Paganini (27th October, 1782 – 27th May, 1840), one of the world’s leading figures in modern violin playing, came to Blackburn in September 1833 to perform at the town’s Theatre as part of his European tour, which lasted six and a half years.
Paganini himself was a controversial character; his remarkable and almost unnatural ability at playing the violin caused many rumours which claimed that he had sold his soul to the Devil in return for his extraordinary talent – rumours which Paganini fuelled in his appearance and actions.
Whilst in Blackburn, Paganini stayed at the Joiner’s on the corner of Northgate and Higher Cockcroft.
‘It was rumoured that when the unfortunate musician retired to his bedroom for the night he found his couch already occupied by a noxious species of vermin only too common in this insalubrious locality. The result was that he spent the greater part of the night padding to and fro along Northgate in his carpet slippers, praying for the dawn.’ George C. Miller, Blackburn’s Old Inns
The concert itself wasn’t as popular as hoped and a review of the evening in the Alfred the following week (11th September, 1833) stated ‘the house was not so full as we had anticipated: owing doubtless to the prices being calculated more for the meridian of Manchester or Liverpool, than of Blackburn.’
The Joiner’s Arms subsequently changed its name to the Paganini Inn in honour of its famous visitor, and his portrait reputedly painted during his stay was hung on an outside wall. The inn continued in business, changing hands a number of times from at least 1870 onwards (proprietors including Thomas Abbott, James Ramsbottom, H. Wilkinson, Charles Mitchell) until the Paganini.
Menswear shop Infinities at 29 Northgate now stands on the site of the Paganini Inn. A blue plaque commemorates the famous violinist’s visit.
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