Barred doors caused only a temporary delay at James Bury's White Ash Mill in Oswaldtwistle itself. The rioters broke in and proceeded to do nearly £3,000-worth of damage, destroying 94 looms together with ancillary equipment.

Blackburn itself was the next target and incredibly the crowd, now grown to 2,000 strong, were left unscathed when they were passed on the way by the 1st King's Dragoon Guards, sent out from Blackburn to intercept them. It proved an expensive mistake. At Bannister Eccles's Jubilee Mill, no fewer than 212 power looms were smashed before the troops reappeared and broke up the crowd, taking three prisoners.

The mob retaliated by moving to another mill nearby and destroying 25 more looms, but two of their number were wounded by gunfire from the cavalry before they dispersed for the night.

By next morning, several troops of soldiers had arrived from Manchester but this did not stop the mob gathering again and marching to Over Darwen, where 38 more power looms were hammered to pieces. At Garsden, two miles away, 14 machines succumbed.

And then it was on, four miles over the moors, to Middle Mill at Helmshore, owned by the hated William Turner, a magistrate who had been known to have his workers imprisoned for bad workmanship. Here, 106 machines were destroyed as the reluctant military dithered in Haslingden, two miles away.

Eventually, 23 men and women were arrested and taken under the escort of 30 Queen's Bays to the New Inn at Haslingden. But when a mob of several hundred gathered and stoned the building, they were released.

Next day the rioters, numbering now 3,000 and convinced they had little to fear from the military, moved down the Rossendale Valley to Rawtenstall, where they wrecked 96 power looms in the space of half an hour at Whiteheads' mill, a further 20 at Longholme Mill and three more at New Hall Hey.

By the afternoon, they had reached Dearden Clough at Edenfield. Here, 58 looms fell to their hammers, but this was to be the last point at which they were unchallenged.

The Queen's Bays, who until now had been so acquiescent that

BY 1826, handloom weavers (left) were at starvation point. William Turner (right), hated owner of Helmshore's Middle Mill, was one of the targets for their wrath.

the rioters believed they sympathised with their cause, decided to make a stand at Chatterton, a village on the banks of the Irwell just north of Ramsbottom, with the help of a detachment of 20 men from the 60th Rifle Corps who had moved up from Ramsbottom.

Ignoring the reading of the Riot Act, the mob broke into the Chatterton factory of Aitken and Lord and started to destroy the 46 power looms there, while others stoned the soldiers. Eventually, the riflemen were ordered to open fire, and they did so with devastating effect: four men died instantly and many more were wounded, at least four of them seriously. As the soldiery gave chase to the fleeing rioters, two innocent bystanders - one a women - were shot dead.

Still the mob did not give up. About 200 of them followed the River Irwell past Ramsbottom to Summerseat, where 38 looms in Richard Hamer's mill were destroyed. Then they swarmed on to Woodhill, on the edge of Bury, and the factory of James Hutchinson.