The Exchange Comittee held their annual general meeting on the 27th November 1863. In their update, they announced another sixty members had joined the group in the last year, taking their membership to 512. The continued growth of the group confirmed their need for a dedicated building, and the Chairman read that the new Exchange would give them four times more space to meet than the current Town Hall rooms.
However, the town was experiencing financial pressures due to the Cotton Famine. The American Civil War was well underway and the ports of South America had been blockaded, which prevented cotton being shipped across the Atlantic to Liverpool and then Blackburn. The shortage of cotton meant mills had to close down due to lack of work, hurting the income of the mill owners and the workers whose jobs were put on hold.
Emergency relief funds were set up to support those affected most by the financial difficulties. Soup kitchens were opened, and the unemployed were trained in new skills – women learned needlework and sewing, while men were repurposed on local projects like relaying the footpaths in Corporation Park.
At an earlier meeting of the Exchange group, it was proposed that the group donate £1,000 from their building funds to the Cotton Famine Relief Funds for local people, but this was quickly rejected by the group who insisted it would be better spent on the Cotton Exchange as it would bring future prosperity to the town.
At the meeting in November 1863, the Chairman confirmed that the economic climate meant that again, the group had failed to raise enough funds for the plans. However this time, the proposed design for the building could be adapted, and only the central tower and one wing would be built. The wing would hold the exchange room and offices below as these were the priority. The Fielden Arms would survive for now, but when times improved, money could be raised to complete the building’s full design and finish the second wing.