Eccles Shorrock

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Eccles Shorrock (originally known as Eccles Shorrock Ashton) was born in Clitheroe in 1827. In the Shorrock family, Eccles was the second out of three generations. He was the nephew of the first Eccles Shorrock who owned a cotton mill in Darwen. When Eccles Ashton was adopted by his uncle, he removed his last name Ashton and later had a son whom he named Eccles Shorrock. Eccles Shorrock (the Second) was responsible for establishing the India Mill Chimney, which is considered today to be a landmark in Darwen.


Early life[edit]

Shorrock was born in Clitheroe in 1827. Shorrock's uncle was the first Eccles Shorrock that was behind the India Mill company, for the Shorrock's uncle had purchased the Bowling Green Mill from the Carrs in 1830. Shorrock was eleven years old when his favorable uncle had thrown his Queen Victoria's Coronation Celebrations, which was locally reported that his uncle had thrown dinner celebration that lasted from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. where he had accommodated 1,400 work employees and tenants; 3,300 pounds of roast beef and plum pudding were eaten and 220 gallons of nut brown ale were consumed. The entire dinner celebration was filled with jubilation.

Shorrock was born to Thomas Ashton and Mary Ashton; however, Mary Ashton's brother was the first Eccles Shorrock and she named her first son after him, hence the Shorrock's full name Eccles Shorrock Ashton. In 1929, the Ashton's matriarch—Shorrock's mother—had died just two weeks after giving birth to Thomas and Mary Ashton's second child, Ralph Ashton. The death of Mary Ashton of course left Thomas Ashton a widower with two young sons; one was a toddler (Shorrock) and the other was just an infant (Ralph). It was not long after Mary Ashton's death that Thomas Ashton was remarried; and with that new marriage came Shorrock and Ralph's half-brother...William.

It was Shorrock's father Thomas Ashton who decided to give up his children—Shorrock and Ralph—from his previous marriage with Mary Ashton due to his new marriage and son William. Mary's brother Eccles Shorrock and his wife—due to his sister's sones Shorrock and Ralph's unfortunate circumstance and abandonment—decided to take in Mary's sons Shorrock and Ralph to live with and raise; given to their great means and resources that they had at their possession. Eccles Shorrock had made the decision to formally adopt Shorrock and Ralph; and it was because of Shorrock's uncle's great charity and officially taking him and his brother Ralph in as sons that he had decided to unofficially change his name to Eccles Shorrock II; dropping the surname Ashton. Undoubtedly Shorrock's uncle and aunt are directly responsible for the foundations of the both Shorrock and his brother Ralph's success both publicly and commercially.

It was of course Shorrock's uncle Eccles whom had undertook both his and Ralph's education expenses, Eccles sought to and made certain the boys had a good education and sent them to the Hoole's Academy in Blackburn for their formative years. After the Hoole's Academy Shorrock and Ralph were privately tutored to assure their readiness for a higher level of learning. Ensuing the appropriate years for Shorrock and Ralph to go to college; they attended a non-denominational university and were taught as independents at the University College London.

Early adult life[edit]

On April 23, 1851, Eccles Shorrock had married Sarah Dimmock. In 1853, Shorrock's uncle had died; despite having been in two marriages Shorrock's uncle did not have an heir from his own loins. This circumstance combined with Eccles Shorrock being as close as a son that his uncle could've ever hoped for made it easy for his uncle to bequeath Shorrock his property; Shorrock had also moved into his uncle's home...Low Hill House. The death of Shorrock's uncle also meant that he would also take over the India Mill that was left behind.

Eccles Shorrock was only twenty-six years old when he received his uncle's inheritance and his company. Shorrock immediately took in his brother Ralph and his half-brother William in as partners of the India Mill Company. From this point on Shorrock's Civic duties, public speaking, business interests and family life would be an undoubtedly important element to the industrial expansion and progression in East Lancashire. One year after taking over the India Mill Company Shorrock had expanded the firms operations to papermaking, a coal-pit, and a sawmill.

Shorrock had taken up the particular civic duty of being elected to the Local Board of Health. In 1854, the eldest of Shorrock and his wife Sarah's eight children was born...Constance. In the following year—1855—Shorrock had been made the Justice of the Peace in Darwen. With consideration to the grand success that the India Mill Company had been rewarding to Shorrock he had decided to build another mill. Shorrock called the new mill he had built "Hope Mill" and gave it to his cousin W.T. Ashton.

In 1858, Eccles Shorrock had become the Chairman of the Health Board in Darwen. In the following year (1859) Shorrock had been able to come to an agreement with his family members on matters of the business' compensation and positions with the "New Article For Ten Year Partnership". Before the end of the decade—the 1850s—Shorrock had been an active participant and donor/promoter to the educational exploits and all things concerning education in the town of Darwen. Also to note that within the decade of the 1850s, Eccles Shorrock had been the Chairmain of the Mechanics Institute a good number of times.

The 1860s[edit]

The 1860s was a questionable time for Eccles Shorrock and his India Mill Company; however, in reflection the time had proved to be a definitive decade for both of them. The decade would start with the American Civil War which would prove to have a rather significant effect not only on Shorrock and his India Mill Company but also on the entire cotton trade/milling industry. This effect is evident when considering that the whole of the Southern United States was dominated by cotton farming and production. During the United States' Civil War, the southern region of the country was rather underwhelming in its production of cotton; suffice it to say because of the Confederate States of America's focus on military production and certain trade embargoes lead to its limited exportation of cotton from the United States considerably. The lack of American cotton being imported in to England lead to a large influx of Indian cotton; which was understood to be of a significantly lesser quality and yet still more expensive because of transportation expenses. This Lack of American cotton had caused the Indian cotton to skyrocket. Many cotton companies were unable to handle the new prices which had recorded to reach as high as 300%. Plenty of the cotton mill companies in England had gone out of business; many layoffs had ensued as a result. Shorrock on the other hand had purchased plenty of American cotton to fill his reserves at the beginning of the United States' Civil War; so there was no need for him to shell out for a 300% uptick in pricing over cotton. Cotton reserves meant that Shorrock was able to weather the storm of the "Cotton Famine" whereas other cotton mill companies that hadn't been in a similar positioning—or had taken the proper precaution at the start of the American Civil War as Shorrock had—were left to "starve", so to speak.

Eccles Shorrock's uncle had opened the William Street School for the purpose of educating people—that had lost their job in the cotton mill industry—to learn new trades. Shorrock's uncle had believed that the William Street School would combat unemployment problems in the town of Darwen and larger yet for all of Lancashire county for the long term. In 1862, the numbers of those whom needed assistance in the William Street School and under the Darwen Relief Fund that Shorrock had headed went from six-hundred to start the year to three-thousand to end it. Eccles Shorrock had personally donated to the Darwen Relief fund one-thousand British Pounds.

In 1862, Eccles Shorrock and many others that were apart of the Darwen Relief Fund donated two-thousand Christmas dinner tickets to the unemployed and needy. In tandem with the Darwen Relief Fund the Lord of the local Manor—William Duckworth—donated the money for an addition two-thousand Christmas dinner tickets to match Shorrock and the relief fund. The economic casualties from the Queensland Cotton Growing Company were invited to the assembly room in 1863; the address to these people was headed with the title "Emigration or Starvation!".

Aside from all of the despair that the Cotton Famine from the American Civil War had inflicted on the English cotton mill industry, Eccles Shorrock and the India Mill Company was able to prosper very highly during and after this period despite everything else that was going on around them. In the mid-1860s the India Mill had built on an addition that would prove to be iconic for the town of Darwen; the mill's chimney. The India Mill Company's building and Chimney would be and is looked at as a symbol of prosperity and productiveness for the town of Darwen as it hails as the greatest monument the town has to offer.

India Mill

In 1867, the India Mill Company's new building and its chimney was completed. It is also worth stating that the Chimney was not completed without daring and bold actions by the common man. As was accounted in the "Blackburn Times" on October 1, 1864, Briggs Knowles had volunteered to climb the height of the chimney to untangle and free the rope that was used to bus the materials (in a box) at the top of the chimney in progress. Knowles had climbed the chimney without any safety measures other than his own sure-handedness and his wits. Knowles was successful in his attempt and Shorrock had awarded him 20 shillings. As evidence to the aforementioned the building became a symbol for prosperity in the town of Darwen because the town and the India Mill Company was seemingly at its height in the realm of commerce. An 1867 table of works in Darwen projected extremely positive numbers for the town and the India Mill Company; unemployment in Darwen had drastically improved from the years of 1861–1864. In Darwen's table of works in 1867 it also showed that the India Mill Company had 32 cotton weaving works that were employing approximately 7000 individuals; as a proper and positive consequence the India Mill company had been producing over 28,550,000 pounds of cloth per annum.

Eccles Shorrock and the India Mill Company's enjoyed great success and recognition for its new building and iconic chimney. There were many social gatherings and dinners that had been arranged in the new building to celebrate holidays and special occasions; including—initially after—the completion of the building itself. In May 1868, Shorrock had been able to commission the Art Treasures Exhibit to be held at the India Mill Company building in Darwen. Shorrock and his more philanthropic intentions had hoped that the funds that would be procured from hosting such an event would be substantial enough to build a new Belgrave Congressional School. During the period—1868—the Art Treasure Exhibit at the India Mill Company building was considered to be gigantic and epic. Not only did the people from all over the county of Lancashire come to the exhibit but from all over the North Western region of England came to see the exhibit in Darwen.[1]

Post 1860s[edit]

Eccles Shorrock came out of the 1860s a success in everything he lent himself towards; this considering the great adversities that had befell him during this decade. Despite all of these trials that he had to face he had pretty much made his legacy. The India Mill Company was on strong footing to start the 1870s. An 1871 census record of the Low Hill estate read that Eccles Shorrock was the landowner, cotton spinning and manufacturer that employs 630 males, 652 Women, 122 males under 13, 102 females under 13 for a total of 1,505 employees to the India Mill Company. By 1876, these census figures would have certainly increased at a significant amount.

In May 1874, there was full-time working and ever increasing sales which made it the perfect time for Eccles Shorrock to found his new cotton mill company "India Mills (Darwen) Cotton Spinning Company". Also during this year Eccles Shorrock had been elected to be the chairman of the "North East Liberal Association", this experience had greatly influenced Shorrock and piqued his interest in matters of politics. During Shorrock's time with the North East Liberal Association he had the opportunity to make acquaintance and connection with many prominent people in the "Liberal Party"; for instance he had made contact with Lord Cavendish whom would later succeed Gladstone as the leader of their party.

Eccles Shorrock and the India Mills Cotton Spinning Company would go through 1876 without any signals or indications of decline; however, the start of 1877 would tell a different story. In 1877, the recession had hit England and this time Shorrock and the India Mills would not dodge the Travesty that lay ahead. The recession his speculated to have been the result of a number of things: To start with, The Russo-Turkish War had ignited that year and had destabilized the economy in not only England but in all of Europe, next there was discontent over taxation within England that caused businesses and investors to be weary about taking risks, and lastly the Import/Export duties that the English manufacturers had to endure when concerning France was not doing any favors for the situation. In England imported goods from France had no tariffs attached to them (i.e. an importation tax focusing on particular goods or particular goods from certain countries) while France had excruciatingly high tariffs on English goods; this of course had negatively effected Shorrock and the India Mills Cotton Spinning Company along with other entire industries within England.

By July 1877, Eccles Shorrock's company the India Mills Cotton Spinning Company had been in an apparent decline and was facing major difficulties. On August 18, 1877, the "Darwen News" published an article that composed as much of a picture as the apparent company's distresses and its current distraught state. Along with the article's obvious recognition of the "Firm's" (India Mills Cotton Spinning Company) troubles. The Darwen News article had also forwarded some sympathies and hopes for the Company's recovery; noting that the company and its people "demonstrates a general conviction of high character and honorable conduct".[2] With that being stated the article believed that the company would weather the current economic uncertainties and "retain its important position as a large employer of labor in Darwen".[3]

In 1978, The apparent situation and economic distress that the India Mills Cotton Spinning Company was suffering had seemingly gotten worse. In fact, in comparison to the economic downturn the community of Darwen suffered during the cotton famine during the American Civil War seemed inconsequential. Employees in the industry were being laid off and wages were temporarily cut by 10%. All things considering, the wage cuts seemed to be the last straw for the laborers; the laborers had commenced to protest, however the protests turned violent and very quickly the protesters became rioters. The riots had broken out in the town of Darwen and Blackburn; the rioters had burned effigies that had the intended possession of Ashton. Eccles Shorrock had obviously been negatively effected by the rioter—his workers suffering due to his company's failures as he saw it—and his company's downturn. During this time was the first evidence of Shorrock's drop in his prowess as a business leader/mind and in his health. Shorrock was prescribed by his doctor to leave all the commotion behind and go abroad. Shorrock was only sent abroad for a short period of time just to avoid and get away from the rioters and their disruptions/destruction. However Eccles Shorrock's absence in Darwen didn't seize the riots from happening there and in Blackburn. The unrest would continue not only in Darwen and Blackburn but in all of the cotton districts of England starting in 1878 and ending in 1880.

Family fallout[edit]

There was evidence that there was discontent and conflict between Eccles Shorrock and his two brothers Ralph and William; the antagonism between the three brothers was reported by the Darwen News in August 1880. Ralph Shorrock and William Ashton were both interested in bringing in receivers to liquidate the company but Eccles Shorrock had been adamantly opposed to the move that was requested by his brothers. In August 1880 Ralph Shorrock and William Ashton had both sought an injunction from the high court of London to put an end to Eccles Shorrock's interference with their interests. However, Eccles Shorrock had disregarded the injunction from the high court of London and evaded the London authorities; Eccles had returned to Darwen in Lancashire county. In September 1880, Darwen News had reported that Eccles Shorrock had order the company to seize its operations and extinguish the fires in the mill; this would put the mill's production on an indefinite halt. Charles Costeker—the town clerk for Darwen—had informed Eccles Shorrock that he would have to appear in front of the high court of London to answer for the injunction, that if he did not change his "stance" that he would be held in contempt of court and be imprisoned. Eccles Shorrock had decided to ignore Charles Costeker's letter addressed to him and not head the warning that it contained; instead Shorrock had commenced with his machinations as he had first intended. Shorrock had also ordered the stopping of payments made to all the wages and accounts. To add, Shorrock had also told the bank not recognize Ralph Shorrock and William Ashton's signatures; Shorrock had also told the postman to not deliver any letters and messages to anyone but himself. These actions had dire consequences for Eccles Shorrock and his brothers; the family ultimately became split over these issues.

On August 23, 1880, Ralph Shorrock had stated in an affidavit that he had completely given up on any possibility of the partnership with his brother (Eccles Shorrock) to continue and that he had serious doubts about his sanity. A little later on August 28, 1880, William Ashton had stated in an affidavit that the New mill that had 840 looms and 40,000 spindles had been stopped. In addition, 50,000 more spindles had also been stopped at the Darwen Mill. Ashton concludes that the firm will undoubtedly take heavy losses due to Shorrock's actions.

Eccles Shorrock was hurried out of Darwen on Saturday morning in September 1880. Shorrock caught a 10:27 a.m. train in order to avoid his workers whom got off at 12:30 p.m. and the publicity from the press. The Darwen News reported on the 18 of September in 1880 of Eccles Shorrock's departure from the town: "...taken to the station with his legs dangling out of the cab, by an indirect route, so as to avoid publicity."[4] Shorrock was designated to be received at the Holloway Prison where he would reside for four months.

Eccles Shorrock's wrote a pamphlet about his experiences in the prison. Shorrock was released earlier than what he was sentenced based on the agreement that he would stay away from the town of Darwen for at least four months. After Shorrock's family had disowned him and Darwen had ousted him, he never returned to his former glory in matters of business and local respect. Shorrock's finances and fortunes would take an inevitable decline after being released from prison; and as expected...his health would accompany his fortunes in their demises.[5]

Death and legacy[edit]

Eccles Shorrock's grave, Darwen cemetery

Eccles Shorrock died on 28 September 1889 and was buried in Darwen Cemetery. The Darwen News reported on Shorrock's death and extolled on his virtues and accomplishments. Shorrock's legacy stands today as a man whom was infinitely important to the cotton industry in England and paramount to the strong development of his home town of Darwen.

Today Shorrock's India Mill building might be his biggest limb to his legacy; still standing, with its tall chimney, it is a constant reminder of Darwen's industrial prosperity and heritage. The India Mill building today is privately owned and leases out spaces for local enterprises to carry out their business.


  1. ^ Eccles Shorrock; cotton town; Mary Painter; 2003
  2. ^ Editorial; Darwen News; August 18, 1877
  3. ^ Editorial; Darwen News; August 18, 1877
  4. ^ Darwin News; 18 September 1880
  5. ^ Eccles Shorrock; cotton town; Mary Painter; 2003

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