Eccles Shorrock

The Friends of Darwen Cemetery are planning to finally mark the grave of Eccles Shorrock of Low Hill, the man who gave the town India Mill and its famous chimney.

Shorrock was a manic depressive – suffering from what we now call
bi-polar disorder – and he died in the Edinburgh Royal Asylum in 1889. He was buried at Darwen Cemetery without anything to mark the family vault. Four of his eight children suffered severe mental health problems.

Thankfully, we live in slightly more enlightened times. The Friends are hoping to erect a headstone to mark his passing and to show the town’s gratitude for his wonderful mill and chimney and his support of the town as a whole.

Building India Mill in the 1860s broke him financially and mentally. The family were left to struggle on in what were then called “straightened circumstances”.

Treatment of mental illnesses was often unscientific in those days. Dr Clouseau, head of the Edinburgh asylum, was convinced that plumpness was an aid to recovery. Some patients had to drink egg cocktails almost non-stop, often consuming a dozen eggs and six pints of milk a day.

Clouseau believed in keeping his patients subdued and used drugs, electricity, stomach-pumps, and baths lasting hours. IT must have been a never-ending nightmare for them.

Shorrock had been well thought of in Darwen in contrast to many mill owners in East Lancashire. The Darwen News, reporting what it called “this mournful intelligence” of his death, said it had been “received everywhere with sorrow and regret.” However, his death, said the paper, “could be regarded as a happy release”.

Eccles Shorrock, cotton magnate and benefactor, a man who had spent the last two years of his life in Room No 4 at the Edinburgh asylum, was buried just a few days later in Darwen Cemetery.

From the family vault, a grassy area close to the site of the Nonconformist “mound”, you can clearly see India Mill chimney to the North. But the isolation – and the lack of a marker – is really quite sad.

A headstone is expected to cost about £750; and the owners of India Mill have readily agreed to contribute a third or more. We are now looking for further funding.

Next October 10 is World Mental Health Day and at the moment this is seen as an ideal opportunity to unveil the commemorative headstone.

This a photo of the vault area taken some 15 years ago. The iron markers have long gone. The cross you see is in memory of a relative, Lt Rudolph Ashton, whom I am researching. Please look out for further updates on this project.


The Shorrock vault pictured about 15 years ago.

FODC November 2010