IT was one of the most spectacular blazes in recent memory. At its height flames leapt into the air and a plume of smoke rose several hundred feet into the sky about Blackburn.

In August 1982, the Lancashire Telegraph reported on a massive fire at the former Northrop factory on St Philips Road.

The blaze started in mid afternoon and it engulfed the building in what was described as a ‘five minute hurricane of fire’.

Fifteen fire crews from across Lancashire were called in to tackle the incident as police closed off neighbouring streets. This didn’t prevent huge crowds gathering to watch the fire brigade attempting for several hours to bring the inferno under control.

At one point hundreds of tons of masonry came crashing down as the devastated building started to collapse.

The massive mill building was owned by British Northrop who had previously manufactured looms at the sprawling plant for export all over the world.

At the time of the blaze it was being used by Mercer’s Transport Ltd mainly for storage. Only days earlier a large number of brand new Ford and Volvo cars had been kept in the building by local motor dealers Cowies and Hindle and Walker, preparing for the introduction of a new registration number.

It was thought that the blaze was caused by a spark from a cutting torch being used by maintenance staff. Among the items being stored in the premises were large rolls of paper for paper manufacturers Bowater-Scott

Ash from the fire was carried as far as Oswaldtwistle, Accrington and Whalley.

Twenty people working in the building at the time escaped without injury but two fire fighters suffered minor injuries as they worked through the night.

Fireman John Birkett told our reporter on the scene: “It started at one end and within five minutes the whole lot was going. It has just been a steady fight since then.”

Sub Officer Ted Ennis added: “It ‘s hard graft in there. It is hot and heavy work but we managed to make sure the fire could not spread.”

At its height, the British Northrop Loom Company employed 2,700 people and produced a staggering 10,000 automatic looms a year. The site at Little Harwood was established in 1902 by William Livesey of the Greenbank Iron Works.

Following the blaze large parts of the site had to be demolished.