Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

The Poet, the Newspaper Editor, and Working-class Local Literary Culture in Victorian Blackburn

Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (2019), 168, (1), 93–116.


This article offers the first detailed account of a local working-class ‘verse culture’, and examines the factors which created it, taking as a case study the town of Blackburn, Lancashire, in the second half of the nineteenth century. It uses content analysis, bibliography, memoir, newspaper archives, a poet’s cuttings book and a local historian’s manuscript book to argue that reading, writing and performing poetry was an important part of working-class Victorian culture, that culture was produced far from the metropolitan centre (whilst heavily influenced by a poetic canon), and that local newspapers played an important role in producing such local cultures. Blackburn had a typical working-class cultural infrastructure, of mutual improvement, clubs and associations, its pride in local and regional traditions and its thriving newspapers. From this, two exceptional individuals helped to create an extraordinary poetic culture, the town’s leading poet William Billington, and the editor of the Blackburn Times, William Abram.

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Author details

Hobbs, Andrew