips.

In the year ending June, 1869 721 houses were built in Blackburn, and starts had been made on 456 others. By this date most of the available level sites had been built up, and new streets were formed along the contours of the hilly areas. Before houses could be erected, the sites had to be levelled off, the usual method being by infilling with household waste. After allowing time for the ground to compact, the terraces of houses were constructed.
A By-law of 1881 made it an offence to leave building materials, or sweepings, or household rubbish in the street. The small brick kilns were also forbidden as part of a smoke-control programme.

In the 1880’s there was a concern over possible health hazards from building on former waste dumps, as houses were built direct on to the soil surface, with no impervious layer. By 1888 there were only four areas inside the borough were waste could be tipped, and these were rapidly filling up. A refuse destructor which burned up the rubbish was installed at Audley, and open tipping gradually ceased, although in the 1890’s Morten Street, Haslingden Road, Heys Lane and Pringle Street were in use.

It was recommended that former tips should be allowed to stand for three years before being built on, and the foundations of houses should be covered with concrete and asphalt.

Obviously, many former sites are now covered in paving stones, setts and asphalt and are unsuited to treasure seekers. In the case of a wooded area, the presence of a former tip is often revealed by an unevenness in the ground and the presence of elderberry bushes. An open unbuilt site will probably be covered in Rosebay willow herb, wormwood, and coarse vegetation. There may be uneven ground, and possibly a sharp drop in the level at the former face of the tip.

The Permission of the owner of the land should be obtained in all cases before exploration or digging.

Areas in Blackburn and district formerly used for tipping domestic household waste.
Feniscowles, Pleasington Houghton, Livesey Hall.
Three Arch railway bridge near Feniscowles Spar and garage.
Area between Chorley (now closed) and Preston Railway lines.
Bunker Hill.
Butler’s Delf.
Pleasington Old Hall grounds.
Cabin Hill and behind Bungalows.
Hillside and small quarry behind Houghton Tower.
Duxon Hill quarry.

Cherry Tree
Green Lane.
Geddes Street.
Feniscliffe Drive.
Tower Road and parts of Pleasington Playing Fields

Witton, Bank Top
Selborne Street.
West View.
Vauxhall Street.
Agnes Street.
Wellington Street.
Norman Street.
East Street.
Griffin Street.
Dixon Street.
Pump Street.

Mill Hill, Moorgate
Hertford Street.
Suffolk Street.
Heys Lane near Heys Gate and Scotland Bank.
Emma Street.
Bower House.
Brothers Street
Bentham Street.
Stephen Street.
St. Aidan’s Avenue.
Cranborne Street.
Maria Street.

Ewood, Aqueduct
Albion Street.
Spring Bank Terrace.
Fernhurst Street.
Kidder Street.
Nuttall Street.

Lower Darwen
Stopes Brow.
Sandy Lane.
Hollin Bank, Infirmary
Hollin Bridge Street.
Longshaw Lane.
Park Lee Road.
Wolseley Street.
Sunnybank Road.

Grimshaw Park
Honey Hole.
Kemp Street.
Abraham Street.
Highfield Road.
Bennington Street.
Haslingden Road.

Knuzden, Shadsworth, Whitebirk
Knuzden Brook.
Cunliffe Delf.
Fecitt Brow.
Crabtree Street.
Burnley Road

Little Harwood
Bay Street.
Pearl Street.
Ash Street.
Sunny Bower.
Croft Head.
Clarendon Road.
Laburnum Road.

Pleckgate, Ramsgreave, Mellor
St. James’s Road.
Ramsgreave Hall.
Ramsgreave behind Laundry.
Mellor, Quarry behind Pigeon Hall.
Stanley House, grounds.
Wimberley Street.
Earl Street.

Oaks Quarry
Wilpshire Grange, grounds.
Preston New Road
Duke’s Brow.
Revidge Road.
Hope Terrace, Harcourt Place.
Mollington Road.
Colenso Road.
Lilford Road.
Shear Bank Road, Woodlands grounds.
Granville Road
Lynwood Road.
Mile End Row.
Billinge Hill Quarry.
Arley Brook

Wensley Fold
French Road.
Livingstone Road.
Downham Street.
St. Mark’s Road.

Pringle Street.
Lincoln Street.
North Road.
Queen’s Road.
St. Clement Street
Newton Street.
St. Thomas Street.
June Street.
Nottingham Street.

The General account between Jan 1844 and Dec 1844 for Scavengers 
Wages £396 8s 10d. New Tools carts repaired £21 10s 5d

*A pirn is a rod onto which weft thread is wound for use in weaving.

Article by Stanley Miller
Transcribed by Shazia 
Puublished August 2023.​​