The story of an iconic Blackburn building has been brought to life in a new book detailing its history.

The Exchange: The Foundation Years has been written by Howard Foy and Chris Walton, two volunteers with a passion for local heritage, and is being produced with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Howard returned to his hometown of Blackburn after living and working in Manchester for more than 30 years, having been a production journalist for national newspapers.

He heard The Exchange was looking for volunteers to help produce a history book as part of their exciting plan to bring the building back to life and knew straight away he wanted to be involved in the project.

He said: “I have been passionately interested in local history since I was a young schoolboy and my association with The Exchange dates back to that time as well.

Lancashire Telegraph: L-R: Chris Walton, Gosha Gibek, Howard FoyL-R: Chris Walton, Gosha Gibek, Howard Foy (Image: The Exchange)

“My first visits to the building were at the age of six or seven when my father took me and my younger brother to the ‘Majestic’ for haircuts at the barbers in King William Street.

“I can also remember several visits to the Essoldo cinema, as it was called in the 1950s and 1960s. I cannot now recall any particular films from the early days, but I recently found an old diary which I kept as a teenager and I note that at the age of 17 in February 1968 – and therefore underaged – I sneaked in to see the X-rated film Bonnie and Clyde.

“It is not the building’s days as a cinema that particularly interested me, however. The fact that it was commissioned by the mill owners and textile merchants of Blackburn as the Cotton Exchange, a place where these eminent businessmen could congregate for commerce and relaxation, has always seemed fascinating – and it was both frustrating and surprising that very little existed in written form about its story.”

Chris, who is from Darwen, added: “I’ve many memories of visits to the Apollo 5 Cinema, watching classics like Toy Story and Jurassic Park, as well as the birthday parties downstairs at Tiggis Restaurant, complete with the birthday cake and music.

“In recent years, when Re:Source took over the building, I was curious about their plans to restore the Exchange and bring it back into use. When they called for volunteers, I signed up, keen to contribute in any way possible.

“Initially, when I offered to research the history of the Exchange, I thought it would be a simple task of browsing through a few old books and newspapers. However, it turned out to be a much deeper dive.

“Over the past year, I’ve delved into archives, sifted through newspapers, and even had the opportunity to handle artefacts at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery. My journey has taken me from Preston to London in search of centuries-old forgotten documents.

Lancashire Telegraph: The current Exchange buildingThe current Exchange building (Image: Archive)

“Exploring the Exchange’s past has been like solving a puzzle, with each discovery leading to another intriguing piece of the puzzle. It’s been a fascinating journey that has deepened my appreciation for the history of our town and the role of the Exchange.”

The cover of the book features the work of Clitheroe Artist, Gosha Gibek who painted The Exchange during the lockdown of 2020. She has been commissioned to design and illustrate the book with her signature technique employing a freehand style using dripping household paint.

The Exchange: The Foundation Years will be published in June 2024 and limited editions, priced at £10, will be available to buy from The Exchange or online.

To pre-order a copy email Lisa Clarke on