Historically, the area of Northgate and Blakey Moor was a traditional meeting place and once occupied a large open space. The area was also home to many weavers and local spinners. Acts of public disorder were witnessed throughout the late 1700s and early 1800s in Blackburn and the surrounding areas. Early rioting was motivated by trade grievances as handloom weavers joined forces to destroy new machinery which would threaten their livelihoods. Stirrings of community action were also seen during the Napoleonic wars a result of food shortage and high price of corn. In 1800 when the price of wheat rose attacks were made on farmers to seize their produce. The Riot Act was read and the cavalry of Blackburn’s Local Association of Volunteers were called-in to restore order, its officers included members of the Sudell, Birley, Feilden, Cardwell and Hornby families. The Riot Act was read again in 1826 for outbreaks of violence triggered by the introduction of power looms.
It was not until 1878 that intense, violent industrial trouble once again caused civil unrest following a 10 percent pay cut for workers. Trade unions offered a 5 percent cut but the employers would not budge. A large crowd gathered in Blackburn to await news but lost patience as it was learnt that talks between the unions had broken down. There was a large and noisy meeting held on Blakey Moor and an angry mob formed to target the homes of mill-owners.
The mug pictured above commemorates these riots. One side depicts the burning of Colonel Robert Raynsford Jackson’s home (who employed 1,500 mill workers). The other side shows the second day of unrest when the mob rampaged along Preston New Road and other areas of the town breaking windows of the houses of the middle classes.
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For more information about Blackburn’s history and heritage visit http://www.cottontown.org