The Burning of Clayton Grange

These rather non-descript bungalows in Wilpshire near Blackburn are built on the site of Clayton Grange, the sumptuous mansion of Colonel Robert Jackson. He was Chairman of the Lancashire Cotton Masters Association which decided, in 1878, to impose a 10% wage reduction on all Lancashire cotton weavers. Demand for English cotton fabric had fallen; the workers acknowledged this and offered a 5% cut, or a four-day working-week in return for the 10% cut. The Cotton Masters refused, demanding the same hours’ work for only 90% of the pay. A refusal to compromise caused a strike which eventually grew violent as stomachs were pinched and pockets emptied. A Darwen mob rioted, attacking pubs and the police station. They then joined with their Blackburn fellows and marched to Colonel Jackson’s Phoenix and Harley Street Mills which received cobbles through the windows. They then marched on to his home, looting and burning it down. Jackson had managed to rescue his family, heading off to Blackburn railway station, passing through more gangs of angry weavers. The Mayor of Blackburn had summoned the yeomanry from Preston, but they arrived too late to save the house.


Was this a case of an ignorant working class not understanding the intricacies of economics, demanding boom-time wages during a recession? Or was this the greedy capitalist class exploiting its workforce to guarantee its own luxurious living? Whichever, Clayton Grange was described by the Victorian Pictorial Handbook of Lancashire as a ‘fine mansion, one of the most elegant and best-appointed country seats in the neighbourhood and which stood in extensive ornamental grounds’. It doesn't appear to have been the largest of houses, but it is lost forever, replaced by anodyne modern housing (top and bottom pictures). Whether for the stubborn caprice of the manufacturers, or the wanton vandalism of the mob, we lost what might now be a national treasure.

Sin burns, ravages, scars and destroys. The beautiful become ugly, the colourful it turns black, order decscends to chaos. In Isaiah 61, surveying the sin-scorched nation, the prophet beholds the healing reign of Messiah, whose mission will be

To comfort all who mourn,

To console those who mourn in Zion,

To give them beauty for ashes,

The oil of joy for mourning,

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

That they may be called trees of righteousness,

The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

And they shall rebuild the old ruins,

They shall raise up the former desolations,

And they shall repair the ruined cities,

The desolations of many generations.

Clayton Grange won’t be re-built, and the owners of the drab bungalows must find them comfortable enough. But to lives ruined by sin and destruction, Christ offers restoration, hope, joy and beauty. He rebuilds broken lives, broken families, broken communities. Where death and pain reign, He breathes life into dry bones.