The Eccles Shorrock legacy to Darwen is marked at last

Darwen marked World Mental Health Day in style by unveiling a headstone on the unmarked grave of its greatest benefactor, Eccles Shorrock.

Eccles Shorrock began the construction in 1862 of India Mills and its magnificent 300-foot Italianate chimney that still dominates his home town. It was opened in 1868 by the Marquis of Hartington and described by Evan Leigh in The Science of Modern Cotton Spinning as “one of the noblest specimens of mill architecture which this country affords”.

The cost of the mills, the American Civil War and the subsequent cotton famine and his benevolent generosity to his town and his workers bankrupted Eccles Shorrock by 1882.

He lived under lock and key for years in various asylums, a victim of what is now known as bipolar disorder after he went bankrupt in 1882. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Darwen Cemetery after a private ceremony.

Hundreds of his former workers lined the roads to the cemetery but the stigma surrounding his illness caused local newspapers to avoid any mention of his illness. The Blackburn Standard said: “To the poor, he was exceedingly kind and charitable.”

A large group of Friends, supporters, local folk interested in the town’s heritage and several descendants of Eccles Shorrock braved heavy rain. Among those who attended were Darwen librarian Mary Painter and former cemetery manager Mik Ince who was given a warm welcome.

The Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen, Councillor Karimeh Foster, unveiled the black granite memorial at the vault from where the Grade II* chimney could be seen rising into the heavy afternoon mist, a mile to the north.

The Rev Geoff Tolley dedicated the headstone which had been paid for by India Mills and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and with a kind defraying of a portion of the cost by stonemasons Brent Stevenson. Harold Heys spoke of the Shorrock legacy to the town and Tony Foster explained the history of the Shorrock-Ashton vault.

Said Friends chairman John East: “The weather was terrible but we had a good turn-out. Everyone was very pleased with how well it all went and it was a fitting way for us to mark World Mental

Health Day.”

FODC October 2011
Photographs by Heather Stanley and John East

A thank you from his granddaughter

Julian Marshall, a great-granddaughter of Eccles Shorrock, has emailed to compliment the Friends on the new headstone. She though our choice of date, on the eve of World Mental Health Day, was very suitable. It was “a clever idea to make the link in public awareness.”

Mrs Marshall, who lives near Chichester, wrote the definitive history of Eccles Shorrock nearly 20 years ago. There are copies in Darwen Library.

She thought Brent Stevenson’s headstone looked splendid and the white lettering in the dark stone “very distinguished.” She added: “I think you have all achieved something very special – thank you.”

Harold Heys was of some assistance when she was writing her book and has kept in touch. He sent her photographs and newspaper cuttings and has promised to send her more information.

FODC October 2011