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Martha, the Darwen mother who fought for the rights of women and the poor
20th February 2018 (Lancashire Telegraph)
THIS month marks the centenary of the first law giving women - or at least some of them - the vote.
And MP Jake Berry thought it was time to pay tribute to one of the East Lancashire campaign leaders - Martha Jane Bury of Darwen.
Martha Jane, a prominent Suffragist - unlike their sisters the Suffragettes, they took a peaceful approach to securing the vote - is buried in Darwen Cemetery, where she is known as The White Lady.
Local historian Tony Foster showed Jake around and told him all about her fight for the poor and the downtrodden and, of course, her fight for women's rights.
Said Jake, MP for Rossendale and Darwen: "I had heard a lot about Martha Jane and thought this was an ideal opportunity to pay my respects."
Next month it's International Women's Day, a concept unheard of in Martha's time when women generally knew their place and stayed out of the limelight.
Martha's father died when she was two. She left school when she was 10 because the family needed the pittance she earned in the mill.
But she was determined to make something of her life even then. She went to night school and Sunday School and read avidly.
She was a social activist who joined the Co-operative Women's Guild and supported women's suffrage and took a keen interest in divorce law reform.
Born in 1850, she was 32 when she married John William Bury, who became a mill manager. They lived at the bottom of St Alban's Road and had two daughters, although one died in infancy.
Martha never forgot her working-class roots. She stood up all her life for the poor and the old, the ailing and the infirm.
She fought hard to make a better world for them, often in the face of strong opposition, not only from the menfolk but from women officials in the Co-op movement.
Martha Jane proved that a woman's practical knowledge as a wife and mother was invaluable and she and her friends finally won over the menfolk of East Lancashire.
She was in the first group of four women to be elected as a Guardian to the Blackburn Poor Law Union. Later, a long-standing member of the Co-op movement, she addressed audiences throughout the country.
Tony Foster has studied avidly the life of Martha Jane Bury and pointed out the rather quaint motto beneath her white marble statue in the Non-Conformist section of the old cemetery.
Nothing flowery, nothing to record her many achievements; it simply says: "She did what she could."
Said Jake: "Martha was certainly a modest and unassuming woman. She would have been more than pleased with that epitaph."
Tony is giving a talk at the Heritage Centre on Tuesday, March 13 about Darwen's prominent women, entitled: 'In the thick of it.'
MP Jake Berry celebrate Darwen suffrage leader
13th February 2018 (Lancashire Telegraph)
AN MP visited the grave of a local suffragette campaign leader.
Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry visited the grave of Martha Jane, a prominent Suffragist to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which allowed women over the age of 30 who owned property to vote for the first time.
Mr Berry said: "Last week marked the centenary of the first law giving women,or at least some of them, the vote.
"So I thought it was time I paid tribute to one of the East Lancashire campaign leaders, Martha Jane Bury of Darwen.
"Martha Jane, a prominent Suffragist, who unlike their sisters the Suffragettes, took a peaceful approach to securing the vote, is buried in Darwen Cemetery.
"She is known as The White Lady.
"I am very grateful to Local historian Tony Foster for showing me around and telling me about Martha's fight for women's rights.
"Tony is giving a talk at the Darwen Heritage Centre on Tuesday, March 13th on prominent local women, I would definitely recommend a visit to find out more about this fascinating piece of local history."
Community group takes action over dog fouling in Darwen Cemetery
5th February 2018 (Lancashire Telegraph)
John East's dog Poppy
A COMMUNITY group is trying to raise awareness around dog fouling.
The Friends of Darwen Cemetery are trying to combat dog fouling in Darwen Western Cemetery and have put signs up to remind dog owners to clean up around graves and cemetery paths.
Working with Blackburn with Darwen Council, the group has renovated and restored hundreds of graves and carried out various repairs and conservation projects.
They are now asking dog owners to put dog poo in biodegradable bags and use the many bins around the cemetery.
Dog owners can be fined for not picking up dog mess and not keeping dogs on a lead.
Chairman John East said "We welcome responsible dog owners and their pooches but just ask they they respect the grave areas and the work done to restore the cemetery.
"The Blackburn with Darwen dog fouling team do monitor the cemetery and local parks and dog owners can receive on the spot fines.
"On the whole dog owners enjoy that stroll around the century and appreciate the work being completed and conform to the local bylaws, it's just the odd few who don't."
Friends of Darwen cemetery will meet to work on war memorial
3rd February 2018 (Lancashire Telegraph)
A COMMUNITY group will meet next week to continue work on a World War One memorial.
Friends of Darwen Cemetery will host a working party on February 10 at Darwen cemetery.
The group meet every two weeks between 10am and 1pm and work as a team to improve the cemetery.
Next Saturday the group will be continuing work on a new cemetery-based World War One memorial which will serve as a reminder of Blackburn and Darwen's contribution to the war.
Chair of the group, Cllr John East said anyone who would like to be involved with the restoration of the ceremony is welcome to join the Friends of Darwen Cemetery working parties.
He said: "There are jobs for all abilities and everyone is welcome.
"We have all the tools just near the manpower and enthusiasm, so what are you waiting for?
"Meet at the hut at the top of Lark St at 10am.
"If you can't make it for 10 am look for the Friends of Darwen Cemetery bright yellow banner and we will be somewhere around.
"Any time you can stay would be great from an hour to all morning.
"All are welcome but children under the age of 16 most be accompanied by an adult."
For more information visit darwencemetery.org.uk
17th January 2018 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Friends of Darwen Cemetery have begun work on a World War One memorial
A COMMUNITY group met for their first working party of the year.
The Friends of Darwen Cemetery were up bright and early on Saturday to start work on a new cemetery based World War One memorial.
Group chair Cllr John East said the structure will serve as a reminder of Blackburn and Darwen's contribution to the war.
He said: "It was great to get our first working party of the year underway.
"We began work on a structure to commemorate World War One.
"It will consist of marble tablets that will celebrate Blackburn's contribution to World War One.
"The tablets will show the number of casualties and survivors and will include pictures to represent every aspect of the war, such as trench warfare and the medical side of things.
"We hope to have it completed before summer.
"The cost of the memorial has been covered by local charities, agencies and businesses."
Cllr East said anyone who would like to be involved with the restoration of the ceremony is welcome to join the Friends of Darwen Cemetery working parties.
They will take place every second weekend and will run from 10am until 1pm.
He said: "I encourage any individuals or groups to come and help us with the restoration of the cemetery.
"It's going to be a long drag to get it back into good condition so any help would be welcome."
Appeal to find bird bath stolen from Darwen Cemetery
5th October 2017 (Lancashire Telegraph)
THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery are appealing for information following the theft of a bird bath.
The bird bath has been removed from the nature garden area of the Bolton Road cemetery where it has been for more than five years.
The bath was hand carved by Friends of Darwen Cemetery member Anne Lamont.
Ms Lamont said: "I chipped the middle out of a large stone to make it, I like doing craft things like that.
"I don't really know why anyone would want to take it.
"They were selling similar ones at Oswaldtwistle Mills last month.
"Maybe someone wanted the bath without the price tag?"
The Friends said they have put up notices in the entrance to the park as well as launching an appeal for the bath's return on Facebook.
Friends member Linda Van Dijk said: "It just disappeared one day.
"I don't really know what anyone would want with a big piece of stone.
"Maybe they saw it and just had to have it for their garden?"
This is not the first time things have gone missing from the nature garden.
Ornaments have disappeared and been found in different areas of the cemetery and the loose stones that cover the path through the garden have frequently been found scattered across the grass.
Linda said: "We have had a few bits go missing before.
"The lock up has been broken into and someone stole the rosemary out of one of the beds.
"But it's probably just kids being mischievous"
Chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, Cllr John East, said the group will be reporting the theft to the police.
He said: "We are not sure when it was removed but it is only over the last few weeks.
"I have told the group to contact the local police.
"I know they won't be able to do anything about it but it's a crime statistic and it's important that it be documented.
"If anyone knows who may of removed it or has any information about where we might find the Bird Bath please get in touch."
Anyone with information about the theft is urged to email email@example.com.
'Friends of Darwen Cemetery have issued a response to claims they are responsible for the state of the grass in Darwen West Cemetery
27th July 2017 (Lancashire Telegraph)
A cemetery restoration group have responded to claims that they are responsible for the state of the grass in Darwen West Cemetery.
Chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, John East, said: "We have no responsibility for the grass cutting although we acknowledge it could be better managed if funds were released by the council.
"The grass cutting is outsourced by Blackburn with Darwen council to Good Friends Community Interest Company, who can only cut certain parts.
"This means some areas are unsafe and notices have been placed around the Cemetery explaining the situation.
"It seems a pity that the Council can't provide the resources while our volunteers put in thousands of volunteer hours per year.
This follows a complaint by Darwen resident Marion Jennings who described the state of the cemetery as "disgraceful"
Anyone requiring a path clearing to a particular grave should contact the Friends of Darwen Cemetery on 01254 202019
(Note from FODC Webmaster This is the Phone Number for the Good Friends Community Interest Company not the Friends of Darwen Cemetery)
It's very rare that I get worked up about things, but this has really rattled my cage' - pensioner calls for action to improve the 'disgraceful' state of Darwen Old Cemetery.
26th July 2017 (Lancashire Telegraph)
APENSIONER called for action to improve the 'disgraceful' state of Darwen Old Cemetery.
Marion Jennings said she was 'shaking with rage' when she discovered the graves in the western side of Darwen Cemetery had become over grown with grass.
The 80 year old, who had been to visit loved ones, said: "It was just like a meadow. I could barely see my mother's grave stone.
"They'd cut a path up from the cremation memorials, but all the graves were overgrown.
The Earcroft resident, who is disabled and struggles with mobility, had made the difficult trip to the cemetery to visit her mother's resting place on what would have been 104 years old.
Mrs Jenning said: "I don’t get up to the cemetery as much as I'd like because I'm disabled.
"But I just couldn’t believe it when I got there and saw the state of it.
"It's very rare that I get worked up about things, but this has really rattled my cage.
"I'm so upset, I’m still shaking with rage."
The mother of one was further infuriated when she checked on the condition of Darwen Eastern Cemetery and found it to be well maintained.
She said: "It's like the old cemetery doesn't matter to them anymore
"You think when you bury your loved ones here it will be looked after and they will be at peace, but its not the case."
A spokesman for Blackburn with Darwen council said: "It is the Friends of Darwen cemetery Group and the Good Friends Community Interest Company that maintain the old and new cemetery as well as Blackburn Old Cemetery.
"We still maintain the Darwen Eastern Cemetery.
"If the lady provides the grave number and her contact details, we will arrange for the Group to make contact with the lady and discuss her needs and their work."
Mrs Jenning’s grandmother and infant son were also buried in the cemetery and she said she too hoped to laid to rest there.
She said: "It makes me ashamed to think I will be buried here one day."
A statement on the Friends of Darwen Facebook page said: "During 2017 the grass will be cut in the following areas only:- all ashes burial sections a strip around the perimeter of each burial section paths to and around the commonwealth war graves section and paths to regularly visited family graves
"The remainder of the cemetery will be allowed to naturalise with long grass and wild flowers.
"If you attend your family grave regularly and wish a path to be cut, please ring 01254 202019, email firstname.lastname@example.org."
Appeal for groups to tend Darwen Cemetery graves
25th July 2017 (Lancashire Telegraph)
THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery have appealed for groups and schools to look after war graves a century after the 1914/18 conflict.
Its chairman John East praised the work of young people and volunteers in helping maintain key parts of the burial ground.
He spoke out as details and pictures of the work by Year Five pupils from Ashleigh Primary School on Ross Street sprucing up First World War graves were posted on Facebook.
Cllr East said: "They have done a great job getting these graves ready for summer.
"Pupils from Ashleigh Primary. and other Darwen schools, have adopted a set of war graves and look after them brilliantly.
"It is good that 100 years after the First World War children in Darwen have this contact with these men who gave their lives.
"We are always seeking new schools, young people’s groups and volunteers to tend these historic graves."
Darwen Cemetery benefits as volunteers put in more than 2,000 hours
7th May 2017 (Lancashire Telegraph)
VOLUNTEERS last year put in more than 2,000 hours of unpaid work worth almost £20,000 to restore and look after Darwen Cemetery.
This year they could work even harder as Blackburn with Darwen Council cuts in maintenance bite.
The figures were revealed in a report to The Friends of Darwen Cemetery by trustee and working party co-ordinator Jill Marr.
She revealed the total volunteer hours put in were 2,265 which costed at National Lottery rates was equivalent to £19,215 worth of paid work.
John East, the friends group chairman, described the working party's contribution as 'remarkable'.
Cllr Jim Smith, the council's environment boss, said: "I am delighted by this fantastic work by these volunteers who clearly care deeply about both Darwen and the cemetery."
In her report to last month's annual meeting of the group, Miss Marr revealed invading tree, shrubs and brambles had been cleared in part of the cemetery.
The report said rhododendron hedges near the Cross of Sacrifice had been trimmed, the laurel patch near section F reduced, paths upgraded, new tree saplings planted and gutters restored.
Miss Marr said new heather beds were being developed along with major works being planned for ‘Prickly Corner’.
Her report said work was proceeding on the cemetery's First World War project and restoring stone steps on the Northern slope while the possibility of exploring the archaeology of the Church of England Chapel mound was being investigated.
The annual meeting agreed a new arrangement with the council for reduced grass cutting and maintenance by the borough paid for through a Good Friends agreement with Brent Stevenson.
Mr East said: "How remarkable that more than £20,000 worth of volunteer hours have been given by the group in one year.
"The cemetery has gone from a tried and neglected part of Darwen’s heritage to a well used and loved amenity."
Annual meeting on work at Darwen Cemetery
21st April 2017 (Lancashire Telegraph)
A FRIENDS group will be reporting on its work in Darwen Cemetery over the past year at a meeting next week.
The annual general meeting will take place at Darwen Heritage Centre in Railway Road on Wednesday, April 26, at 7pm.
Jennifer Ray will be a guest speaker at the event and will be talking about the role of women during the First World War.
At the moment the friends are encouraging people to adopt one of the 90 war graves in the cemetery as some are available for people to look after.
Cllr John East, member of the friends, said: "Volunteers have given us thousands of hours of their time and we are very proud of what we have achieved in the six years we have been in existence.
"We want to encourage people to come and look after their graves, make the place look nice and adopt war graves."
On Saturday there will be a working party from 10am to 1pm and people will be meeting in the Western Cemetery.
There will also be clean-up events on Saturday, May 6, and Saturday, May 20.
Everyone is welcome at the meeting to offer their thoughts.
Cemetery bins left overflowing on Christmas Day branded a 'disgrace'
29th December 2016 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Bins that were overflowing in a cemetery on Christmas Day have been branded a 'disgrace'.
Town and borough councillor Roy Davies was visiting the graves of his mum, dad, sister and brother at Darwen Western Cemetery when he came across the rubbish spilling out of the bins just feet from the graves.
His son, who died when he was nine, is also buried in the East cemetery, which also had bins that were full.
Dad-of-two David Critchley, of Ivinson Road, also has his parents and grandparents buried at the cemetery and said that he complained to Blackburn with Darwen Council about the bins nearly a month ago.
He said: "It is an absolute disgrace to see the cemetery like this."
The council said the bins are emptied often but do fill quicker at Christmas.
Cllr Davies said: "I felt disgusted that just 10 feet away from my sister's gave there was all this rubbish coming out of the bins.
"I told the council about it more than a week ago but nothing has been done.
"People who have lost family members want to go and make sure the graves are looking as good as they can be on Christmas Day and they should not be faced with this.
"You want that special moment with the loved ones who can't be with you and I think more should have been done, especially at this time of year."
Last year, visitors to the cemetery, which lies either side of Bolton Road, hit out after large mesh bins were replaced with lidded ones which would not accommodate large pieces of rubbish.
Friends of Darwen Cemetery volunteers said that after they had been replaced, large wreaths and floral tributes were left to pile up around the bottom of the bins.
Cllr Karimeh Foster said: "It makes me frustrated and angry that the cemetery has been neglected like this."
All of the facilities at the cemetery are maintained by the council including burials and all grass and shrub areas.
The council is also responsible for grave digging and grounds maintenance.
Cllr Jim Smith, executive member for the environment, said: "The bins are emptied regularly.
"It's just at this time of year they will fill up quickly.
"There will be a collection this week."
Bench dedicated to role of Darwen women in First World War set to be unveiled
28th June 2016 (Lancashire Telegraph)
A BENCH dedicated to the role of Darwen women in the First World War is set to be unveiled at the town's cemetery next week.
The inscribed granite bench will be unveiled on behalf of the Darwen Townswomen's Guild to honour the women of the area who supported soldiers during the Great War.
Around 1,300 soldiers from the town died in the war, but Cllr John East, part of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery group, said what is often forgotten is the vital role women played.
He said: "The unveiling of this bench will be a unique event because while we always focus on the amount of casualties we had here in Darwen, we do forget the wives and the lovers of these soldiers and what they went through.
"It will be a pleasure to unveil this tribute to them and recognise what they did during the war, which was vital."
The bench will represent a number of stories of Darwen women during the war, including two women who travelled to Switzerland in 1916 to see their husbands, who had previously been prisoners of war in Germany.
Brent Stevenson Memorials completed the inscription work on the bench, which will be unveiled next Thursday by The High Sheriff of Lancashire, John Barnett, and the Mayor of Darwen, Cllr Brian Taylor.
Pupils from Ashleigh Primary School, which opened in 1914 at the start of the war, will also lay a wreath at the nearby Cross of Sacrifice in memory of soldiers who died during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
St Wilfred's CE Academy student Abigail Naylor, 14, will also be at the event, playing the Last Post on the bugle after previously playing outside Blackburn Town Hall and with the Massed Bands of the Sea Cadets at the annual National Trafalgar Square Parade in London.
Cllr Taylor said it will be a proud moment for him to unveil the bench, having lost two great-uncles in the war in a matter of days.
He said: "I think in the past it has not been recognised enough, the role that women played in the First World War, many of them lost husbands and loved ones and then had to bring up a family on their own with very little money.
"I have a great appreciation of what this struggle was like and I think we cannot acknowledge their role enough."
Darwen to delve into its history with 20 locations hosting events for heritage festival
22nd July 2015 (Lancashire Telegraph)
DARWEN will delve into its history with 20 locations hosting events for a heritage festival.
Darwen Town Council is organising a four day event, from Thursday, September 10, until Sunday, September 13.
Visitors will be able to explore, go on guided tours and see a variety of local sites that celebrate the town's heritage.
John East, chairman of the Friends, said he was monitoring the issue as concern had been raised about the height of the grass.
Among the sites will be a visit to Darwen Town Hall and a celebration of Darwen Brass Band, which celebrates 150 years of making music in Darwen.
Tours of Darwen Cemetery will have the theme of Gallipoli, marking 100 years since volunteers from the Lancashire Fusiliers landed close to the southern tip of the narrow peninsula, near what is Gelibolu in modern Turkey.
They started that April day with more than 1,000 officers and men; the following morning, a head count came up with barely 300.
It was a day in which the Fusiliers, which drew heavily from the Darwen area, made their mark in the history of the British Army, a day in which they famously won 'six VCs before breakfast'.
Darwen Library will be open for people to bring in pictures for identification, family history, a tour of the library and exhibitions.
The Friends of Bold Venture Park is hosting a photographic contest, a nature trail and afternoon teas in the Ashton Kiosk.
Cllr John East, who is co-ordinating the heritage weekend, said: "With over 20 locations visitors will be impressed with the wide variety of places that can celebrate Darwen's rich heritage."
Dave Owen, of Darwen Days, said the group was taking over Darwen Library's exhibition room and two display cases for six weeks from September 22.
He said: "Some of our items won't have been seen for 100 years.
"These are postcards we have collected over the past four years and it has taken us two years to put the collection together.
"There will be 150 images and 70 items, including a jug from a brewery in Darwen called Crooks shut in the 1880s, and there will also be cups and shields."
Several churches and schools will be open to look at archives and artifacts.
Concern over Darwen Cemetery
24th June 2015 (Lancashire Telegraph)
THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery are calling on the council for greater teamwork in mowing the grass and cutting back weeds to make the graves more accessible for families to visit.
Yesterday, the council carried out their first grass cutting of the year at the old cemetery off Bolton Road.
"It makes access to family graves more difficult when the grass is 18ins to 2ft high. We do try to remind the council that it's a civic responsibility but it's a difficult balance as they have lost staff," he said.
The grass in the cemetery, which opened in 1861, gets cut by the council three times a year and the Friends do other maintenance work all year round.
Cllr Jim Smith, executive member for Environment, said: “Ensuring our parks, cemeteries and open spaces look the best they can be is of great importance to me and this council. The grass at Darwen old cemetery is cut three times a year and it is currently being cut."
The Friends are planning to put in a £100,000 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund in the next few weeks to create a grave trail and mock trench to commemorate the centenary of Darwen's war dead.
The cemetery contains 98 war graves, including 70 from World War One. The Friends want to create a large granite mock trench which could be used an an outdoor activity and learning space to encourage younger visitors to the cemetery.
The sides of the mock trench will have granite plaques to commemorate individual soldiers who died during the war and there will also be a firing step to be used as a step for quiet reflection.
Friends of Darwen Cemetery president Colonel Steve Davies said: "I am wanting us to be constructing by late September/October, my own personal thoughts are that with a fair wind we should be allocated the money!"
These friends are an asset
26th May 2015 (Lancashire Telegraph Letters Page)
What a helpful and friendly bunch are the Friends of Darwen Cemetery and the local gravediggers.
We spent a couple of hours recently searching the old cemetery in vain for a family grave and then one of the FoDC members who was passing took us in hand.
He arranged for one of the gravediggers to "flag" the grave so we could find it on our next visit and then he and a couple of other members of the group spent some time clearing grass and tidying it up before we came over again.
I hoped the local Council appreciates the work and the helpfulness of the cemetery friends.
We certainly do and we have made a donation to their funds.
Incidentally, we weren't very impressed with the long grass and the weeds and all the flattened headstones.
Plans for Commonwealth War stone to mark soldier's resting place
6th May 2015 (Lancashire Telegraph)
LOST: Darwen Cemetery – Samuel Taylor’s grave has gone missing. Right, Samuel survived World War One, only to fall victim to Spanish flu
A SOLDIER could soon have his grave in Darwen Cemetery marked with a Commonwealth War grave headstone, nearly 100 years after his death.
Gunner (Signaller) Samuel Taylor, from Darwen, who was serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery - they looked after the really big guns - was one of thousands of soldiers who died in the closing days of the Great War - not from enemy action but from the ravages of Spanish flu.
Local historian Tony Foster said: "There are many stories of lads from East Lancashire coming through the war only to fall victim to the pandemic. Samuel Taylor was just one of them."
His family home was in Marsh House Lane, Darwen, and his father, stepmother and brothers and sisters would have been offered a Commonwealth (then Imperial) war grave, after his death.
Several families declined as often they already had an engraved family headstone in place.
Tony explained: "This was the case with Samuel's grave, which had a rather elegant stone flower vase carved with his name and date of death."
However, last year Diane Davies, a member of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery who runs the adopt-a-war-grave scheme, noticed it had gone missing.
She felt it was perhaps time an official Commonwealth War Graves Commission stone was erected.
The friends contacted the commission who have now compiled a nationwide list of about 80 soldiers who don't have a Portland stone marker.
The CWGC are looking for relatives to get permission to formally recognise the service and death of their loved ones.
Samuel was born in Grimshaw Street and his siblings were also born in Darwen around the turn of the century.
They were William Thomas, Florrie, Maud Victoria, and Alice, his half sister.
Roger, their father, lost his first wife Mary Jane in childbirth and he remarried. William is thought to have married Annie Fish in 1910.
Gunner Taylor joined up in May 1916 as an 18-year-old. He had worked at Carus' Hoddlesden mill as a clerk and the family was associated with Redearth Road Primitive Methodist Church.
He died in a war hospital in Portsmouth.
If anyone knows of any relatives of Gunner Taylor you should get in touch with the Bygones desk and we will put them in touch with the FoDC.
Probably the unluckiest Darwen lad to succumb to Spanish flu after fighting his way through to the end of the war was Holbein Bentley of the East Lancs regiment.
Wounded twice, he travelled to London to be fitted with a prosthetic arm, caught the influenza bug there and died within days. He is also buried in Darwen Cemetery.
Town fights for cash to fund Darwen war memorial
14th April 2015 (Lancashire Telegraph)
CHAIRMAN: John East
THE official launch of the bid for Lottery cash to commemorate the contribution of Darwen's soldiers of the First World War will take place tomorrow.
The blueprint for a grave trail and an ambitious mock trench in the town's cemetery will be revealed at special exhibition and public consultation.
The Darrener, born at 13 Willow Street and later commanding officer of 1st Battalion, The Queen's Lancashire Regiment, wants as many townspeople as possible to attend to boost the chances of winning £100,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the project.
It will be opened at 3pm by Friends of Darwen Cemetery president Colonel Steve Davies and will run for a month at the town's library.
The scheme's centrepiece will be a large granite mock trench, complete with firing step which can be used as a bench for quiet reflection, overlooking the town.
The sides of the mock trench will have granite plaques to commemorate individual soldiers. Schools and community groups will use the mock trench as an outdoor activity and learning space.
Col Davies, 55, said: "This is the blueprint for our memorial but we want as many people as possible to come and contribute their views so we can fine-tune it. We want to use this as the springboard for improving the cemetery and getting people involved.
"We have had a number of discussions with the Heritage Lottery Fund about this and we want to give them evidence of public support. We hope to be able to start work this summer."
John East, chairman of the friends, said: "We will be proud to submit this bid after two years' hard work. It will be a fitting tribute to the men and women of Darwen who served their town and country."
Darwen Cemetery contain 98 war graves, including 70 from the 1914-1918 conflict.
Darwen Cemetery's water crisis sparks anger
9th April 2015 (Lancashire Telegraph)
THE man in charge of Darwen's cemeteries has admitted he has no idea when the water supply to Darwen Cemetery will be switched back on.
In an email to Darwen councillor Dave Smith, Blackburn with Darwen Council's Tony Watson said he was unable to say when a burst pipe would be fixed.
And now, Friends of Darwen Cemetery volunteers have installed their own water butt - courtesy of local firm James Gibson's - in the Eastern Cemetery so family members can access water for flowers on graves.
Friends group chairman John East said: "James Gibson's did us a very good deal on the water butt and the base. We can always count on local support."
Having been asked if he knew when the water supply would be returned to the cemetery, Tony Watson, the council's head of environment and public protection, said in an email: "I'm afraid we don't, as the feed that burst is under graves, so it requires a complete re-feed being installed which is being considered at present.
"But given the lack of funding available, we are looking at all options."
A number of cemetery users and friends group volunteers have complained about the lack of water, which has been going on for a couple of months.
Adrian Turner, of Bowling Green Close, said: "I don't think they have any idea how to reconnect the water supply. Everybody is complaining."
Tony Foster, of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, said he was caught out on Mother's Day when he drove over from his home and then had to go out and buy bottled water.
He said: "Nothing seems to be happening. This problem will probably drag on for weeks."
There have also been complaints after bins likened to 'post boxes' replacing large wire baskets. These have since been supplemented with grey dustbins, some of which still have their old house numbers painted on the side.
Cemetery visitor Paul Boardman, of Prince Lee Meadows, said: "The post boxes and the dust bins are absolutely useless."
Friends of Darwen Cemetery volunteer Colin Briggs said: "Mourners despair. The council could at least have painted over house numbers and taken off all the warning stickers.
"There was nothing wrong with the large wire baskets which have been there for well over 30 year.
Ann Lamont, of Waterfield Avenue, recycled a lot of old wreaths last winter and raised more than £200 for the Friends. She said: "It will be impossible now with the 'letter box' bins and the ugly old dust bins. The wire baskets were easily accessible."
30th March 2015 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Grieving families' fury as Darwen cemetery runs dry
Borough council bosses said it's staff were currently trying to fix a burst water pipe and resolve the problem
RESIDENTS visiting the graves of loved ones in Darwen Eastern Cemetery have been unable to access water to feed floral tributes for more than a fortnight.
The taps have run dry at the cemetery meaning people wishing to water flowers on graves and memorials have been forced to carry their own water up to the cemetery.
Borough council bosses said it's staff were currently trying to fix a burst water pipe and resolve the problem.
But volunteers at the Friends of Darwen Cemetery said they were disappointed the problem had gone on for so long.
The group's chairman John East said: "We were told it is all about manpower levels.
"Apparently while digging graves they cut through a pipe by accident and have been unable to find a metre or the source of the pipe.
"It is a shame for the people who have got graves in the cemetery that a lot of them can't get water up there.
"It would be ideal if they put in some water butts as a temporary solution."
A Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council spokesperson said "The council are aware that a water pipe within Darwen Cemetery burst earlier this year and officers are currently investigating methods to resolve this issue.
"We will continue to work with the friends of Darwen Cemetery to keep residents informed."
Darwen Cemetery is split into two halves: East and West. The West cemetery is the original cemetery containing very old graves. The Eastern Cemetery is the newest cemetery, which opened in 1949.
This is not the first time the council has been criticised over the state of the burial ground.
In June 2103 state of the eastern cemetery was condemned by the mother of a seven-year-old girl who is buried there.
Samantha Allan, mother of neuroblastoma victim Madison, who died on Boxing Day 2011, said grass in the cemetery was overgrown and bins were overflowing.
At the time Blackburn with Darwen Council executive member for environment Jim Smith, said borough staff cut the grass as often as it could on a limited budget. The Labour councillor blamed government cuts for the problems.
24th February 2015 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Darwen Cemetery visitors hit out at new bins
DARWEN Cemetery visitors have hit out after large mesh bins were replaced with lidded ones they say will not accommodate large pieces of rubbish.
According to Friends of Darwen Cemetery volunteers, the previous bins were "perfect to handle large wreaths and floral tributes".
But since they were replaced, the large tributes have been left to pile up around the bottom of many of the nine new bins throughout the Eastern cemetery.
Cemetery visitor Lilian Mcvoy said: "I had come up to remove two wreaths from our family grave, where can I put them?"
"I might as well leave them until I come again. The old wire mesh bins were ideal for the job.
"And what are they doing about the money we paid to have our graves kept neat and tidy in perpetuity? Nothing."
Bill Parkinson, of Darwen, said: "They would be okay as post boxes but are not much use in a cemetery."
Nobody at Blackburn with Darwen Council, which provides the bins, was available to comment.
7th January 2015 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Tracing 1,300 heroes who were killed at war
SAD: Esnes Communal Cemetery, near Cambrai
MORE than 1,300 Darwen lads went off to fight in the First World War Great War, never to return. The thing is, though, no one is quite sure of the exact number.
Now, local historian Tony Foster has started the mammoth task of coming up with the definitive list.
He said: "It's a similar story all over the country.
"There are just over 3,000 names on the Blackburn Roll of Honour but there were certainly a lot more."
Blackburn historians believe reckon this list was compiled after townspeople had been invited to send in the names of relatives who had been lost, but it's likely that a lot would not have bothered.
Tony's mammoth task is well under way.
Researchers already knew of the first enlisted man to be buried in Darwen Cemetery - Private Richard Aspden Knowles who died from tuberculosis before he could set off to fight.
The first soldier who had actually seen action to be interred there was Private Alex Done who had been badly wounded in France that November. He was buried in December, 1914. But who was the first Darwen lad to be killed?
That, says Tony, was John Keown, the son of Francis, a police constable, and Jane Keown.
Though born in Todmorden in 1880, the family moved to Darwen when he was small.
Keown joined the East Lancashire Regiment in 1899 before moving to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and served in the Boer War.
After five years he returned to Darwen and his job as a tailor; he worked for the Darwen Industrial Co operative Society.
He married Maud Kay in 1903 at the Register Office, Blackburn and they had five children - Francis (born 1904), Mary (1906), Ann (1907), Wilfred (1909) and William (1913).
At the outbreak of war, as a reservist, John rejoined his regiment and the 2nd Battalion was deployed straight to the Western Front in August 1914, as part of the British Expeditionary Force.
The battalion was part of the 4th Division that was heavily engaged at the Battle of Le Cateau at the end of August. The battle was fought on August 26, after the British and French retreated from the Battle of Mons and had set up defensive positions in a fighting withdrawal against the German advance at Le Cateau-Cambrésis.
It was on the first day of action that John was reported '"missing, presumed killed'", but it was almost 18 months before his family received firm news.
The Darwen News reported his death at the beginning of January, 1916.
John was one of the first casualties to be buried at Esnes Communal Cemetery near Cambrai. He was 324 and the family he left behind lived half-way up Vernon Street, Darwen - he is also remembered on the war memorial at St Joseph's Church.
29th October 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Ralph's heroism shone just like Captain Oates
EVERYONE knows of the heroism of Captain Lawrence Oates in the Antarctic in March 1912; few know of a similar sacrifice by Ralph Bolton, a young Darwen lad, just five years later.
Unlike the monuments, memorials, books, films, plays, exhibitions and a school that ensure that Oates will never be forgotten, Ralph's sacrifice, at the height of the Great War, in 1917, was recorded, fleetingly, in the local newspapers and on his gravestone in Darwen Cemetery. Ralph was a cotton weaver and a sergeant in the
St Barnabas Church Lads' Brigade.
After leaving Sunday School one winter's day, 16 year old Ralph, his young cousin, Jimmy, and a friend, 18 year old William Cooper Longton, all strode out across the moors to visit a relative's farm.
The three, however, were caught in a blizzard and were all found dead in the snow by search parties two days later.
William, who was due to shortly join the army and head off to France, had set off in a bid for help but only made it as far as an old farm which had been abandoned and left derelict.
When the other two were found it was discovered Ralph had taken off his own overcoat and wrapped it around his 10 year old cousin, making the little lad as comfortable as he could, in the lee of a stone wall in the darkness, before he, too, set off in a vain attempt to get help.
He managed to walk just 250 yards in his cheap suit before the conditions overwhelmed him.
It was a story that echoed the bravery of Captain Oates, who left his three surviving companions in the icy wilderness with the words, recorded in Robert Falcon Scott's diary: "I am just going outside and may be some time."
Young Ralph, too, walked bravely to his death in the blizzard and though we don't know his last words, they were probably words of hope and encouragement to his young cousin.
His bravery will be remembered 97 years on, at a concert in Blackburn Cathedral, on November 15, when former Darwener David Mellor, well known in classical and popular music circles worldwide, will realise an ambition when he conducts the world premiere of his new composition inspired by this story of heroism and sacrifice.
l The Greater Love Hath No Man concert will include the Fauré Requiem and Cantique and Mellor's Peace Anthem and his Tragedy on Darwen Moor.
Tickets, from £5 to £30, are available from blackburncathedral.com and King George's Hall box office on 0844 847 1664.
15th October 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Kath helps track down missing war memorial
JUST one thing was missing from Darwen Library's current exhibition of more than 30 photographs of Great War memorials from churches in the Darwen area - the memorial from St John's.
And in spite of repeated searches by local history enthusiasts among the Friends of Darwen Library, there was no sign of it.
The church, built by the fabulously rich widow Jane Brandwood, for her new husband, the Rev Philip Graham, in 1864, was one of the largest and finest in Darwen.
But in the mid-1960s, dry rot was discovered and the diocese decided that demolition was the cheaper option.
A magnificent white marble sarcophagus in Graham's memory is believed to have been smashed in the demolition and his remains in the churchyard were reburied in Darwen old cemetery.
The white marble cross lay broken on the new grave until the Friends of Darwen Cemetery found it and arranged for it to be cleaned and repaired. Meanwhile, the large marble memorial stone to the members of St John's who fell in the Great War went missing.
Kath Farnworth, minutes secretary of the Friends of Darwen Library, set out to find it. She had been a member of St John's Church as a youngster when the family lived just round the corner in Turncroft Road.
Eventually, thanks to help from Anne Hull and Nora Knowles, she found it at the back of a large cupboard in St Peter's School, just a couple of hundred yards from where the church had been.
It had replaced St John's school, which was also demolished in the 60s.
The memorial has now been photographed and this has joined all the others on display in the library.
Kath said: "I had a personal interest in the memorial as three of my great uncles, the Greenhalgh brothers, are commemorated on it."
Cap Cecil Bullough unveiled the memorial in 1920. It had been paid for by the Bullough family, who lived at Moorside, Astley Bank, and who ran Waterside Mill. His brother, Major C B Bullough, died in action and two other brothers survived the war.
A branch of the family founded the Howard and Bullough engineering company of Accrington.
The Friends of Darwen Library are in touch with St Barnabas' Church, built as a mission church of St John's, about displaying the memorial stone there.
3rd October 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Blackburn with Darwen cemetery records set to go digital
CEMETERY records in Blackburn with Darwen have been transferred to a digital archive for the first time - and the public will be given a rare insight this weekend.
The borough's burial and cremation records, which date back to 1857, are among the first in the North West to be digitised.
Pleasington Crematorium has also taken the unusual step of throwing open its doors to visitors on Sunday.
Details of the deceased at Blackburn Cemetery, Darwen's Old and Eastern cemeteries, Pleasington Cemetery and Pleasington Crematorium have been added to the family history website Deceased Online.
The records contain information from more than 330,000 burials and cremations, comprising almost one million individual items.
Coun Jim Smith, Blackburn with Darwen Council's executive member for environment, said: "We are delighted to be one of the first councils in North West England to have completed the digitisation of all these fascinating records making them available more easily to local, national and international researchers.
"We are committed to developing local, cultural and family history resources whilst preserving and conserving original old documents."
The records include digital scans of all burial and cremation registers, details of all graves indicating all those buried in each grave, and maps indicating the section in each cemetery where each grave is located.
Pleasington Crematorium, off Tower Road, will be open from 11am to 3pm on Sunday, with staff on hand to answer questions about the development of the site.
27th August 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Firm offers to cut Darwen cemetery's grass
THE owner of a specialised machinery firm has offered to cut grass in Darwen Cemetery for a day free of charge.
Tim Harrison, owner of Groundcare Engineering Ltd in Altham, has made the offer after reading about concerns over the state of the cemetery.
Residents, the local friends group and even Darwen MP Jake Berry have voiced concerns over the lack of grass-cutting in the cemetery, which has suffered as a result of cuts to the council's budget.
Mr Harrison said he wanted to donate his company's services for a day with a view to a long-term contract to cut the grass at a discounted price.
He said: "I own Groundcare Engineering Ltd, which I started last October with the help of the Jobcentre and the Government backed New Enterprise Scheme.
Over the past year we have grown steadily and now offer grass cutting to local councils and companies.
"We are based in Altham and actually have a graveyard situated at the top of our private drive which was not being cut or maintained due to budget cuts and the ever increasing cost of local grounds maintenance companies.
"I contacted the priest responsible for the graveyard and after a very quick phone call we now maintain it at a fraction of the cost which was previously paid.
"I would like to offer the services of my company to support the volunteers in their efforts.
"More importantly, I would also like to donate one full day of grass cutting for the Darwen Cemetery where my staff and our heavy duty equipment can tackle the grass at its longest."
Mr Berry said it was a very generous offer which should be considered.He said: "I am very pleased this company has made a generous offer to bring the cemetery up to standard we all want to see.
"It seems a pity that it is so neglected by Blackburn with Darwen Council that we are having to rely on charitable offers to ensure that our public cemeteries are up to that standard.
"The town council and Friends of Darwen Cemetery should look at the 'Community Right to Challenge' in the Localism Act so we can make this a permanent arrangement and Darwen can break free of this shoddy maintenance from Blackburn Council.
18th July 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Hard-working volunteer instrumental in Darwen Cemetery restoration
Darwen MP Jake Berry presents Anne Lamont with her volunteer award, watched by Coun Karimeh Foster
AN 'outstanding volunteer' has seen her hard work at Darwen Cemetery recognised with a special commendation.
Anne Lamont was presented with a certificate from the Blackburn with Darwen Pat on the Back Awards for her commitment to the restoration of the cemetery.
She has helped maintain the grounds since the Friends of Darwen Cemetery was formed in 2010.
Friends group chairman John East said: "Anne is an outstanding volunteer and we all value and appreciate her talents and skills in helping to restore and maintain our town cemetery.
"She has a real knack with drains and planting flowers.
"We all wish to see the cemetery looking its best again and are working hard in partnership with Blackburn with Darwen Council.
Many private graves are now being tended and as we begin commemorations of the start of the First World War, Darwen Cemetery has almost 100 war graves, most of which are adopted by local individuals and groups in the community."
Darwen MP Jake Berry handed Anne her certificate and said: "Anne is a fantastic volunteer and I have seen first-hand the considerable amount of time and effort she puts in to helping our community. This award is very well deserved.
"I'd like to thank Anne and the rest of the friends for the tireless work they do to look after our cemeteries."
Mr Berry attended one of the friends group's fortnightly working parties, where volunteers carry out a variety of maintenance tasks in the Western Cemetery.
The next working party is on Saturday, July 26, from 10am.
11th July 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
War hero's Darwen daughter dies at 99
Alexandra Youd was a long-standing member of the Mothers' Union
ONE of Darwen's last remaining links to the First World War has been broken with the death of Alexandra Youd, just months before her 100th birthday.
Alexandra was named after the father she never knew, Private Alex Done, of Lord Street, who died from his wounds three months before she was born.
A shunter on the railways, he had married Sarah Turner in June, 1914, and two days after war was declared, he caught a bus to Preston and joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.
Later that month he was fighting in the trenches and in November he was shot in the groin and hip and spent more than seven hours in the icy rain and the thick mud of 'No Man's Land' before being rescued and evacuated to England.
In the December, he died from pneumonia as a result of his wounds and his young wife was left to grieve and bring up their baby daughter alone.
Private Done was the first soldier to be buried in Darwen Cemetery and hundreds turned out for the funeral service.
At 18, Alexandra married Bob - well-known in local sporting circles as a player for Darwen FC - and they had six children, although two died in infancy.
She had a daughter, Kath, and sons Derek, Alan and Jeff.
But as she grew up, she could never recall her brave father ever being spoken of within the family as the grief was still too raw years later.
Her daughter, Kath Smith, of Avondale Road, said: "Mum was really independent until the last few years.
"It must have been very difficult for her as she was growing up, but she brushed it all aside and got on with her life."
Mrs Youd died at St James House care home in St James Crescent, Darwen.
She lived in Walmsley Street for many years and then Owlet Hall Road. She had been in failing health for a short time. Mrs Youd held a number of part-time jobs throughout her life but concentrated on bringing up her children.
The family has always had a close association with St James's Church and Mrs Youd was a long-standing member of the Mothers' Union.
n Alex Done's story is one of several with a connection to the Great War in a new book by the Friends of Darwen Library, which will be launched at a coffee morning on July 26.
Harold Heys, author of 'Darwen and its Characters', said: "We had all been hoping that Alexandra would make it to 100. It is very sad."
6th July 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Appeal for Darwen war grave adopters
THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery have launched an appeal for more people to adopt war graves in the town.
The appeal comes as the friends gear up for commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War in August.
Chairman John East said: "We are making an appeal for people who would like to adopt a war grave.
"We have a few Commonwealth War Graves which need adopting.
"People need to contact us and we will show them where the graves are.
"They will be given some instructions on what to do and how to look after it.
"We will make sure they know what to do and then they just need to maintain it throughout the year.
"There are nearly 100 Commonwealth War Graves in Darwen Cemetery and the majority of them are adopted.
"This is just one other way people can commemorate the war dead of Darwen."
Once a war grave has been adopted, people are asked to visit the grave regularaly and tend the bed, possibly placing flowers or other floral tributes.
The headstones are the responsibility of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who will repair and clean them.
Individuals can adopt war graves as well as schools or community groups.
Anyone wishing to adopt a war grave can email email@example.com
25th June 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Untended Darwen graves are 'no excuse'
VISITORS to Darwen Cemetery have hit out after they were unable to tend to a relative's grave because of overgrown grass.
Elaine Duckworth's grandmother's grave in Darwen Cemetery is overgrown
Elaine Duckworth said grass around her grandmother's grave, in the old part of the cemetery, was about four-feet high, making access harder.
Blackburn with Darwen Council blamed the overgrowth on good summer weather but pledged to deploy extra staff on order to address the issue.
Ms Duckworth and Paul Coulson took photos of the problem when they visited the cemetery last week.
She said: "This photo shows my gran's grave, which we are unable to tend because the grass has not been cut this year. When we asked the ground staff they said it was not one of their priority jobs and may not be cut.
"We have been using a cordless trimmer to keep on top of my grandfather's grave in the same cemetery, but this is just too high at nearly four feet.
"We know that not all the graves are tended to and are in disrepair, but this is no excuse to let all the graves go the same way."
John East, chair of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, said the condition of the grave was 'a shame' but said volunteers would work with the council to improve conditions on-site.
He said: "We work in partnership with the council but some of the time it's too dangerous to work near certain graves.
"Hopefully the part of the cemetery where this lady is talking about will be dealt with soon. We do get disappointed when the grass grows too long."
Coun Jim Smith, executive member for environment, said: "Several areas in Darwen Old Cemetery are extremely difficult to cut, and these are cut up to three times per year. The cutting of this area has started and this area of the cemetery will be cut as soon as possible.
"This is the peak rapid growing season for grass and the weather at the moment has encouraged the growth. We will be utilising additional staff to tackle this."
The Citizen Sunday 25th May 2014
Green-fingered Darwen school in national final
GREEN-fingered pupils from a Darwen primary school have been shortlisted for a coveted national award.
Youngsters at Ashleigh Primary in Ross Street have reached the final four of the RHS School Gardening Team of the Year competition.
Teaching assistant Jennifer Squelch has led the school's gardening club as it developed and maintained the gardening areas, with all children in school given the opportunity to work in them.
Headteacher Ian Matthews said: "We have a group of extremely dedicated staff and children, led by Mrs Squelch, who develop and maintain our school’s beautiful garden areas.
"All children throughout the school have the opportunity on a regular basis to work in the gardens, with produce being used in the school's kitchen and any excess going to local businesses for use in their restaurants.
"The children also work with other community groups, with pupils regularly maintaining local war graves with the Friends of Darwen Cemetery.
"The RHS has recognised these achievements, placing Ashleigh as one of the top four finalists in the country."
The school now has to produce a 10-minute video showing the work it does in the gardens, which the judges will use to decide the winner of the RHS Gardening Team of the Year 2014.
They have already been awarded an engraved trowel, gardening gloves for each team member and £250 in National Garden gift vouchers.
And if the school wins the competition, it will receive a 3m by 6m greenhouse worth £1,855 and an extra £250 in gift vouchers, while a celebrity gardener will also spend a day at the winning school.
Mr Matthews said: "Well done to Mrs Squelch and her team and we will all keep fingers crossed for the finals."
The gardening team is also selling strawberry plants for 50p each which the children have grown from seed. Whitehall town councillor John East said:
"We are delighted Ashleigh has got to the final of this award.
"Special congratulations to Mrs Squelch for the outstanding work she has done and we look forward to the school's entry in the Whitehall in Bloom competition which has recently launched."
16th May 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Darwen war hero burial site confirmed
The grave in Darwen Cemetery
THE Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has updated its records to show that a First World War hero is buried in Darwen Cemetery.
Until recently, Fred Baron, who died on August 16, 1920, was recorded as being on the Brookwood Memorial at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.
Darwen historian Tony Foster said: "In early 2013, the Friends of Darwen Cemetery were contacted by the In From The Cold Project and we were able to confirm that Fred was buried in Darwen Cemetery on August 20, 1920.
"He was the son of John and Elizabeth Baron and had emigrated to Canada in 1908.
"On the outbreak of the war, he enlisted in the Canadian Forestry Corp 126 Batallion (2nd Quebec Regiment). He died in Lancaster."
The CWGC has now been updated and shows his final resting place as Darwen Cemetery.
The In From The Cold Project was formed to research and identify all servicemen and women missing from the official CWGC list of casualties from the First and Second World War.
The intention is that all soldiers will eventually get the full recognition their service deserves.
7th May 2014 (This is Lancashire)
Successful year for Darwen cemetery group
John East Chairman FODC
THE chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery says the group has achieved 'amazing' things in a short space of time.
John East gave a progress report to members of the group during their annual meeting at Darwen Academy.
He pointed out achievements such as new granite maps, the grave maintenance scheme, a new 'Muck Truck' and the recently-announced First World War memorial trench project.
He told members: "We said goodbye to secretary Rosemary Jackson and a great appreciation to Peter Van Dijk who took over.
"Our president, Col Steve Davies, has driven the First World War project and, along with a small working party, is confident of a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid.
"The footfall at the cemetery has certainly increased with more visitors caring for graves and supporting the friends.
"The website bring lots of hits and folk interested in the work that goes on with stories and information helpful to distant parties.
"All this in our short period time as a group has been amazing and we and the people of Darwen have demonstrated that a community can and does care for its cemetery and we look forward to another challenging and exciting year.
"I must commend the dedication, enthusiasm, passion and time that many of the friends have offered the cemetery. It must add up to many hundreds of man hours and volunteering time."
To Read Johns Chairman's Report click on the below link
Chairman's Report 2014
30th April 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Friends of Darwen Cemetery unveil vision of granite tribute to WW1 soldiers
Computer-generated image of how the 'trench' might look
FIRST World War soldiers from Darwen will be commemorated at an ambitious mock trench in the town's cemetery.
The Friends of Darwen Cemetery have unveiled the project as the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War approaches.
Still in the design stages, the group will commission a large granite 'trench', complete with firing step, which can be used as a bench for quiet contemplation while overlooking the town.
The Friends hope the project will be completed by next year, and have launched a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to pay for the £150,000 scheme.
The sides of the trench could be used for granite plaques to commemorate individual soldiers, and the Friends group bosses said the project would be flexible going forward.
Schools will also be encouraged to use the trench as an outdoor learning space.
Friends chairman John East said: "The First World War commemorations will go on for four years, and this is just one of a few projects we have in mind.
"We wanted to have things to keep us going, so we didn't run out of steam."
Col Steve Davies, president of the Friends, said: "School pupils and children are very much at the heart of everything we seek to do, with their thoughts and research very much guiding us at every stage of the journey.
"We have a number of organisations providing their services for free, and Blackburn with Darwen Council has been especially supportive."
Whitehall councillor David Foster said: "All power to the Friends of Darwen Cemetery for a fantastic initiative.
"They have done a really magnificent job, and it is a real innovation.
"It is a great commemoration that will be here for future generations to enjoy."
5th March 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Friends of Darwen Cemetery to host open day
Friends of Darwen Cemetery to host open day
THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery will host an open day on Saturday, from 10am to 1pm. The group, which carries out maintenance tasks in the western cemetery, is looking to recruit fresh volunteers. Activities will include talks on the history of the cemetery and its memorials, plus hedge trimming, path edging and other light duties, such as weeding.
The group is looking to recruit a grave maintenance crew and chief as well as general volunteers of all ages.
Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult. Potato pie and cheese pie lunches will be provided.
Meet at the Ashton Memorial - for information, call 07885 595189.
4th March 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Friends of Darwen Cemetery get new 'muck truck'
Terry Woods, of East Ribble District Freemasons, presents the funds to cemetery friends group members Colin Briggs, Jill Marr in the 'muck truck' and Mick Walsh
VOLUNTEERS who 'muck in' week in week out to help maintain Darwen Cemetery have received a welcome boost.
The Friends of Darwen Cemetery have bought a new 'muck truck' to help with restoration projects in the cemetery.
The vehicle is a remote controlled dumper truck, meaning waste material can be moved without the need for a wheelbarrow.
The East Lancashire Masonic Charity donated £2,650 to the group in order to fund the new machine.
John East, group chairman and a Whitehall town councillor, said: "The machine is basically a little tipper truck with a remote control, so nobody has to push it.
"It will probably be able to carry about three or four wheelbarrows worth of stuff.
"It means we can move stuff from one side of the cemetery to the other and it will make the labour intensive jobs a lot easier.
"We had been looking for one of these for a long while and then the Masons came and said they would buy one for us.
"We are so grateful for the donation, and the 'muck truck' will certainly make things a lot easy for the work parties."
Terry Woods, volunteer at the East Ribble District Freemasons, said: "It gave us great pleasure to present the cheque to the Friends of Darwen Cemetery.
"We offered to do some volunteering work and support the friends with some removal of rhododendrons during our visit."
And David Lightbown, district chairman of the East Lancashire Masons, who attended the presentation and helped the cemetery volunteers, told them: "It is clear that you all put much effort and work in.
"You should be very proud of yourselves.
"We will certainly spread the word about your work and hopefully get another work party together the near future."
War grave task for Darwen's young offenders
11th February 2014 (Lancashire Telegraph)
War grave task for Darwen's young offenders
THE war grave of a Darwen soldier killed near the end of the First World War has been adopted by a youth offenders team.
Blackburn with Darwen's Youth Justice Service has selected the grave of Lance Bombardier H A Haworth, to be maintained and looked after by young people who the service is helping to rehabilitate.
The young people involved in the project at Darwen Cemetery have gained knowledge about the young soldier whilst helping to maintain his grave and keep the surrounding area tidy.
Lance Bombardier Haworth, who died on October 27, 1918, has no traceable descendants and the grave adoption allows young people to maintain the grave to a high standard.
Coun Frank Connor, executive member for children’s services, said: "It is a testament to the hard work that is done by Blackburn with Darwen's Youth Justice Service that these young people have helped to look after this grave, maintaining it to the high standard it deserves, while learning about such an important point in our history as we approach the centenary of the First World War."
19th December 2013 (Lancashire Telegraph)
New maps boost for Darwen cemetery visitors
Brent Stevenson, John Jacklin and John East with one of the new granite cemetery maps
TWO granite maps helping people locate graves in Darwen Cemetery have been erected.
The maps were commissioned by Friends of Darwen Cemetery using a grant of £1,000 from the Lloyd Trust.
Blackburn stonemason firm Brent Stevenson Memorials carried out the work and the maps are near the cemetery’s two main entrances.
They point out the location of each of the cemetery's sections, making it easier to locate graves, and also feature pictures of previous works carried out by the friends group. A space has been left for a picture of the First World War commemoration, plans for which are to be unveiled in the new year.
John East, of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, said: "We are so grateful for the generosity of the Lloyd Trust grant. The granite maps will certainly give the many visitors an overview of the location of family graves.
"We have noticed a significant increase in people looking for family graves and many graves are now being re-erected and cared for. The friends have regular working parties and the cemetery is undergoing much renovation and reclamation. If somebody wanted to locate a grave and had no idea where it was, they can ring the borough council to find out, then use the map to find the right section."
John Jacklin, of the Lloyd Trust, said: "It was felt it was appropriate that people should be able to find their way around the cemetery."
11th November 2013 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Darwen Cemetery friends host Canadian visitor
THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery welcomed a special visitor all the way from Canada.
Prof Andre Kuczewski at a cross dedicated to a Canadian soldier in Darwen Cemetery
Prof Andrew Kuczewski, a retired professor formerly of McGill University in Montreal, paid a visit to the town as part of a tour of Canadian graves in the country.
He was then shown around the cemetery by historian Tony Foster before being given a tour of the town's most historic places, such as India Mill, by Friends of Darwen Cemetery chairman and town councillor John East.
Prior to that, Prof Kuczewski laid a wreath and Canadian flag on the cross of remembrance during the annual service for schoolchildren in the town on Friday.
Prof Kuczewski said he made a point of visiting Canadian graves whenever he was in the country.
He said: "It has always been important for me to visit cemeteries where there are Canadians buried.
"I always visit war graves when I am here in England.
"It is good to honour the memory of the people who left the comfort and security of Canada to make other people's troubles their own.
"Many went out and many did not come back.
"The tragedy is it could have been so easily prevented."
Prof Kuczewski, who is also chairman of the Uffington White Horse Society for the Study of British History and Culture, said he had enjoyed his visit to the town.
He said: "It was great to see Fred Dibnah's beloved India Mill chimney and the residence of Muhatma Gandhi when he visited the town.
"There is a great deal of history here, as with many other parts of Britain.
"I am familiar with the concept of friends groups in this country and in this case the Friends of Darwen Cemetery have done a great job preserving this place."
5th November 2013 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Tools given to Darwen cemetery group to replace stolen ones
GRAHAM Ardis made a wheely nice gesture when he donated tools to a friends group after they suffered a break-in.
Back from left, Mick Walsh, Peter Van Dijk, Alan Walton, Anne Lamont and kind-hearted Graham Ardis, with front from left, Kath Walsh and Jill Marr, and young George Ardis rests on the barrow
As reported in the Lancashire Telegraph, the Friends of Darwen Cemetery had to call off its fortnightly working party two weeks ago after discovering a shed had been broken into and tools stolen.
Having read the article on the newspaper's website, Mr Ardis, of The Sidings, Darwen, decided he could help out.
The insurance underwriter, who lives with his wife Jane and 10 year old son George, an Avondale Primary School pupil, decided to donate his old wheelbarrow to the group.
He said: "I had this old wheelbarrow that I no longer needed and I had wanted to get rid of.
"I have some great grandparents in the cemetery and the friends group does a lot of good work up there, so I thought I could donate it.
"It was better that way than throwing it away, at least they could get some use out of it.
"I was disgusted by the mindless break-in at the lock up and I just wanted to give a small token to help out.
"It isn't a massive gesture but they give up all their time up there so I thought it was the least I could do.
"I had an email conversation with the group chairman John East and I took it round at the weekend.
"They were very pleased to receive it."
Mr East said: "Despite the break-in, Darwen residents always demonstrate a true community spirit and desire to combat the anti-social part of our community.
"Graham and George have given the friends a boost with this community spirited gesture, for which we are very grateful."
22nd October 2013 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Darwen volunteers lose tools in 'disgraceful' cemetery theft
A VOLUNTEER group gave up their Saturday morning lie-in to carry out essential maintenance in Darwen Cemetery, only to find that their gardening tools and lawn mowers had been stolen.
Friends of Darwen Cemetery's 'Working Party' meet every fortnight to keep the cemetery clean, tidy and in good condition.
John East, chairman of Friends of Darwen Cemetery said: "We arrived as usual and saw that our lock-up had been broken into and our mowers and strimmers gone.
"Whoever did it had used bolt cutters and had obviously come prepared. There were smaller tools in the lock-up, such as trowels, but they remained untouched. It was very disappointing for us all.
"We are a community group and the work that we do is to benefit everyone and it's such a shame that some people don't see it that way."
A police spokeswoman said: "Between 2.15pm on Thursday, October 17 and 9.30am on Saturday, October 19, offenders approached the secure, un- attended shipping container in the grounds of the cemetery and forced a heavy duty padlock with bolt croppers or similar to removed property and then made off undetected."
The stolen equipment was a petrol driven commercial strimmer, worth £375, a grass strimmer worth £100, a lawn mower worth £300 and a wheelbarrow worth worth £60 meaning a total value of £835. The tools and equipment that they use to do this have all been either donated or paid for by fundraising events organised by the group. Executive member for environment Councillor Jim Smith said "I am deeply saddened to hear that Darwen Cemetery has been broken into. This theft is disgraceful.
"The police have been informed and I hope they are brought to justice quickly. We are working with the Friends of Darwen Cemetery group to potentially find them new a new container for their remaining tools.
"We can loan the friends group some of our equipment, but I stress this will not be kept on the site."
24th September 2013 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Photo competition launched by Friends of Darwen Cemetery Group
BUDDING photographers are being urged to take part in a competition by the Friends of Darwen Cemetery group.
The theme is stone memorials and the title 'Dead Art? Then and Now' requires participants to submit two photos of memorials that must be in stone.
The winner's prize is £1,000 and the runner up will be awarded a digital camera.
Entries must be received by September 30.
To enter, visit the websitewww.rememberforever.org.uk
23rd September 2013 (Lancashire Telegraph)
'The lone soldier' quest for Darwen man
THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery's Tony Foster is working on a booklet about soldiers buried in Commonwealth war graves in the town's old cemetery.
He is particularly keen to find information, and a photograph, of Pte Peter Farley, who lived in Entwistle Street, Darwen.
He was just 23 when he died in hospital in November,1916, after being wounded in the Great War.
Pte Farley, whose son Jimmy, a GPO telephonist, lived in Walmsley Street, is known among the friends' group as 'the lone soldier'.
His grave stands out in a large grassed Roman Catholic section, but is surrounded by unmarked paupers' graves.
Tony can be contacted on 0161 7642821.
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
17th September 2013 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Volunteers sought to help out at Darwen Cemetery
VOLUNTEERS are being sought to help carry out essential maintenance tasks at Darwen Cemetery.
The Friends of Darwen Cemetery hosts regular working parties, with the next one scheduled to take place on Saturday.
People of all abilities are encouraged to go along and help out, as various jobs can be carried out.
The group, chaired by Whitehall town councillor John East, will be working in the cemetery from 10am to 1pm
Warialda Soldier buried at Darwen
A poppy was placed on the grave of an Australian soldier in Darwen, Lancashire in England, who was actually born in Warialda.
Rosemary and Len Jackson were asked by their daughter Nicola, who now lives in Australia, to place a tribute on the war grave of Arthur Edmund Ward in Darwen Old Cemetery to commemorate Anzac Day on 25 April.
Nicola was in England at Christmas and was interested to find an Australian soldier was buried in the cemetery. On her return to Australia she decided to research the soldier who died at the home of his cousins, the Leaches.
Alfred Edmund Ward (Ernest) was born in Warialda, New South Wales, Australia in 1885. His parents were John and Henrietta Ward.
Although he was born at Warialda it is doubtful he spent much time growing up here as he is documented as attending school at Cleveland Street Public School, Sydney. This school is in the suburb of Surry Hills where he resided at a boarding house belonging to Mrs Evelyn McCullough of 130 Devonshire Street, before he enlisted in the AIF age 30.
Prior to enlisting he worked as a labourer but it is known that before this he worked in a circus as a 'rough-rider, cowboy'and in his military records it states 'he is believed to be one of the smartest at these performances'. He toured with the circus both within the Commonwealth and South Africa where he was possibly stationed during the Boer War. During the Boer War he served with the NSW Imperial Bushmen Unit and must have only been 16 years old when he listed.
In 1918, Ernest decided to visit family in England and stay with his cousin J H Leech. It was whilst he was on leave in Darwen that he succumbed to influenza pneumonia and died at Vale Mount House, Spring Vale (the home of his cousin J H Leech) on 1st December 1918. He was accorded a full Military Funeral with a firing party, bugler and pall bearers.
2nd May 2010 (Darwen Reporter)
Friends of Darwen Cemetery Photo Appeal
The Friends of Darwen Old Cemetery are appealing for help from locals in locating photos of the three Chapels of Rest that once used to stand in the cemetery grounds.
Local historian and member of the group, Tony Foster said that the cemetery once had 3 chapels - one for Church of England, another for the Nonconformists and the third one for Roman Catholics
Tony said: "We've already searched records at Darwen Library for photographs without success.
"And we're now wondering if any local historians may have any. We are building extensive archives of the cemetery and they wouldn't be complete without including these buildings which were very important at the time."
Tony can be contacted via email on: email@example.com
26th Apr 2010 (Darwen Reporter)
Darwen Cemetery "Adopt A War Grave"
Volunteers prepared to "adopt a grave" are being sought in a campaign to improve the burial plots of fallen war heroes in Darwen Old Cemetery.
Friends of Darwen Old Cemetery, wants locals to help tend some of the 97 graves of Commonwealth soldiers.
Rosemary Jackson, secretary of the newly-formed group, said: "We are hoping families or organisations will get involved and adopt a grave to help with the upkeep.
"All we ask is that the grave is visited on a regular basis and people are welcome to plant flowers or place floral tributes.
"The headstones of the graves are the responsibility of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and they clean and maintain them.
"If anyone is keen to adopt a particular grave we will do our best to accommodate them."
The group are also involved in working towards restoring and rejuvenating the cemetery as a whole.
The volunteers recently suffered a set back to their efforts when thieves stole work tools from their storage shed.
24 April 2010 (The Citizen / Lancashire Telegraph)
Kids join Darwen Cemetery clean-up
Brothers Tom and Jake Kay joined 40 volunteers who started the big weekend clean-up at Darwen Cemetery, organised by the newly-formed Friends group.
The boys have now decided to adopt one of the many war graves and have promised to keep it tidy.
The next clean-up is on Saturday, May 8.
The Friends have also launched a new website to keep members up to date with restoration activities.
Chaired by town councillor John East, the group, known as FODC, hope to restore and re-erect fallen headstones, keep the grassed areas tidy, and create a dedicated ashes-scattering site.
Members are also looking for donations of new equipment.
20th April 2010 (Darwen Reporter)
Callous Thieves Steal From Darwen Cemetery Friends Group
The Friends of Darwen Old Cemetery have suffered a set back in their efforts to tidy up the historic cemetery after callous thieves broke into their store shed and stole tools vital for the job.
Group secretary Rosemary Jackson said that the newly-formed group were upset to discover this week that a wheelbarrow, spades, shovels, and small hand tools were missing.
She said: "I think the thieves were hoping to find power tools as they went to a lot of trouble to break in.
"All equipment is marked FDOC so we would urge anyone who came across tools with this marking to get in touch with the local police.
"Unfortunately our funds are very low at the moment so it will be difficult to replace the equipment.
"But there is a lot of goodwill in the group and we are determined to make a difference so we will carry on the best we can."
She added: "We've just launched a website and if anyone would like to donate to help us buy new equipment we would be grateful." Visit: www.darwencemetery.org.uk.
Darwen Old Cemetery is home to the graves of 90 commonwealth soldiers and also many former industrialists who helped shape the town in the 19th century.
12 April 2010 (Darwen Reporter)
Friends Group Start Clean Up Of Darwen Cemetery
Friends of Darwen Old Cemetery spent last Saturday cleaning up sections of the cemetery as part of a wider plan to see it restored to its former glory.
Rosemary Jackson, secretary of the group, said that all members were pleased with how well the day went and that they had got a lot of work done.
She said: "We had 30 volunteers turn up. Some worked on the round flower bed that we hope will become a Memorial garden while others did litter picking as part of the Big Tidy Up (part of Keep Britain Tidy)
"And for the latter reason that's why some of us were wearing green tabards."
The next meeting of the group is 7.00pm, Wednesday 28th April at Bolton Road United Reformed Church. All welcome.
08 April 2010 (Darwen Reporter)
Darwen Old Cemetery Facebook Group
The Friends of Darwen Cemetery have set up a Facebook group to muster local support for their plans to rejuvenate the historic old Eastern cemetery.
The newly-formed group which is a registered charity also hopes the Facebook page will serve as a place to discuss ideas about the cemetery's future and encourage the community to get more involved.
One of the ideas the group intend to put forward for approval to the local council is to establish a dedicated spot where ashes can be scattered.
Currently only burial of ashes is allowed in both the old and new cemetery.
Rosemary Jackson, secretary of the group, said this week in an interview with the Lancashire Telegraph: "Our first target is to clean up all the litter and dead leaves which are everywhere.
"Then we hope to develop a small, secluded circular area to the west of section C into a flower bed and an area where ashes can be scattered. At the moment there is nothing like it anywhere in either cemetery.
"Nothing's been done with the flower beds for many years, and we feel that it would be a perfect location.
"Although a lot of work needs doing on the site, it is actually a very nice place."
The group are starting the first of series of clean-ups at the cemetery starting this coming Saturday at 10am. Further sessions will be held on the second Saturday of each month.
The cemetery is home to the graves of 90 commonwealth soldiers and also many former industrialists who helped shape the town in the 19th century. But over the decades it's suffered badly from neglect and erosion.
In recent times Blackburn with Darwen council has also dropped many headstones for health and safety reasons.
06 April 2010 (The Citizen/Lancashire Telegraph)
Ashes to be scattered in Darwen for first time
A dedicated ashes scattering site could soon be available for the first time in Darwen.
Currently rules state that ashes can only be buried in both of the town's cemeteries.
But the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, who are working to rejuvenate the old eastern site, want to create a flower garden for families to use.
The area under consideration is known as section C, which runs from just inside the main entrance south to the Ashton memorial - close to where the former Church of England Chapel used to stand.
Rosemary Jackson, secretary of the newly-formed group, said: "Our first target is to clean up all the litter and dead leaves which are everywhere.
"Then we hope to develop a small, secluded circular area to the west of section C into a flower bed and an area where ashes can be scattered.
"At the moment there is nothing like it anywhere in either cemetery.
"Nothing's been done with the flower beds for many years, and we feel that it would be a perfect location.
"Although a lot of work needs doing on the site, it is actually a very nice place."
Councillor John East, chairman of the group, said: "Our proposal is to have a little flower garden that people can come and scatter ashes and contemplate.
"We hope to get the children of St Barnabas Primary School and Ashleigh Primary School as well as brownies and scouts to help out with the planting, and also we hope to get a donation of benches."
Peter Hunt, who is the director of regeneration and environment, said: "We welcome this proposal and we are working with the Friends group to bring about improvements to the cemetery.
"While there is not yet an official ashes plot in Darwen Cemetery there are recognised plots within Pleasington Cemetery."
The plans are part of a wider community clean-up project that starts this Saturday at 10am.
Further sessions will be held on the second Saturday of each month.
Tools and equipment will be available, but volunteers are asked to bring their own brushes, rakes and cutters.
Eventually the group hope to clean and re-erect fallen gravestones and begin historical tours of the site in conjunction with local schools and history societies.
The next meeting of the group is on Wednesday, April 28, at 7pm at Bolton Road United Reformed Church.
12 March 2010 (Lancashire Telegraph)
New Darwen Cemetery Group Launches
A new action group has been launched to restore Darwen Cemetery.
More than 30 people toured the cemetery, led by local historian Harold Heys, and Tony Foster, president of the Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society.
It was the official launch of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery group, which aims to work with the borough council and local agencies.
The next meeting is at Bolton Road United Reformed Church on March 17 at 7pm
9th of March 2010 (Lancashire Telegraph)
Darwen Cemetery friends plea for restoration help
The Friends of Darwen Cemetery will approach local schools, history associations and the Probation Service for help in restoring the site.
The group, chaired by Whitehall town councillor John East, aims to renovate the site which has fallen into disrepair.
John East is also keen to see Blackburn with Darwen Council's Cotton Town website involved in the restoration as a resource where residents can easily trace their family tree.
One request to help has come from a Runshaw College student taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.
The group meets on March 6 at 10.30am at Darwen Cemetery Gates for a tour of the site.
25th August 2009 (This is Lancashire/ Lancashire Telegraph)
Anger at overgrown state of war graves at Darwen cemetery
COUNCIL bosses have been slammed for letting the final resting place of 90 soldiers turn into an overgrown mess.
They have been accused of a lack of respect for the dead over the neglected state of Darwen Old Cemetery.
The majority of graves are covered in weeds and long grass, surrounded by civilian graves laid flat by the controversial topple testing health-and-safety policy. One of the worst affected graves is that of Staff Sergeant Frank Heathcote of the Royal Army Ordinance Corps.
He was killed on August 1st aged 28. His grave is over-run by three-foot high grass and weeds.
Another is the grave of Thomas Henry Orrell, a First Class Aircraftsman of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He died on January 21, 1944 aged 54.
The grave of Private W Bending of the East Lancashire Regiment is similarly over-run and neglected.
He was killed on July 24, 1917 aged 26, leaving behind a wife, Agnes, at 17 Sydney Street, Darwen.
The War Graves Commission visits the site every 18 months to two years to carry out maintenance work.
Councillors and war veterans have hit out at the council for letting the area become so overgrown in between these visits.
Council bosses said the cemetery was on a 'continuous cycle of mowing'.
Darwen Town councillor John East, a historian who is leading the clean-up campaign, said: "As we approach Remembrance Day and with the passing of the last First World War veteran, there has been a lot of concern about the state of Darwen Old Cemetery.
"It needs a vast amount of improvement and several people are concerned about the respect being shown to the dead servicemen.
"We are looking after the living, but we also need to look after the dead and show them our respect."
Mr East has joined forces with councillors Stephen Duncan, Karimeh Foster and David Foster over the issue.
They want to form an action group aiming to get people to adopt a grave and maintain it and plan to work with the Princes Trust, the Parks Department at the council, the Civic Society, Friends of Whitehall Park, the Royal British Legion and local schools.
Whitehall councillor Karimeh Foster said: "I am concerned about the terrible state of the cemetery."
Marilyn Bysh of Darwen Civic Society said: "The old cemetery is in a bad way. If these graves were in a war cemetery they would be looked after properly.
"Just because they’re old doesn't meant that the council shouldn't maintain them."
Coun David Foster, deputy leader of the borough council and a Darwen councillor, acknowledged the problems, but said "it was never going to be a number one priority for the council".
"However, I think we need to look at ways to keep it looking decent, and a 'Friends Of' group is one way of doing this", he said.
Every November the British Legion place a poppy on each grave of first and second world war soldiers.
President of the Darwen branch of the Royal British Legion, Bryan Thompson, said: "It's important that we keep the graves in a good condition to respect the war dead.
"Most of our members are in their 70s, so we're not able to be as physically active as we once were, but I should think the council have a responsibility to maintain them.
"I know that the War Graves Commission comes to inspect them every so often and if they're not acceptable, then whoever is meant to be in charge gets the bullet."
Peter Hunt, director of regeneration and environment at the council, said Darwen Cemetery was more hilly than others in the borough so staff had to use strimmers to cut the grass back.
This meant it took longer to cover the whole of the cemetery, he said.
Mr Hunt said gardeners last visited the cemetery last week to cut back some of the most hilly parts.
He could not confirm how often Darwen was cut compared to other areas because they said it was on a "continuous cycle".
Mr Hunt said: "We recognise that this is an important service and will continue the mowing programme throughout the rest of the season."