The town is a former centre of the cotton and textile machinery industries; however industry present is now more modern and diversified.
Accrington is commonly abbreviated by locals to "Accy".
The King's Highway which passes above the town was at one time used by the kings and queens of England when they used the area for hunting when it was one of the four forests of the hundred of Blackburnshire.
For many decades the textile industry was the central activity of the town. Mills and dye works provided work for the inhabitants; but often in very difficult conditions. There was regular conflict with employers, most famously in the 1842 'Plug riots' where a general strike spread from town to town. The workers unplugged the boilers needed for the operation of the machinery as thousands of strikers walked over the hills from one town to another to persuade people to join the strike. The strike joined up with the Chartist movement but eventually proved unsuccessful in its aims.
The town is famed for manufacturing the hardest building bricks in the world, "The Accrington NORI"; which is IRON spelt backwards.
One well-known association the town has is with the 'Accrington Pals', the nickname given to the smallest home town battalion of volunteers formed to fight in the first world war. The Pals battalions were a peculiarity of the 1914-18 war: Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, believed that it would help recruitment if friends and work-mates from the same town were able to join up and fight together. Strictly speaking, the 'Accrington Pals' battalion is properly known as the '11th East Lancashire Regiment': the nickname is a little misleading, since of the four 250-strong companies that made up the original battalion only one was actually composed of men from Accrington. The rest volunteered from other east Lancashire towns such as Burnley, Blackburn and Chorley.
The Pals' first day of action, Saturday 1 July, 1916, took place in Serre in the north of France. It was part of the 'Big Push' (later known as the Battle of the Somme) that was intended to force the German Army into a retreat from the Western Front, a line they had held since late 1914. The German defences in Serre were supposed to have been obliterated by sustained, heavy, British shelling during the preceding week; however, as the battalion advanced it met with fierce resistance. 235 men were killed and a further 350 wounded — more than half of the battalion — within half an hour. Similarly desperate losses were suffered elsewhere on the front, in a disastrous day for the British Army.
Later in the year, the East Lancashire Regiment was rebuilt with new volunteers — in all, 865 Accrington men were killed during World War I. All of these names are recorded on a war memorial, an imposing white stone cenotaph, which stands in Oak Hill Park in the south of the town. The cenotaph also lists the names of 173 local fatalities from World War II.
After the Great War and until 1986, Accrington Corporation buses were painted in the regimental colours of red and blue with gold lining. The mudguards were painted black as a sign of mourning.
The borough as a whole has a population of 81 496. This includes Accrington Urban Area and other outlying towns and villages such as; Altham, Aspden, Baxenden, part of Belthorn, Huncoat, Rishton and Stanhill.
The River Hyndburn and its tributaries flow through the area and the borough and constituency are named after it.
There was once a rail link south to Manchester via Haslingden and Bury, but this was closed in the 1960s as part of cuts following the Beeching Report. The trackbed from Accrington to Baxenden is now an attractive linear treelined cycleway/footpath.
Accrington was first represented nationally after the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 after the 1885 general election by Accrington (UK Parliament constituency). This seat was abolished in the 1983 general election and replaced with the present constituency of Hyndburn (UK Parliament constituency).
The Borough of Hyndburn currently has a Conservative majority under the leadership of Peter Britcliffe. Hyndburn consists of 16 wards of 35 councillors. Due to its size Accrington is represented by a number of wards in the Borough of Hyndburn. The town largely consists of the Milnshaw, Peel, Central, Barnfield and Spring Hill wards, although some parts of those wards are in other towns in the borough.
Accrington became incorporated as a municipal borough in 1878. Under the Local Government Act 1972, since 1974, the town has formed part of the larger Borough of Hyndburn including the former Urban Districts of Oswaldtwistle, Church, Clayton-le-Moors, Great Harwood and Rishton.
Rhyddings Business and Enterprise High School, in nearby Oswaldtwistle, also serves the area.
The chief publications in the area are the Accrington Observer, part of MEN media, and the Lancashire Telegraph.
An earlier club, Accrington F.C., were one of the twelve founder members of the Football League in 1888. However, their time in league football was even less successful and considerably briefer than that of Accrington Stanley: they dropped out of the league in 1893 and folded shortly afterwards due to financial problems. The town of Accrington thus has the unique 'distinction' of having lost two separate clubs from league football, over the years.
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