Posts Tagged 'Blackburn'

They call me the Captain…

How do you compare to your peers? What do you use to compare yourself to your peers?

Salary? Speed in a 100m race? Speed in a 10k race? Your education? Your shoe size?

The question I am asking is, are you better than them? Do you need to be better than them? As with most things the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Compared to a friend I may find that one of us is a better sprinter, gamer and dancer, whilst the other earns more, is a better cricketer and a faster long distance runner.

Sometimes in life, however, you meet people who just seem to be better… At everything. They are better looking, went to a top university, are incredible athletes, are wealthy and are probably better dancers than you. No matter what they put their hand to, they seem to be successful. And it is one of these people that we are featuring in the blog today.

Anyone with a keen interest in Blackburn’s history will realise that a few moneyed families dominated public and political life. It is not unusual to find the same surnames popping up and one of the most iconic is Hornby. William Henry Hornby, of whom there is a statue in Blackburn town centre, was a hugely wealthy industrialist who was amongst other things: the mayor of Blackburn, chairman of the Conservative Party and an MP for Blackburn for 8 years. I’m sure you agree that he was a truly impressive gentleman, so then what makes his son, Albert; stand out even more than him.


If only Monkey Hornby was around today. He could have defeated the Aussies with the Lions, and then come home to finish the job in the Ashes

Albert, more commonly known as Monkey, was a good sportsman. In fact, he was an excellent sportsman. He was the only Lancashire player to score a century for the club between 1870 and 1881. He was so good that he captained England at Cricket. He also captained England at Rugby. Even more remarkable was that he achieved both accomplishments in the same year, 1882.

1882. Ring a bell? Yep, the Ashes. Whilst they weren’t known as ‘The Ashes’ back then, it was under Monkey Hornby’s captaincy England lost the infamous game that led to the newspaper article, that led to the urn, that led to…well, you know the rest.

In a way it’s a shame that for all his sporting achievements, outside of Blackburn it is this incident that he is best remembered. Does this tarnish his reputation as a sportsman? I don’t believe it does, he has given the world one of the greatest sporting rivalries of all time. Anyway, what would you imagine the English Cricket and Rugby captain would get up to in his spare time? Gardening? Nope, he managed to play a few games for Blackburn Rovers.


Box-ing Clever

Krista is a student on placement here at the museum. She is gaining experience of how to manage a museum collection and also learning a few things she wouldn’t find on her course. In this instance, the power of curiosity…

I am hopeless with a Rubik’s™ cube. I have a friend who can solve one in under a minute and then move onto bigger ones with even more squares! I am satisfied if I can get one face to be all the same colour. That is, what I call, Krista solved.

Today I found a different kind of puzzle. It drove me crazy trying to open it so that I could find out what secrets lay undiscovered inside. I thought that there may be some sort of treasure from a distant land, or a secret note, maybe even a map to a lost island. I would have even settled for a HSBC advert


It opens…But it doesn’t.

Every time I think I’ve worked it out I hit another wall. After 20 minutes of twisting and pushing and pulling to try and get this thing open, I make a break through. A quick tip upside down, a click and the top slides open to reveal the secrets inside.


I even tried saying ‘Open Sesame’!

Empty. What a let-down. Perhaps I can leave a note for the next fortunate person who finds this and works out its secret. They’ll probably crack it faster than I did, that’s for sure.

Come on baby light my fire…

…try to set the night on fire.

sang Jim Morrison. Did he mean it literally? Probably not. I assume he meant that a friend should join him and have a good time, not that he needed a hand with the camp-fire!

If Jim Morrison was ever in this neck of the woods I would have no hesitation in sending him to the Albion Hotel in Darwen. The subject of this blog, the pub’s matchbox holder, would have been perfect should he have wanted to set the night on fire.


One of the most stylish matchbox holders I’ve ever seen. In fact, one of the only matchbox holders I’ve ever seen.

But it’s more than the matchbox that would have attracted Jim. It’s the poem on the side.

‘At the Albion Hotel I’m thinking,

I have several good reasons for drinking,

And one has just entered my head;

If a man should not drink while he’s living,

How the h*** can he drink when he’s dead?’


If only Descartes had thought of something this philosophical

Sentiments i’m sure Jim Morrison would have agreed with!

You might find this object displayed on the DarwenDays website. We are working together and they have photographed some of our collection and this is one of the things they are showcasing. Have a look at their site and you will find some of our other Darwen objects! 

Hat’s all folks

Krista is an MA student currently on a placement here at the museum. Whilst workign withthe collections she found some objects which not only confused her, but reminded her of her past. Here she tells you why…

My parents love to wear Stetsons, blue jeans and cowboy boots. Once when I was being picked up to go to a youth group, the friend who gave me a lift commented on the fact that he had just driven past two cowboys standing on the corner of my street with guitar cases. To my embarrassment, I had to admit that they were related to me and they were waiting for a lift to a folk club (Oh the shame).


If only Achilles had worn a hat into battle then no-one would have noticed his heel!

When I first came across these diminutive hats a number of ideas flitted through my mind. Perhaps they were made to be hats for the dolls of rich children, or hats for babies. How you would keep the hats on a baby’s head, I don’t know (elastic bands?). Perhaps they were made for costume in a travelling show? Or maybe a family of borrowers have moved into the museum archives and I have unwittingly stumbled across their wardrobe? If it is the latter and the (tech savvy) borrowers are reading this, don’t panic, I’ll return them shortly.


I think Daniel Thwaites looks wonderful,it complements his moustache. He doesn’t seem so pleased about it though!

Milliners are professional hat maker, for example, the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland is a milliner. This profession holds the responsibility for the creation of Stetsons (named after John B. Stetson) and other such hats (did I mention that my mother also owns a number of bonnets?). When milliners travelled around to sell hats they couldn’t carry around all of the hats that they are capable of making. Even a small selection would be too bulky and difficult to manage. In order to show their customers what sort of hats they may want the milliners made model hats. This way they could whip out an example of their craft in a ‘here’s one I made earlier’ kind of moment then take orders for the actual size version. Let’s just not invite them to my parents’ house or who knows my family’s next hat craze might be.

Just another day…

I recently wrote an article on an old textile link between Blackburn and India. The article got me thinking about other Blackburn made products around the world so this time I went 6000 miles in the other direction, and ended up in Sao Paulo, Brazil. With roughly 100 times the population, and very different industries they are not places you automatically partner together. It is however, one of these other industries that bring the link to Blackburn.

Those of you with a keen interest in geography (or global commodity trading) will be aware of the industry which surrounds Sao Paulo, Coffee. Some estimates state that 4 of every 5 cups of coffee drunk worldwide will have been cultivated in this area. As the phrase goes ‘necessity is the mother of all invention’ and the need to get the coffee from the fields to the port was a huge one. Getting the coffee from the plateaus down to the coast had always been difficult and despite many ideas being considered for almost a century, eventually a cable railway was agreed upon and built in the 1930’s. This railway is a fascinating story in itself and at one point rises 2,625 feet over a distance of just seven miles.


If these are the screws, imagine the screwdriver!

The link from Blackburn to the coffee fields of Brazil is based in the construction of this railway and the firm of Foster, Yates and Thom. Started by William Yates in 1824 in Blackburn the company was well known for its boilers and engines, eventually joining with the Foster Company of Preston.

The reason I am aware of this link is due to a visit by a young gentleman from Sao Paulo. A keen railway enthusiast, he was visiting the UK with his wife and one of the places they stopped was York. He contacted the museum with a speculative phone call and on finding we had some photographs of the production of this railway he dragged his poor wife over to Blackburn for a day of scanning and photography. The day got worse for her when she trapped her finger in the car door and she did nothing but look miserably out of the window at the wet weather all day.


FYT created some huge objects, these are tiddlers compared to some of the things they made!

Her husband, however, was very grateful for the opportunity to make a record of what we had and was sure his fellow enthusiasts would be just as pleased. Before he left he told me that many of the things made by FYT were still there, and he had photographs of some of the items.

Blackburn is now a footnote in the history of these objects. Since they were built in the 1930’s they have carried hundreds of thousands of people, and supplied the world with coffee. For the FYT workers at the time it may just have been another job…but take a moment to think about it, and you realise what a job they did!

Marketing Blackburn: A beginners guide

Working in the museum I have the privilege of attending many meetings and discussions on how to market the museum and the town. There will invariably be somebody there who comes up with marketing nonsense which would baffle anyone who lived in the town. I have seen Blackburn described as many things in these leaflets, brochures and websites. A gateway, a cultural centre and a melting pot. Are these true? Is this what you see?

The thing is, this has been happening for many years. Within the collection we have a postcard telling people to ‘Be wise about their town’

Marketing postcard

Listen to the Owl, He knows what he is on about

Here are some of the best quotes from the postcard:

‘Electric cars run out to brownhill…passing under the Skew Bridge, noted for it’s hairpin bend’ A hairpin bend? People would come for miles aroufn to see a hairpin bend!

‘one can see natives in national costume or sportswear.’ Exactly what is the national costume? Flat cap and clogs?

‘For entertainment Blackburn is well catered, Palatial cinemas and theatres…while the town council holds their meetings monthly.’ There aren’t too many places in the world that would have a town council meeting on their marketing.

‘The tanned faces of the people of theis ancient town gives unquestionable proof of the many hours of sunshine they enjoy.’ I can imagine there are many who would disagree!

‘Sunday in Blackburn has a rather Continental flair…and the citizens are even allowed to go out into the country’. They must have campaigned hard to be allowed to leave the town limits!

There are many wondeful things about Blackburn. I’m just not sure that hairpin bends, locals in national dress and town council meetings are the highlights!

Rise and Fall. Boom and Bust

That is the way of the world. It always has been. Even the Romans had issues with their economy and went through periods of boom and bust. Although when they went bust in the 4th Century AD, it plungedWestern Europe into the Dark Ages!

But those were different times! The speed of development and the state of our society means this current economic downturn isn’t going to throw us back to the dark ages. But what can we do to get out of this funk and come charging out the other side? As usual my answer would be to look back into history and see what happened. I’m a big believer in idea that no matter what the situation, someone will have experienced the same thing before. Do your research, find out what happened and build from there. One of the more recent (in historical terms) downturns came in the early 1920’s. InEuropemany countries had been hugely affected by the war and were still recovering from the financial and manpower implication of 4 years of drawn out warfare.

One of the solutions in both this country andAmericawas to create large building programs. To make these men employable, or to just keep them employed until the economy improved many public buildings were erected. Bridges, libraries and roads were all built under these programs. The good thing about these programs is that with money in their pockets, these workers were spending at local shops and markets helping kick start the economy. Did it work? Well they weren’t known as the ‘Roaring Twenties’ for no reason.

Workers Plaque

It may not be much, but it means a lot

This sign is a little reminder in the museum of this period and is from the bridge which spans the canal at Whitebirk in Blackburn. It’s apt to use the sign in the blog now as there are big debates around jobs and whether many young people want to work, or how desperately the need jobs. Would there be many who would willingly help build bridges and roads just to get some money and experience? Or are we now a society who wants good, well paid jobs behind a computer straight away without putting the graft in first?

Blackburn Museum can be found in Blackburn, Lancashire. It houses objects documenting Blackburn's industrial past as well as a world class collection of Fine Art, Japanese prints, Icons, Numismatics and Manuscripts. Come and visit us to find out more.

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