The impact of the the Cotton Famine or Cotton Panic between 1861-1865 in Lancashire Mill towns was harsh.  It was the result of a ‘perfect storm’ caused by over production in the mills at a time of contracting world markets, at the same time baled cotton imports were in short supply due to the American Civil War and speculators buying up stock for storage against better economic times.  This led to a rise of several hundred per cent in the price of raw cotton.

Factory owners were forced to make people redundant and this led to a workforce that had been one of the most prosperous in Britain becoming the most impoverished. Local relief committees set up soup kitchens and granted direct aid. The poorest applied for relief under the Poor Laws and Poor Law Unions this much needed relief lasted until around 1864 when cotton imports were restored. By this time some towns had diversified and thousands of workers were said to have emigrated. It seems that due to the Public Works Act of 1864 local authorities were empowered to borrow money for cleaning rivers, rebuilding sewage systems, landscaping parks and resurfacing roads and probably water treatment works and reservoirs. Some unemployed workers must have found employment in these public ventures.

Soup Kitchen ticket. Courtesy of Blackburn Library, ‘Cotton Town’ local history web site

Prior to this for many decades cotton was Britain’s biggest import and a dominant force in the economy of the Lancashire cotton industry which had experienced the advent of the Industrial Revolution which brought a  major change in work patterns of Lancashire folk.  From small cottage industries they shifted to factory based production lines which harnessed their labour and time and governed their living and social conditions. This was when the  term ‘working class’ came into force.

Attribution: Journal of Victorian Culture’ web site. Courtesy of Stephen Irwin.
The USS San Jacinto stopping the British ship The Trent

Steve Irwin is the Education Officer at Blackburn Museum and is well placed to talk about and engage our interest in this fascinating subject, we are pleased that he is able to come and deliver this talk that was postponed last year.

Re Covid: Feel free to wear a mask, we try to ensure a supply of fresh air.   If in doubt please contact

Admission:  Members  £3 50p   Non members  £4 50p

Colne Rd. Car park: 50p for first two hours, then 50p per hour, pay on exit

Banner Image: Artists impression of the inside of  a mill workers home.




1893 map of Ighten Manor.

If you interested in things mediaeval then come along as we view the site of the lost Manor House at Ighten Hill, Burnley.

Ighten Manor has a place in local history and royal connections. Built in around 1180 by the Normans it was a local unit of government where the steward would have presided over the law courts and the constable would have collected fines. Originally owned by the powerful de Lacy family who fought alongside William the Conqueror and then reclaimed by them in the 12th Century. They maintained their royal connections, Henry de Lacy became Protector of the Realm when Edward 1 was busy fighting the Welsh and Scots.

View of where Ighten Manor stood. Attribution:Trapped in Burnley

Another royal link was established when   Edward 11 stayed there whilst dealing with the aftermath of the rebellion of his cousin the Duke of Lancaster.

There are commanding views over the surrounding countryside and what would have been the Forest of Pendle, we will look across to Filly Close probably so named as the Manor House was also thought to be the site of the Stud Farm. We hope to pursue these things further.

When we look across to Filly Close we will observe the second part of the walk across the Calder, which will be led by another member. Filly Close was said by Whitaker to be ‘the flower of the Forest of Pendle’. The stud is also thought to have had royal connections.

Please email to  to indicate if you would like to attend and we will send you further information about a reappraisal of the history and archaeology of the Manor House.

We aim to limit numbers to groups of six and observe social distancing, so it is a first come, first served basis.

Hand sanitiser is required, gloves or a plastic bag are also useful at stiles and gates.

Images of the Manor House site and Manor House Farm. Attribution: Trappedinburnly.