From the Blackburn Weekly Telegraph of February 14 1914

Bits of Old Darwen

Old Blacksnape

Blacksnape has under gone change during the past century. Houses that had curious and mystifying names have gone, and many of the customs of the people of the past are no more than a tradition. There are few living to-day who personally know the Blacksnape of other days, but one of them is William Fish, and he told me its story.
The Fish family, of Baron Fold are of ancient Blacksnape stock. John Fish and William Fish, the sons of Fish Fish, were born in the house where William Fish, the latter’s son now 83 years of age was also born and still lives. A part of the house regarded as the “new part, was added to the old part in 1776, and the date-plate of the porch records it erection 1792. What the story of the older part of the premises William Fish does not know and his father often said he would give 5s to know it. William is the patriarch of the district, and to his home the late Jeremy Hunt often came camping and talking about old families.
“Blacksnape has changed a lot since I was a lad,” Mr. Fish said, and he proceeded to mention a number of houses that have disappeared, and to name their sites. “Four houses stood out on the road, and had a hawthorn hedge round them, but they have gone. We don’t here the click of the handloom as has we did in the days when it was said it could be heard all the way from Blackburn to Bolton. There is no handloom weaving now in Blacksnape.


Front of Houses at Blacksnape Village,

Old Blacksnape as it Stood for over a century, one of the few small hamlets which constituted early Darwen. These are the fronts of the house and not the rear.
“My father was like the rest, a handloom weaver, and he also made hand looms.  That was at a time old James Shorrock, the father of Alderman Christopher Shorrock lived at Prince’s and gave out work to the handloom weavers all about. I remember James Shorrock well. He was a fine portly man, and one who was fond of a good joke and of good company.
“Jon Cook was a well-known Blacksnape man nearly a hundred years ago, and lived in a house at the Pantry, opposite where the ruined buildings are now. There he had a sort of shop, where he sold fish and greens, and also wove on the handloom. One of John’s daughters became the wife of George Pickup, father of the late Alderman William Pickup, who married a daughter of Jeremy Thompson of the Pantry. Councillor John Pickup, who has, like his father, been Mayor of Darwen is one of her grandsons. John was a little low-set man. He had a kind heart, and did many good actions.
“The gentleman of Blacksnape was old Jim Harwood, who lived at the Pantry. He was always well dressed, like a gentleman, in knee breeches, just as an old yeoman would be. He was an old handloom weaver at one time, and later he gave work out to the weavers.
“John Riley had a mixed career, for he was a bobbing winder, a weaver, a grocer, and a publican. When he kept the Punch Bowl he would sing:

`Once I was a bobbin winder
And now I am a Lord`

“Amongst the oldest of Blacksnape families were the Kershaw’s. Old John Kershaw was one of the first Methodist in the district, and was living at the time John Wesley visited Darwen and preached. He was one of the instigators of the old Methodist School in Back Lane, being built, and he is interred in its graveyard. His son became known as old William Kershaw, and lived opposite the Punch Bowl. In his way he was a bit of a character. His wife was a daughter of old David Knowles, and five sons were born to them—John, David, (who was better known as `Punch`), William, Nicholas and Thomas. John lived in Pole Lane, David was a collier and a handloom weaver, William was also a collier and worked for the Pickup’s for over 70 years, Thomas was a weaver. David was one who was present at the last bull-baiting there ever was at Grimehills, and at the time of the plug drawing riots [1842] he saw the Blacksnape folks running to see the rioters. When he got back he found his dinner had been stolen and that was a serious loss, seeing that for the family they had only half a pound of mutton for a whole week.
“The bull-baiting was cruel but a very popular sport and it used to take place in a ring in Heys Lane. Dogs were turned out to tackle the bulls, and the dog that could grab the bull’s nose and stick to it was the winner. No prizes were given, but a lot of betting took place round the ring, and this added to the excitement. Cock-fighting was a very general sport, and birds were kept and trained to fight. There was one old Character named Duerden, who came from Old Engine, and was a famous cock-fighter. On one occasion when is bird was blinded, he made the remark that he wished he could give his own eyes to the cock. The sport was commonly indulged in on Sundays and there was also jumping, racing and fighting.
“John Riley had a brother called William, and he was the last of the handloom weavers. He was a wary sort of chap, and lived in Sally Row. There was also a James Riley, who married a daughter of Ann o’ t’ Nook’s. One of his daughters married William Marsden, who was a rate-collector for many years.
T’ Nook is a part of Blacksnape which has disappeared.
“John Fish o’ Baron’s, My Father, was the Blacksnape’s politician, and was known as Jack o’ Billy’s. he was one who got a newspaper, and therefore a man of importance. Richard Walkden and Edmund Shaw of the Pantry were his partners in defraying the cost of the newspaper, which was 7d a copy. The carriers had to bring the newspaper once a week when they brought wares, but sometimes they forgot and someone had to be sent on foot all the way to Blackburn with 7d to get a copy. When it came to Blacksnape word went round. The folks would gather together, a farthing candle would be lit and by its light the news of the week was read out.
“William Chew was a character, and did a bit of prescribing for colds and common ailments. One of his sons came to live in Darwen and was a clogger. Chew was at one time a coal proprietor in a small way. On one occasion there was a dispute with Holden, of Back o’ th’ height, about an alleged encroachment. The colliers were told when they went to their work one morning that if they were interfered with they must use their picks to defend themselves. This order was given by Holden’s, but was not followed by the men. A Lawsuit ensued, and the case was tried at Bolton.
Thomas and Ruchet o’ Catherine’s, were hand-loom weavers, and lived in a hose belonging Chew. They lived to a long age, and were never married. They have been dead a number of years.


Drummer Stroops Cottage

Drummer Stoops Cottage, Blacksnape. In Roman times, a tired centurion drummer is said to have stopped and “stooped” at this spot.
“John Waddicor, of Drummer Stoops had three sons—Richard, Andrew and Robert. The Waddicor’s were weavers, and John had two brothers named Richard and William. Drummer Stoops is further along the road in the direction of Edgeworth. That is the name of one side, and the other is called The Temple. They attended Lower Chapel. After hand=-loom weaving decayed they took other occupations. The people about there, and at Far Hillock and near Hillock were all hand-loom weavers.
“The Yates of Far Hillock, were very old hand-loom weavers. They have left Blacksnape, and I believe that the family is now principally scattered about Edgeworth and the Bolton districts. One member became a publican at Hoddlesden. There were two daughters, one named Ruth, who married William Aspden of Drummer Stoops. It was Jimmy o’ th’ Hillock who put in a claim to the ownership of Hoddelsden Moss, but the verdict was against him, and in favour of the Rankens.
A man who lived at Drummer Stoops was Bill o’ Roberts. His proper name was also William Aspden, and he was a farmer in a small way. Bill was the fighting man of the district, and in this respect was a very noted character. When Turton Fair was coming near he and Joan o’ Williams would go into training. On the Fair Day away they would go to Turton, and search for someone willing to fight them. If at four o’clock in the afternoon, they had not come across a willing opponent, the first man met was struck a blow and compelled to fight., for they could not be expected to waste their day at the Fair and go home without having fought a battle. On one occasion there was a fighting matchmade between Joan o’ William’s and a man from Haslingden Grane, and the battle had to take place at Blacksnape. The man was late in arriving, and when he turned up he told Joan that he would not strike him, because the last man he hit he killed. There upon he got hold of Joan, and doubling him up like a pancake put him down on the ground. That ended the battle. Bill was a strange man. He bought old horses and old cattle. One day he was riding pat our house on an ass and he called my father out, and said, `John, if you had taken care of your money when you were young you would have been able to ride on a pony now, like me. `
“At Blacksnape Fold old John Holden lived and two of his sons, John and William, married my mother’s sisters. John had a daughter Nancy, and she married Joshua Baron, who was a calico printer at Dob Meadows after James Greenway, in partnership with Sam Heron, Joshua Baron, and Robert Smith Edelstone. They printed cloth at Dob Meadows, and bleached it where the Darwen Market-ground is now. The Holden’s were a very old Darwen Family, and Joshua Baron came from Marsh House. John Holden got coal from his land, and it lay not far below the surface. Much of his coal was sold to Blackburn. On one occasion John’s coal-getters were not working. They usually took a holiday each week on the Monday after pay day, but on this occasion, they struck work, and went to Church Parish, with the intention of obtaining employment there. John had told them that `No one ever did any good who went away from home so they had better stop at Blacksnape, and be content with things as they were`.
“The Dixons farmed at Whittlestonhead. I went to school with John and Ellen at Edgeworth. John is now living at Wayo Farm. One of Dixon’s daughters married James Pickup, and another Robert Pickup, who farms at Sleeper Hills. He had a son called Albert, who married Martha Knowles. Albert is dead, but Martha is living at Greenfield Farm.
“The proper name of Bill o’ Ann’s was William Fish, and he used to do a bit of teaching. He taught music and played a bass fiddle. Bill was a great musician and fiddled at all the weddings and 1do’s1 there were round about. He also performed at Manchester and Chester. William came from Lower Darwen to Drummer stoops after he had given up work. He was an old Calvinist. For a time, he attended Lower Chapel, and then he left and started a new place of worship behind where Mr. Entwistle had his druggist shop in market Street. Besides being a good violinist, William was a leading singer, and had a splendid voice and a thorough knowledge of music. He was in great demand for twenty miles around. He was also something of a poet.
“John Entwistle, who was called John o’ Bob’s, lived at Grimehills, and was a handloom weaver. He had several children.
“Old John Nuttall was one of Blacksnape’s characters, and a really good man. For a time, he was a singer at St. Paul’s Church, Hoddlesden. He went round the countryside selling religious tracts, which he carried in a wallet. The wallet was a sack, and in the centre was a hole which he put his head. This was arranged so that the weight of what he carried was equally apportioned to each side of his body. One day he was accosted by a policeman, who somewhat roughly demanded to know what it was he was carrying. John was a teetotaller—that is he never drank any liquor. There is a story told that once he was aske to drink some rum, and he refused to do so, but that he told those who offered it to pour the liquor on his porridge and he would eat it.
“Tom Sanderson lived in a house which since his time has been demolished, in the Meadow. He had a family of either eleven or twelve, and he attended Pole Lane and Lower Chapel.
“William Cooper, of Pinnacle Nook, was killed. He worked for James Shorrock, and one day he was taking a quantity of the cloth woven by the handloom weavers up a narrow lane on the way to Manchester, and was caught by the cart and killed.
“Aaron Bury lived at Near Scotland, and was a farmer. Like almost everybody else he was a handloom weaver. They had to add handloom weaving to their other work in those days in order to live. One of Aaron’s sons was Staveley Bury, who was organist at Trinity Church for a number of years.
“Oliver and Thomas Duxbury were brothers and they farmed ay Scotland Farm. One of their sisters was called Martha, and she never married. Thomas was a great friend of William Fish.
“Then there was old Kester Hindle, who farmed at Langshaw Head Farm. He always had the appearance of an old yeoman. He wore knee breeches, had a green vest, a swallow-tailed coat, and a ruffled shirt; and his beaver hat was both well worn and well brushed.
“John o’ t’ Sunnyfields was a brother of Kester, and he was an ancestor of Mr. F.G. Hindle, of Astley Bank, who represented the Darwen Division in the last Parliament. He was a farmer and like the rest, handloom weaver. Mr. Fritz Hindle, an ex-Mayor of Darwen, is one of his descendants.
“Then there was Timothy Holden, of Layrock Hall, who was grandfather of the late Alderman Timothy Lightbown, a former Mayor of Darwen. Timothy was one who paid a Lot of Attention to the fences on the common. He was only a little man.
“In several of the houses about Blacksnape whisky was made, and there was more than one hush-shop, which was a place where liquor was sold without a licence.
“Dinnering day was always a great time in Blacksnape. Colours would be hung from the windows of the public-houses where the dinners were served, and everybody walked except two, the men in their best and the women in their white aprons and goffered caps. The two who did not walk were old George Cook and old Tom o’ Ann’s. George was the grand master and he dressed in sheep skin and rode on horseback. Tom—his name was Walsh—brought up the rear, riding on a donkey’s back. Those were great days—better than going to Blackpool, and better than Darwen Fair. Everybody turned out to walk, and everybody wore their best. Men in those old times generally got a new suit when they married—not every summer as they do now—and it was brought out for all great occasions—usually about once a year, until they were buried. Then the suit would be passed on to the next generation as a valuable heirloom. The dinner consisted of beef and potato-pie and ale—something solid and substantial. That was the day of the year on which every one set out to have a great time—and there was no fighting. They were all too happy.
“Old Eccles, who lived at the top of Pole Lane was a handloom weaver. He moved into Darwen, and his family became cotton manufactures. One of his sons was the late Mr. Joseph Eccles, father of Alderman A.T. Eccles, who has during three years been Mayor of Darwen. Another of old Eccles’s sons was Thomas Eccles, who was also a cotton Manufacturer, and made a lot of money running the blockade during the American War.
“John Fish lived at the Pantry, and had several daughters. He left Blacksnape, and went to Blackburn, where he became a cotton manufacturer. There was a blow-up, but it did not ruin him. He made money, and retired to Southport. One of his daughters met Phineas T. Barnum there, and married him. It was Barnum who offered Robert Entwistle £5 a week to stand at the door of his show, because he looked like an honest man! Barnum died and left his widow a lot of money. And whilst travelling in Egypt she met a French marquis whom she married.
“An old soldier named Adam Shaw lived at Blacksnape too. Adam fought in the Peninsular War, and was something of a character. He made a living by doing a bit of tailoring, a trade he had learned something about whilst in the army. One day he was joined by one of his old soldier chums, and they royally celebrated the reunion and fought their battles over again. It was the day of the anniversary of one of them, and as a commemoration they stormed the school at Blacksnape and smashed all the windows. Old Adam and his mate made their appearance before a magistrate, and he produced his medal and told their story, with the result that they were both acquitted.
“The coal seams being only very shallow a jackroll was used to bring the coal to the surface. The banksmen were men of importance, their job being a lucrative one. There were two ropes to the jack, one travelling down and the other coming up with the coal. One day a mine owner was standing by the banksman and said to him, pointing to the two ropes, `Which is mine?` `Well,` replied the banksman, `mines coming up.`
“On another occasion a shaft was being sunk, and there was water trouble. They had no tub to wind the water out with, so a nine-gallon barrel of beer was sent for to the public-house. The liquor was drunk, and after one end had been knocked out the barrel was used to bring the water out. After a time, the publican inquired about the payment for his beer, `Eh were nod paying,` he was told `but tha con send us another nine gallons and we’ll co id straight.`
“Eighty years ago or so [1834] a man called Kay kept the Punch Bowl. He was the father of old Thomas Kay, paper manufacturer of Lower Darwen. On one occasion one of his horses strayed upon another man’s land. A distraint had been issued against the other man, and when the bailiffs came they seized the horse and would have taken it away had not the inhabitants of Blacksnape turned out in a body. The bailiffs escaped with their lives, and that was about all they took away.
“David Kershaw, better known as `Punch,` was a singular character, and very fond of tricks and practical joking. He traded in mowten weft, and would fill the inside of the cops he sold with water to make them weigh heavier. He usually succeeded in that trick once. `Punch` was also one who made whisky.
“The Marsdens were another Blacksnape family, and Isaac so loved the historic fighting men of England that he gave four of his sons their names. They were named Nelson Collingwood, Blucher, and Wellington. Four members of this family were killed in a colliery disaster at Turncroft.
“The Knowles family had considerable property in the hamlet, and it was on their estate there was the Jeremy Well which is to be found on the left side of the main road through Blacksnape. It practically supplied the whole hamlet with water.
“Another interesting Blacksnape family was that of the Taylors, and some of their descendants are now living in Darwen, one of them being a livery Stable proprietor. Old John Taylor married Phoebe Holden, of Back o’ th’ Height.
“Nicknames were very common indeed, people were better known by them than by their real names. The story is true that a workman from Darwen one day went to a house in Blacksnape and asked to be directed to the house of a man whose name had been given to him. The daughter of the house did not know the name but going to the foot of the staircase she called to her mother, asking if she knew where the man lived. `Aye”, Came the reply, `id’s thy feyther`.
“The old school is one of the features of Blacksnape life, which is not amongst its least interesting. It was built in 1824 by public subscription, and the villagers who had no money to give rendered their share in its erection by assisting to build it at night and at weekends when they were not at a work in the pits or the loom-sheds.
“Mr. Fish and I are very much indebted to Mr. William Kershaw, of Bolton Road, Darwen for the valuable assistance he has rendered us inrecalling to memory incidents of old Blacksnape.

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