Celebrating the first burial

The sun came out and the cemetery was looking as good as it has done for 30 years or more as the Friends of Darwen Cemetery marked the pauper’s grave of the first interment at the cemetery – exactly 150 years on. There is now a marble marker on the grave of 15-month-old Richard Hurst Eccles of Red Earth Mount. He had died of “teething”, a common cause of death in the mid-Victorian days.

The unveiling ceremony was done by the Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen, Councillor Karimeh Foster and Lord Darwen, fourth Baronet Paul Davies who had traveled up from his home near Oxford together with his uncle Stephen and sister Sarah.

After the ceremony, attended by some 60 people, three members of the local clergy gave blessings – the Rev. Andrew Holiday for the Church of England, Fr Peter Wilkinson, representing the Roman Catholic Church and the Rev Geoff Tolley representing the United Reformed Church.

Earlier in the afternoon, Lord Darwen and his relatives enjoyed a very interesting tour of the town. Tony Foster and I showed them round the houses and mills the Davies family used to own. They saw Waterfield mill and the site of Greenfield Mill. They toured Garden Village which was built for their workers by the Davies family just before the Great War, and they saw houses such as Heatherfield, Woodside Bank and Moorthorpe before visiting the family vault and the top of Section C.

Mrs David Marsh made the party very welcome at Moorthorpe and she showed them the deeds of the house that revealed that two of Lord Darwen’s forefathers had lived there around 100 years ago.

I spoke on Gandhi’s visit to Darwen – he had been invited by Percy Duckworth, the first Baron Darwen – and the later history of the family. Chairman John East presented him with a folder containing a lot of the Davies history from 100 years of involvement with the town.On the following morning John showed them Duckworth Street UR Church and they had coffee and biscuits with the Mayor and her consort, Councillor David Foster, in her parlour at Blackburn Town Hall.

Lord Darwen, who succeeded to the title only the week before his visit, on the death of his father Roger, lives near Oxford with his wife and children. His company designs and manufactures sustainable housing.

In a gracious speech at the dinner he thanked everyone for making his visit such a resounding success. He said he and his sister and uncle had thoroughly enjoyed their brief visit and he warmly complimented the Friends on all the hard work they had done to brighten up the cemetery.

Harold Heys June 2011
Photographs by Paul Dargan & Rosemary Jackson