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Friday, 9 February 2018

Crook & Thompson Ltd


Crook & Thompson Ltd - Coat Distribution Agents


Following on from the post about The Boatyard at Riley Green, Crook & Thompson Ltd was formed by one of Thomas Miller Crook sons - Eli b 1844.  He was the youngest of the nine children of Thomas (b 1798) and Rachael (née Wadsworth). Born at Brimmicroft farm in 1844, he married Anne Elizabeth Thompson at Holy Trinity Church 20th December 1866.

Ann was the daughter of Thomas Robert Thompson. He was formerly an innkeeper and farmer, of Hoghton Lane, Hoghton, the inn being the Railway Tavern, now known as the Sirloin, Station Road, Hoghton.

Eli was a boatbuilder at Riley Green in his father's business. Upon his marriage,  he left to set himself up as a coal distribution agent.  He incorporated his wife's name in the company naming it Crook & Thompson Ltd.
Courtesy of Colin Pritt Blackburnpast.com
Eli had six brothers and two sisters.  Both John, (see Stanley Grange Post), Alexander, and Ralph (see Horrobin Fold post), like their father, had all distributed coal.  Since the Leeds Liverpool Canal had been built right next to their farm in the hamlet of Brimmicroft (off Bolton Road) Riley Green they would have seen barges passing delivering coal from the Wigan coalfields since they were young children. The canal had opened officially in 1816.  His father Thomas had had the good idea of founding the Boatyard for repairing his own barges and manufacturing new ones.

The family made good use of the opportunities I would say, being blessed with the proximity of both the canal and coalfields.  They had a recipe for success and exploited it fully.  Hard grafting but with plenty of financial reward!
May surveyed 1844-1850 (published in 1847)

This section of the canal was completed between 1812-1814 and the Leeds - Liverpool canal  opened officially on 19th October 1816.  (Barges had reached Blackburn from the Rishton side by 1810). By the time the next map was published in 1891 the new Horrobin Farm had been built on the side of Bolton Road. 

Given that cotton mills lined the route through Blackburn, all requiring coal for their steam engines, the Crook's could sell all the coal they could carry - not forgetting coal required for domestic purposes too!  How very appropriate that the Crook barge symbol should have been the 'black diamond' (see second photo below)


Eli and his wife set up home at Witton after their marriage, 9 Broomfield Place. A daughter, Ann, was born here in 1871, but she died aged 3.  The following year, 1875, a son Thomas Roland Crook was born and two years' later a girl, Rachael in 1877. (The barge below was named after his son). A later post will mention the destiny of Thomas Roland' son Tony Crook, who became a famous racing driver and owner of Bristol Cars Ltd.


The offices of the company were located at Whalley Banks only half a mile from the house. 
The photo below shows an advert for "Crook & Thomas Coal Merchants" on a gable end at Whalley Bank or Bank Top as the area is more well known. The advert isn't very clear but it dates from the 1951 Blackburn Carnaval and  is courtesy of John Cox. My friend Colin Pritt, a local historian, owner of Blackburnpast.com very kindly sourced it for the blog.




Eli took over the canal-side Lower Audley coal yard when his brother, John, retired in 1888. Their other wharfs were located at Nova Scotia mill, Victoria wharf, Mill Hill and depot at Hoghton Station,



Crook & Thompson conveyed the coal by horse-drawn barges direct from the Burnley and Wigan coalfields to the canalside mills of Blackburn and Accrington.

Blackburn had the largest number of cotton mills. In 1867, approximately 45 mills had been built alongside the Leeds Liverpool Canal. Each week, at this time 6.250 tons of coal per week were needed to fire the mill boilers. Between 1867 and 1900 another 18 mills were built, bringing the total to 63.  The weekly coal consumption rose to 8,750 tons! Most of this tonnage was shared by two main companies, Messrs Hargreaves Ltd from the Burnley coalfields and Crook & Thompson Ltd from the Wigan coalfields.

Courtesy of Cotton Town project

The coal was unloaded by wheelbarrow into large wooden hoppers and distributed for domestic consumption.


To reduce the cost of buying from the mine owners, Eli eventually became a "Colliery Owner" although unfortunately I do not know which one it was!  If anyone can help me trace the name I would be very grateful. I am told it would be amongst the Wigan coalfields.

The amount of coal transported by barge to the yard at Lower Audley for domestic purposes eventually declined as the railways expanded. To take advantage of the coal transported by rail, Crook & Thompson Ltd established a large depot with the railway sidings at Whalley Banks, Blackburn.

Coal continued to be transported by canal barges, fitted with diesel engines, until the decline of the cotton industry in the 1950's.

The barge "The Roland" was the subject of a booklet mentioned in the post entitled  "The Boatyard".

Information courtesy of Herbert Miller-Crook

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