In the Press

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Moving story of Darwen’s own poet of the First World War

26th August 2021 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Corporal Charlie Skeels

Local historian Harold Heys looks at Darwen’s own ‘bard of the trenches’

IT’S difficult to imagine a Tommy in the trenches knocking out poetry amid the horrors of mustard gas and machine guns, shells and shrapnel.

Some of the officers, Sassoon and Brooke, Owen and McCrae among them, are remembered more than a century later for a wonderfully rich vein of poetry.

But an ordinary Tommy? Not really.

Charlie Skeels wrote poetry in the most arduous of circumstances; in the trenches around the Belgian killing fields of Ypres, in prison camps and in hospitals.

However, it was his wife, Lily Anne, who made wartime headlines when she was chosen to visit him in Switzerland together with other wives and sweethearts who were taken there for touching reunions as their menfolk slowly recovered from their wounds.

The story of the Darwen couple’s meeting has been told in the Lancashire Telegraph’s nostalgia columns, but not his penchant for poetry.

This story of his scribblings was found in the archives of the Darwen News by fellow historian Tony Foster. I thought it worth another airing over 100 years on.

Several of his poems were published in the newspaper, none of them complaining, none looking back to ill-treatment or privations but more endearing and self-effacing.

One I particularly liked is addressed to folk back home and encourages them to write to those in distress to cheer them up a bit. It sets the scene of “home” and goes on:

Just think of those in foreign lands,

In prison camps that lie,

Their vision blurred by foemen’s steel,

Beneath the summer sky.

High boards around the dwelling place

Barbed wire on every side.

And with a dull monotony,

The days do slowly glide.

Weary and worn, with longings vain

For freedom, they do pine,

As on parade their names are called,

To form a fal’tring line.

Just think how anxiously they wait,

For news of those so dear.

So don’t forget to send along

A line their hearts to cheer.

Charlie Skeels, born in Whitworth and married in Bacup, worked as a blacksmith in Darwen between service in the army. He was only a little chap, barely 5ft 4ins.

He first served in the army in the Boer War and, with the arrival of the Great War in August, 1914, he left his home in Junction Street, Darwen, and rejoined his regiment, the 2nd Cheshires.

He was wounded at Ypres and, after months in a prison camp at Giessen, north of Frankfurt, he was taken to recover in the Swiss Alps.

It wasn’t an act of kindness; Germany hadn’t enough food for its own men, let alone war prisoners.

Corporal Skeels wrote poetry as he and his pals were moved into neutral Switzerland which was happy to take them.

Here are just a couple of stanzas from that long journey and the welcome from the local folk which so raised spirits:

The whistle sounds, the train is moving

Banished now all fear and care,

As we hear the smiling people

Shouting: “Vive l’Angleterre!”

And later:

Health and comfort now await us

And our earnest wish is this;

That the glorious Flag of Freedom

Long may wave o’er loyal Suisse!

Charlie Skeels died on the eve of the Second World War and is buried in Darwen old cemetery. He would have been the last to claim any particular literary merit for his poetry, but he would have been happy to be remembered now for his enthusiastic efforts.

Until a few years ago I used to give a variety of hour-long illustrated talks to local groups around East Lancashire for hospice charities.

My favourite was Poetry of the Great War. I never once got to the end without a tear trickling down a cheek. I regret not giving Charlie a passing mention…

Charles Skeels is buried in Darwen Western Cemetery in Section 4. Plot No 732

Darwen Cemetery’s lawn mower donation will help restoration

31st May 2021 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Alan Haslam, Kath Walsh. Peter Van Dijk, Anne Lamont, Linda Van Dijk

A COMMUNITY cemetery group has bought a new lawn mower thanks to a donation.

The donation from Darwen’s Lloyd Trust has helped The Friends of Darwen Cemetery purchase a new lawn mower to support the Groups restoration, preservation and development of the cemetery.

The group work on different sections and welcome relatives and friends to help volunteer in this restoration work.

Working in partnership with Blackburn with Darwen Council the group has spent years renovating graves and features.

The mower will be used by volunteer Anne Lamont who has single handily restored just one section spectacularly. Other groups work on other areas.

Mrs Lamont said: “I just love restoring graves and maintaining the wonderful heritage of Darwen Cemetery.

“The mower Donated by the Lloyd trust will make a real difference to the restoration and I just think it’s fantastic what the group have achieved.”

Anyone wishing to volunteer, please via FODC website

The child mill worker who became the ‘Lancashire Giant’

10th April 2021 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Sir David Shackleton pictured during retirement at St Annes

DAVID SHACKLETON started work as a child, and was running three loom in the mills of the Rossendale Valley when he was 13. He grew from such humble beginnings to become, to quote the title of his biography, “The Lancashire Giant” (Ross M Martin).

Shackleton was born in Alma Terrace, Cloughfold, off the Waterfoot road out of Rawtenstall and though his early education was rather rudimentary, he was keen enough to walk to night school at Haslingden and was bright enough to start teaching textile workers basic accounting.

He moved to Accrington, married Sarah, and became active in the Accrington Weavers’ Association. He was sacked for his union activities and was out of work for over four months. Sarah had to put bread on the table.

He became Darwen Weavers’ Union secretary and joined the town council the following year. They lived in Victoria Street and London Terrace.

They were interesting times in politics with the first stirrings of the Labour Party. Keir Hardie (Merthyr Tydfil) and Richard Bell (Derby) had won seats at the 1900 General Election, both with tacit Liberal support.

Two years later David Shackleton won a by-election at Clitheroe unopposed. In 1905 he became Chairman of the National Labour Party and was in Parliament for eight years. He was a champion of women’s suffrage and the trade union movement. He was interested in education, the old age pensions and working conditions.

In 1910 he was appointed Labour Adviser to the Home Office by Winston Churchill and in 1916 he became Permanent Secretary to the newly-created Ministry of Labour.

The switch didn’t go down too well with his Party colleagues and the Left-wing Press, and that’s probably the reason why David Shackleton’s name isn’t easy to find in the political archives.

The family moved from Darwen to Golders Green, London, where he and Sarah and their growing family lived in a house they called “Sunnyhurst” after, he explained, his favourite spot “back home in Darwen.”

This second career, in 1910, took him to the summit of the British civil service and to active participation in the deliberations of Lloyd George’s War Cabinet. It was a far cry from working as a child in the mills.

He became “the first Labour Knight” in 1917 – after twice declining the award.

In 1921 he lost out in bitter in-fighting at the ministry and soon afterwards he and Sarah returned to the North to live at Beach Road, St Annes.

Sir David Shackleton was renowned as a big man, about 6ft 2in and 17 or 18st. He was a staunch teetotaller and non-smoker and died at St Annes in 1938 at the age of 74. He is buried in Darwen old cemetery.

• The grave has taken a battering during the winter. Rossendale and Darwen Labour Party have made a donation of £100 to the Friends of Darwen Cemetery to clean and renovate it once lockdown has ended.

Darwen WW1 soldier’s grave recognised for the first time

10th November 2020 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Left Kevin Shaw and sister Wynn Godwin next to the Farnhill family grave

The family of an East Lancashire soldier who served in the First World War have been able to pay tribute to their brave ancestor for the first time.

John Farnhill’s grandchildren Wynn Godwin and her brother Kevin Shaw were able to lay a flag on the 39-year-old driver’s grave as The Friends of Darwen Cemetery held its annual Children’s Remembrance Service on Friday.

This year, because of Coronavirus restrictions, the yearly laying of crosses and flags on more than 100 Commonwealth War Graves in The Western Cemetery by local youngsters could not take place, so a representative laid a wreath at its Memorial Wall.

For the last few months historian Tony Foster, chairman of FODC, has been researching soldiers who are buried in Darwen Cemetery but are not recognised by a war grave.

As a result of this work, the graves of the East Lancashire Regiment’s Private Squire Howarth and Driver John Farnhill from the Army Service Corps were located and marked after being accredited by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Details of the final resting place of Driver Farnhill, a father-of-five from Astley Street in Darwen, were given to his family who last week joined the commemorative service.

His two grandchildren now tend his grave and were able to lay the flag for the first time on their relative’s remains.

Mrs Godwin said: “Without Tony Foster’s work our family would not know where our grandad was buried. We are so grateful to the FODC who place flags and poppies each year.”

Driver Farnhill served in the Boer War where he suffered a hand injury, joined up for the First World War in 1915 and was invalided out before joining up again in 2017. He was finally repatriated with tuberculosis caught in the trenches from which he died at home in December 1918.

Relatives of mill worker Pte Haworth, who received two medals and died after being gassed at the Battle of Ypres, have yet to be traced.

Mr Foster said: “This year the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has formally recognised two casualties from the First World War, Private Squire Haworth and Driver John Farnhill.

Darwen soldier who kept going back for more is remembered

3rd July 2020 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Back Astley Street, Darwen, where John Farnhill lived

Darwen historian Tony Foster reveals more about a persistent war hero

John Farnhill in uniform

THERE were heroes aplenty in the Great War. Most were recognised with a medal; some just faded away. Few were as determined to do their bit as Darwen lad John Farnhill.

He was wounded in the Boer War and struggled with serious illnesses almost throughout the Great War. Not many soldiers would have been discharged as medically unfit three times.

He was just 19 when he signed up with the East Lancs Regiment and saw action in the Boer War. After two years in the thick of the fighting he was discharged as medically unfit for the first time after sustaining a badly deformed left hand from a bullet wound.

He married a Darwen lass, Mary Elizabeth Gavagan, and worked as a labourer at the paper mill close to his home in Astley Street.

But he missed the adventure and the danger.

As soon as the Great War erupted he tried to sign up, but they took one look at his mangled hand and turned him down flat. By the following February things were getting desperate.

Aged 35, he tried again. This time they ignored his disability and a month later he was in France as a driver with the Army Service Corps.

Later that year he was admitted to hospital suffering from severe lumbago and in November he was back in hospital with tuberculosis.

He was very ill for several months before, in June 1916, he was discharged from the Army a second time.

He had been left very weak but his determination to have another crack was undimmed. In late November 1917, he again joined the ASC and a few weeks later he qualified as a lorry driver.

In early April 1918, he began coughing up blood. He was short of breath. He was weak and had lost weight. The TB that had hit him two years earlier had returned.

He was sent back to England in August 1918, as the Germans were on the run after their final offensive earlier that year had collapsed.

John Farnhill wasn’t going anywhere though and he spent several weeks in a military hospital in London where his condition was assessed as being “attributable to active service in France.”

He was discharged from the Army for the third time in early October and spent the next two months at home where he died on December 4, 1918, a couple of weeks after the Armistice. He was 39.

Mary was left to bring up five children. Her sister Margaret had married John’s brother Edward and they had 16 children.

Their great nephew Albert Gavagan, secretary of Darwen Heritage Centre, wrote to the Commonwealth War Graves Commmission who have now agreed that Driver Farnhill should have an official headstone over his grave in Darwen’s old cemetery.

There can’t be many soldiers who have been discharged from the Army three times. He is certainly one hero who shouldn’t be allowed to just fade away.

Heroines of First World War who all made Darwen proud

14th May 2020 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen lost more than 1,300 men in the Great War. And three women.

Local historian Tony Foster told the story of one of them, Emily Jenkins who joined the mercantile marine and was killed after the steamer Aguila was torpedoed in the Irish Sea, a couple of years ago.

And today he picks up the stories of the other two, Mary Betsy Walsh and Elizabeth Annie Challinor.

Emily died in the icy waters of the Western Approaches off the Pembroke Coast in March, 1915 when her ship’s lifeboat in which she had sought refuge was blasted by shellfire from a U-boat.

Emily and her family had left Liverpool for Darwen when she was a child and they lived on Kelvin Street.

She became a weaver and had been a voluntary nurse at Moss Bridge Hospital before joining the Mercantile Marine as a stewardess.

Mary and Elizabeth both died of Spanish flu in London towards the end of the war. Mary was a cook with the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps and Elizabeth was a staff nurse with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service.

Mary was born in Darwen, but Elizabeth was born in Oldham. The family moved to Darwen when she was a youngster.

They were both in their late 20s when they died; Emily was a few years older.

Mary was born at Holme Street, where Sainsbury’s car park now stands, and the family moved to Hacking Street. She was a weaver at Vale Street Mill. When her father died in 1914 she went to live with an aunt and uncle on Ratcliffe Street.

She joined the QMAAC in May, 1918 and, after completing her training as a cook – her rank was “worker” – she transferred to the Corps’ HQ at the Connaught Club in London. She developed pneumonia and died in Endell Street Military Hospital in Covent Garden in late June.

Her body was brought back to Darwen and she is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave in Darwen’s old cemetery, Section 2, just off the northerly curve from Lark Street.

Endell Street Hospital became famous as the only military hospital staffed entirely by women.

It was a great success, acknowledged as one of the best of all the war hospitals in London. It was demolished soon after the war.

Elizabeth and her family moved to Greenway Street, Darwen. Her mother died giving birth in 1904 and her father was left with six children.

Elizabeth was a health visitor in Darwen and, as the war raged, she trained as a nurse at Manchester Infirmary and offered herself for military service.

She was a staff nurse at a military hospital in Aldershot when she was taken ill in mid-October. She just had time to write to her family saying she was all right. “It’s nothing”, she wrote. Elizabeth died two days later.

Her father and most of the family had moved to Guildford, Surrey and she was buried there in a CWG in late October.

Darwen soldier’s grave to be recognised over 100 years on

19th February 2020 (Lancashire Telegraph)

The memorial to those who fell in the world wars at the Central United Reformed Church. Squire’s name is towards the bottom of the first column

PRIVATE Squire Haworth, who has lain in an unmarked grave in Darwen Cemetery for over 100 years, has finally been recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

He will now have his own memorial, in Portland stone, and he will be the 100th member of the armed forces to be so recognised in the town’s old cemetery.

The honour is due to the diligence and determination of Tony Foster, chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery and a well-known local historian.

He explained: “I came across the story of Private Haworth when researching the story of another Great War soldier and was intrigued, probably because of his unusual Christian name. After several month’s work, I persuaded the war graves executive that he should finally be recognised.

“I didn’t realise at first that he would be the 100th Darwen lad in the old cemetery to be granted the honour. It’s quite a landmark for us – and a fitting memorial for him.”

Squire was born in Hacking Street, Darwen on January 29, 1891, the son of Squire Haworth and Mary. The family later moved to Hutchinson Court and by the time of the 1911 census they were living at 180 Duckworth Street. Squire was a reacher-in in a local cotton mill.

In April, 1915 he joined the East Lancashire Regiment and six weeks later he was posted to France. It was towards the end of the Second Battle of Ypres, the encounter in which the Germans first used poisonous gas as a weapon of mass destruction.

It was shortly after this battle that Squire started to complain of weakness and excessive thirst and his Army record shows he was suffering from diabetes. He was returned to England in February, 1916 and discharged on medical grounds the following month.

He returned to Darwen where he died in a diabetic coma in June. He was awarded two medals but his name wasn’t included in the CWGC’s Roll of Honour.

However, his home town did not forget him and his name was put on the elegant brass war memorial in Duckworth Street Congregational Church, now the Central United Reformed Church.

Mr Foster says it will take several months for burial details to be checked and verified, but a short ceremony is planned to mark the unveiling.

Meanwhile, the search for a photo of Pte Haworth goes on. Says Tony: “We have been very successful in recent years tracing photos of our war dead, but we aren’t making any headway with Squire.”

Chance for families in Darwen to find long lost graves

16th October 2019 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Families who want help to find the long lost graves of their relatives are being invited to attend a ‘find a grave’ event.

Held in Darwen’s Western Cemetery, by the volunteer group, Friends of  Darwen Cemetery, the event will help re-unite people with their family history.

Chair of Friends of Darwen Cemetery, Tony Foster said: “This is an opportunity for local residents to find lost relatives buried in Darwen’s Western Cemetery.

“Just bring along some basic information and friends of the cemetery will try to locate the grave site.”

The event is being held on Saturday October 19 from 10.30am until 12.30pm.

Anyone wishing to attend should meet at the Cross of Sacrifice within the cemetery.

Cemetery on look out for adoptees

7th August 2019 (Lancashire Telegraph)

The Friends of Darwen cemetery are on the look out for adoptees from community groups, schools, and faith and youth organisations.

Diane Davies who coordinates the scheme said: “Darwen cemetery has more than 100 war graves, most in the western cemetery section.

“Around 70 are from WW1 and the others from WW2 and other conflicts.

“We are proud that many have been looked after with tender loving care. However we need 15 new adoptees to help care for the rest.

“Darwen had 1300 casualties in WW1 and over 200 in WW2. so it’s only right that local residents care and remember them in this special way.”

Potential adoptees can apply to Diane by emailing

Invite to find a family grave in Darwen

4th July 2019 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Families who think the relatives are buried in Darwen’s Western Cemetery can search for their final resting place on Saturday July 13.

The historic burial ground will host a ‘Find A Grave Day’ from 10.30am to 1pm.

It si organised by the Friends of Darwen Cemetery.

Residents and visitors can arrive on the day to try to discover the grave of long-lost relatives buried there

It’s a free event but donations would be welcome.

Friends group chair and local historian Tony Foster said: “We ask for as much detail as possible to help find a grave.

“Name, date of death and other relatives that could be interred in family graves would be useful. If you can supply detail in advance it would be helpful.”

Details of the event can be found on the group’s Facebook page and at its website.

Interest people can contact Mr Foster at email

From Darwen to see the world recorded on gravestones.

28th May 2019 (Lancashire Telegraph)

 Robert Critchley Haworth

THE tales of two intrepid Darwen men who crossed continents have been uncovered in the town’s original burial ground by historian Tony Foster.

He told me: “Every gravestone has a story to tell. Some stories are more interesting and fascinating than others. Two such gravestone that tell of deaths in foreign parts can be found in Darwen’s Western Cemetery.”

The first discovery is the tale of Joseph Eccles’s Russian adventures while the second is story of Robert Critchley Haworth’ death in Mexico.Mr Foster said: “Joseph Eccles was born in Darwen in 1841, the son of Andrew and Martha Eccles, and by the time he was 20 he was working as a millwright. In 1868 he married Margaret Ann Catterall and they had had three children, Joseph Ernest, Lilly Hetty and Mary, all born in Darwen. Shortly after Mary’s birth in 1870 he learnt that they required millwrights in Russia and along with his family he left his hometown. He first arrived in St Petersburg where a son, Edgar Ethelbert ,was born in 1877. A further two children were born in Russia before Joseph died in 1887 at Uglitch some 650Km (400 miles) east of St Petersburg. His wife and children returned to Darwen.

“The other gravestone is that of Robert Critchley Haworth who died April 9, 1923 at Hermosillo, Mexico. What is hard to believe is that his body was brought back to Darwen for burial in the town’s cemetery. Robert was born in 1868 and he married Jane Roberts in 1894 and they had three children. By 1923 he was a successful businessman associated with a number of Darwen and Blackburn cotton businesses – partner of Haworth & Smith Ltd, cotton waste merchants of Cotton Hall Mill, Darwen; director and chairman of James Halliwell (Darwen) Ltd of George Street Mill, Darwen. He was also associated with T Kenyon and Co. Blackburn and the Albert Spinning Co. Darwen.

“On March 10, 1923 he sailed from Liverpool on the SS Celtic with his business partner John Thomas Lonsdale, of Southport, and they arrived in New York nine days later. They were on a two-month commercial venture and from New York they made their way to Nogales, Arizona where they stayed with their friend, Mr Sidebottom. From Arizona both Robert and John spent sometime in Mexico. Whilst in Mexico Robert ate some food that was ‘off’ which resulted in his death. The family wanted his body returned home and it arrived in Darwen, accompanied by Mr Sidebottom, on April 28, 1923 (a distance of nearly 6,000 miles), and he was buried on the following Monday. Over 100 people attended the funeral.”

Friends of Darwen Cemetery to meet

29th April 2019 (Lancashire Telegraph)

THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery will be holding their annual meeting on Wednesday.

It will take place at at 7pm at the Darwen Heritage Centre, Holker House in Railway Road in the town.

The meeting will include a showing the completed video of the ceremony that took place on July 1 2018 marking the opening of the First World War War Memorial that the Friends built in the Cemetery.

There will also be an opportunity to purchase the book ‘Darwen Remembers’ that give the biographic details of the conflict’s casualties buried in the cemetery.

Interested members of the public welcome to attend and find out more about FODC so please come along.

Saved Darwen church war memorial listed by Historic England

29th July 2018 (Lancashire Telegraph)

A TOWN war memorial saved from being moved 100 miles to Staffordshire has been listed for special protection by Historic England.

The Park Road Methodist Church’s War Memorial, which has the names of 15 members of the congregation who died in the First World War, was the subject a successful campaign to to keep it in Darwen in 2003/2004.

The 15 foot-high stone monument stood outside the church after it closed in 1989 and is now located opposite the Cross of Sacrifice in Darwen Western Cemetery.

The Grade II listing means that the memorial cannot be moved or altered without the consent of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council which would have to consult Historic England before approving any changes.

After the church was sold the new owner converted the building into a workshop and private home.

In 2003, he decided he no longer wanted the memorial in his garden and suggested that the structure be moved to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Liberal Democrat councillor Karimeh Foster, in whose then Whitehall ward the church was located, launched a campaign to keep it in Darwen.

With the aid of senior Labour councillor Andy Kay the campaign succeeded and in 2004 it was moved to the cemetery by soldiers from the 75th Royal Engineers Regiment.

Chair of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery Tony Foster said: “This listing of the Park Road War Memorial is another reminder of the sacrifice of both young and older men who enlisted in The Great War, especially as we near the end of its 100 years anniversary.”

The memorial contains 15 names including James Slater, the oldest at 38, who was awarded the Military Medal.

One of the youngest commemorated was James Gledhill Doody, 18 when he enlisted in 1915 before being sent to France in June. He died just four months later.

Mr Doody’s father was the head gardener at the cemetery and the family lived in the South Lodge behind the current site of the memorial.

Mrs Foster, now retired from the council, said: “I am very pleased it has now been listed and protected for future generations. It has taken a while but I welcome this move.”

Cllr Kay added: “This is excellent news”

Darwen’s tribute to the World War One fallen proves a great draw to remembrance

17th July 2018 (Lancashire Telegraph)

A NEW memorial to the 1,300 men and women of a town who lost their lives in World War One is proving a major attraction for visitors.

The ten specially made black granite plaques telling the real life and death stories of some of the men and women from Darwen who served their country during the 1914/1918 conflict has seen a stream of people paying their respects.

Mounted on a wall in the town’s cemetery designed to resemble the inner face of a typical trench from the war, the sombre stones have touched the hearts of many people.

The memorial was unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire Lord Shuttleworth on Sunday July 1, the 102nd anniversary of the first day of the bloody 1916 Battle Of the Somme in which many of the 1,300 Darreners lost their lives.

More than 500 people (including schoolchildren, members of the armed forces in uniform and representatives of The Royal British Legion charity) turned out for the occasion.

John East, chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery which organised and designed the memorial, said: “A steady stream of people have been going up the the new memorial since it was unveiled.

“I live near the cemetery and every time I walk the dog up there, there is somebody looking at it.

“They say things like ‘spectacular’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘moving’.

“It is now ready for school trips to starting come to visit after the summer holidays.

“The memorial has proved everything we had hoped it would be.

“It is a fitting and touching tribute to the sacrifice of the 1,300 Darreners who lost their lives in World War One.

“This was about 14 per cent of 9,000 who enlisted to fight.

“This was a huge proportion of the volunteers and indeed the population of the town.

“This unique Memorial is perhaps the only new World War One memorial in the Blackburn with Darwen area, if not Lancashire, that depicts the actual impact of the loss of life: the impact not just on the service personnel who died but on their families and the town they left behind.

“More than 500 people attended the unveiling including many schoolchildren, members of the armed forces and representatives of the Royal British Legion.

“It was a fine and well-attended event sitting to the occasion and the 102nd anniversary of the started of the Battle of the Somme in which so many lost their lives.

“The people of Darwen know how to remember their fallen heroes.”

Mr East said that the special booklet ‘ Darwen Remembered 1914-1918: More than just names in Stone’ was till available from Darwen Heritage Centre and the The Friends Of Darwen Cemetery website.

It gives details of every one of the more than 70 soldiers who lost their lives in action and are buried in Commonwealth War Graves in Darwen Western Cemetery.

The Memorial has been designed and built by Brent Stevenson Memorials, Darwen Terracotta and other local firms and specialist workmen.

The President of The Friends Of Darwen Cemetery, retired Colonel Steve Davies, said: “As an Army Veteran and proud Darrener this memorial does us proud in remembering the large sacrifice made by the people of Darwen over 100 years ago.”

There is a linked exhibition at the Darwen Heritage Centre to complement the new memorial.

Darwen’s World War One memorial set for unveiling parade

19th June 2018 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Col Steve Davies with the memorial

Work on a memorial to the 1,300 men and women of a town who lost their lives in World War One is now complete and ready for unveiling next month.

The ten specially made black granite plaques tell the real life and death stories of some of the men and women from Darwen who served their country during the 1914/1918 conflict.

They are mounted on a wall in the town’s cemetery designed to resemble the inner face of a typical trench from the war.

The memorial will be unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire Lord Shuttleworth at 3pm on Sunday July 1, the 102nd anniversary of the first day of the bloody Battle Of the Somme in which many of the 1,300 Darreners lost their lives.

John East, chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery which organised and designed the memorial, said: “This unique Memorial is perhaps the only new WW1 Memorial in the Blackburn with Darwen area, if not Lancashire, that depicts the actual impact of the loss of life.

“The unveiling appropriately coincides with the anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

“We want it to be a fitting tribute to the 1,300 fatal casualties from Darwen of which more than 70 are buried in Commonwealth War Graves in Darwen Western Cemetery.”

The president of the friends group, Darwen born retired Colonel Steve Davies who formerly commanded the First Battalion of The Queens Lancashire Regiment, said: “I am very proud to have played a part in organising this fitting tribute by the Friends of Darwen Cemetery and would wish to recognise the many offers, donations and support we have received.

“It has been a team effort to reach this point, and I am proud of the way in which the trustees of our organisation have collectively delivered this project alongside many other partners, including many Darwen schoolchildren.

“As an army veteran and proud Darrener this memorial does us proud in remembering the large sacrifice made by the people of Darwen more than 100 years ago.”

There will be a linked exhibition at the Darweb Heritage Centre to complement the new memorial.

Darwen world war one memorial to be unveiled

28th April 2018 (Lancashire Telegraph)

WORK will soon be complete on a World War One memorial.

Darwen Town Councillor and chairman of Friends of Darwen Cemetery John East said the memorial, which will commemorate Darwen’s contribution to the war, will be unveiled in July.

He said: “It has taken a lot of years but the monument will finally be unveiled on July 1, which is the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme so it’s an appropriate day.

“It will be made up of 10 black marble tablets that will really represent Darwen’s contribution to the war including the role of women, the people who fought and survived and the casualties.”There will be a further exhibition at the Heritage Centre as well and there will be a lot of VIPs in attendance so it should be a good day.”

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

Friends of Darwen Cemetery have begun work on a World War One memorial

17th January 2018 (Lancashire Telegraph)

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

‘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)

A PENSIONER 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.

“It’s disgraceful.”

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”

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.
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.John East, chairman of the Friends, said he was monitoring the issue as concern had been raised about the height of the grass.

“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. 

Michael Threlfall,

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 fluA 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)


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.
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 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.

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 CambraiMORE 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.

Ralph Bolton

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 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

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.”

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


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

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

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

19th August 2013 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Staff from local firm spruce up Darwen cemetery

STAFF from a Darwen electrical manufacturer have stepped outside the factory to do work in the community.

Seven workers from Ritherdon, in Lorne Street, spent a day working at Darwen Cemetery, with a second day of work lined up on Thursday.

The group of men and women teamed up with the Friends of Darwen Cemetery to carry out tasks such as getting rid of invasive Himalayan balsam, and maintaining graves.

The idea came from Ritherdon production operative Rick Luker, who suggested the cemetery as a project the firm could get involved with. Mr Luker said company owner Ben Ritherdon had asked for suggestions of worthwhile causes to support.

Emma Holden was part of the tidy-up team

He said: “Mr Ritherdon said he wanted to donate a day’s work to charity. I know the friends’ group chairman John East through the Scouts, so I suggested we help them out.

“The cemetery is a very worthwhile cause. It had been left to get in a state, and the friends group have done a great job.

“The majority of the friends are elderly, so to be able to send some younger people there for a full day means we can get a lot done. The people who went really enjoyed it.”

Mr Ritherdon said: “As a company, we wanted to give something back to the community and this was a perfect way to do that.”

Friends chairman Mr East said: “It is a remarkable testament to the people of Darwen. The community spirit makes Darwen unique and I can only commend Ben Ritherdon and his staff for this wonderful gesture. I hope other companies will take note and get involved in their local communities.”

Mr East said the group was always on the lookout for new volunteers, particularly those with gardening skills


30th July 2013 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Friends of Darwen Cemetery offer grave maintenance service

THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery offer a grave maintenance service for people with family in the town’s western cemetery who are unable to do work themselves.

The group offers a one-off clearance of a grave or annual maintenance.

One-off clearance means the friends will remove the top 5cm of soil and cover it with a heavy duty weed control membrane, before recovering the top 5cm with white stone chippings.

The cost will depend on the amount of work required.

Annual maintenance will see the grave prepared as it is in the one-off clearance, but the volunteers will then rake the chippings four times a year and keep the site weed free.

Annual maintenance costs £20 per year.

Only graves where the gravestone is securely fixed and the area is safe for the volunteers can qualify for the schemes.

Anyone interested can contact jaynemyers@ or call 01254 771854.

9th May 2013 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Former Army chief to head Darwen cemetery group

A HIGH-ranking former military officer who commanded 20,000 soldiers has been enlisted by a Darwen voluntary group.

Colonel Steve Davies, who was Chief of Staff for the British Army in the North of England and Scotland, has become president of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery.

Col Davies, who is originally from Darwen, attended a Remembrance service at the cemetery and was impressed with the group’s work.

Now managing director of Leigh-based Conwy Adventure Ltd, Col Davies will help the group as it plans big things for next year’s commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War.

Col Davies, who is still Deputy Colonel of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, said he wanted to ‘give something back’ to the community.

He said: “I am a Darrener and my roots are there, even though we left the town in 1968.

“Being commanding officer of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment kept me close to the town and the area.

“I have great memories of the place and this is an opportunity to put something back in.”

Col Davies was born and raised in Willow Street and attended Holy Trinity Primary School, before his family relocated. He joined the Army at 16 and by the age of 18 was commissioned as an officer.

Now, the distant relative of Darwen painter James Hargreaves Morton, hopes to use his military connections to help the group.

He said: “I am delighted to be a part of it and is gives me more chances to visit Darwen.

“I am well connected so I want to communicate the work of the group to the people with influence.”

Friends group chairman John East said having Col Davies on board was a boost to the group.

He said: “We have bid for £150,000 of Heritage Lottery funding to help with the commemorations of the First World War and hopefully Col Davies will give us some clout with that.

“It is a big thing for us to have a high-profile character like him working with us.”

22nd April 2013 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Airgun shooting in Darwen Cemetery ‘moronic’

CONCERNS have been raised after shots were fired with an airgun in Darwen Cemetery.

Damage was found on a noticeboard in Lark Street next to the entrance which is believed to have been caused by an air rifle.

Chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery group John East said police had been notified about the ‘moronic’ behaviour.

Mr East, also a town councillor, said: “It looks like they have taken a shot at the notice board. It is probably just kids with a gun but it is moronic behaviour.”We will be keeping an eye on it and we have told the police who I am sure will also monitor the situation.

“It is only minor damage but it is one of those little things that is irritating.”

Coun East said it was dangerous to be taking shots in the cemetery.

He said: “If someone had been hit by a shot it could have been much worse.

“We have been lucky really in terms of vandalism and anti-social behaviour in the cemetery recently.

“I think most people have a lot of respect for the hard work we have done there.”

The damage was particularly frustrating for the group, as it was discovered on their arrival for the fortnightly tidying group on Saturday morning.

Secretary of the Friends, Rosemary Jackson, said: “If anyone sees anyone with an air rifle in the cemetery or other public place please report it to the police.”

Whitehall councillor Karimeh Foster said it was ‘frightening’ to think somebody could be walking around with an airgun. She said: “It worries me. It is reckless and puts other people in danger.

“If somebody walked in front of their target they could be shot.

“We have a lot of people coming into the cemetery now, it is a lot more active than it has been in a while.

“We need to keep vigilant and people must report things like this to the police.”

27th December 2012 (The Citizen)

Appeal Over Darwen Cemetery.

VOLUNTEERS who care for Darwen’s cemetery are appealing for more information from visitors.

The Friends of Darwen Cemetery have repaired numerous graves this year and hope to continue with the work to preserve and improve stones in the new year. They are currently undertaking tidying of section B and will start work on repairing headstones in this area shortly.

The group would like to identify people who still tend a grave to consult with them about the work.

For more information on the work, call 0845 6066612

10th December 2012 (The Citizen)

Friends of  Darwen cemetery offer Grave Maintenance service.

A NEW grave maintenance service by a Darwen friends group has been launched. The Friends of Darwen Cemetery would carry out work to graves four times a year for a fee of £20.

Before the service can be signed up to, volunteers from the group will do a one-off clearance of the grave site, undertaking heavy work to ensure it is left in an easy to maintain state.

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive member for environment Coun Faryad Hussain said: “I think this is a very good idea from the Friends of Darwen Cemetery.”It is innovative, will be a good affordable service for relatives and will help the group get income to continue its great work within the cemetery.

“We are fully supportive of it.

“By everyone working together we can make the borough a better place.”

4th December 2012 (The Citizen)

Care scheme for Darwen cemetery

A GRAVE maintenance service is set to be offered by the Friends of Darwen Cemetery if a new scheme goes ahead.

The group has launched the service to help those who live far away or are unable to tend family graves. Before the service can be signed up to, friends’ volunteers will do a one-off clear up of the grave site, undertaking heavy work to ensure the grave is left in an easy-to-maintain state.

This will involve removing the top 5cm of soil and covering the grave space in weed control membrane and a layer of white stone chippings. 

For an annual fee of £20, volunteers will then rake the stone chipping four times a year and keep the grave weed free. The group will not touch perpetuity graves, which are looked after by Blackburn with Darwen Council, although only a few remain and the service is no longer offered. Group chairman John East said: “People who live away can commission us to maintain the graves. This is work the family would normally do as the only graves touched by the borough council would be perpetuity graves. The money made from the service will be put back into the cemetery through the work of our group.”Organisers said that in order for the scheme to run effectively, a manager, clerk and volunteers would be required.

Blackburn with Darwen executive member for environment Coun Faryad Hussain said: “I think this is a very good idea from the Friends of Darwen Cemetery.”

“It is innovative, will be a good affordable service for relatives and will help the group get income to continue its great work within the cemetery.

“We are fully supportive of it. By everyone working together we can make the borough a better place.

“The council no longer offers a perpetuity service and there are only a very few graves still maintained under this scheme.”

23rd November 2012 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Friends of Darwen Cemetery to tour school

THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery will have a special tour of Darwen Vale High School next Wednesday.

It starts at 6.15pm and will be followed by a public meeting where the competition for schools and youth groups to commemorate the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War will be launched.

There will also be a report from the working parties, a discussion on the group’s grave maintenance service and a guest speech by grave digger Billy Briggs. 

The meeting will coincide with the Rovers v Bolton game but will be over before the match is finished.

19th October 2012 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Signposts to point way at Darwen Cemetery

THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery are in talks with the borough council over getting signs installed giving directions to visitors.

Group chairman John East said they had noticed a surge in visitor numbers in recent months.

But he said some visitors struggled to locate the graves they were looking for.

The group is also considering having signs put up within the cemetery directing visitors to the 90 war graves.

And Mr East said they had been in discussions with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who had special signs complete with logos that could be erected by the cemetery gates.

Mr East said : “We have been talking to the council about signs and there have been positive vibrations.

“We do have issues with people not being able to find Darwen Cemetery, or having trouble working out whether the grave is in the eastern or western section.”

Mr East said an interest in local history seemed to have sparked an increase in visitor numbers.

He said: “There has been a definite increase in the number of visitors.

“A lot more people are interested in local history at the minute.

“There are also a lot of people tending to graves, or people who have adopted a grave.

“People are using it more as an amenity, and there is no point having an amenity if it isn’t signposted.”

Mr East said the increase in visitors was pleasing to see. He said: “It is certainly very encouraging considering all the work we have put in. It also spurs us on to keep going with our projects.

“We have many plans for the future.”

Dave Owen, founder of local history and heritage group Darwen Days, said: “It is great to hear about all these people flocking to the cemetery.

“Since we started, we have been amazed at how much Darwen’s history captures the imagination of people in the town.”

2nd October 2012 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen cemetery doubles up for Remembrance services

TWO Remembrance services will take place at Darwen’s Western Cemetery this year.

The first service will be held for local school pupils, and will be at the Cross of Sacrifice in the cemetery off Cemetery Road.

Last year more than 80 pupils and students attended the Friends of Darwen Cemetery Remembrance Service, and they helped place Remembrance crosses on the 97 war graves in both the Eastern and Western Cemeteries.

The date for this year’s service has not yet been confirmed, but will be either Thursday, November 8 or Friday, November 9, from 10.45am
The second Remembrance Service is to be held on Sunday, November 11 at 10.45am. This service will be for the local residents and scout groups.

For further information, email

5th September 2012 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Spotlight on Darwen’s cemetery’s heritage

HERITAGE open days will take place with the Friends of Darwen Cemetery this weekend.

The two-day gathering at Darwen’s Western Cemetery will show visitors what the group has achieved since its formation in 2010.

The group will give tours of changes made in that time including the refurbished wildlife and memorial gardens.

There will also be guides for three heritage walks and a ‘help desk’ point with information about tracing your family history and locating family graves in the cemetery.The friends, who last year commemorated the cemetery’s 150th anniversary, aim to improve the look of the cemetery and also encourage everyone in the town to take an interest in the heritage and wildlife which the cemetery offers.

The event on Saturday and Sunday is between 11am and 4pm. Enter between the two lodges on Cemetery Road and then turn left by the cross of sacrifice.

16th July 2012 (The Citizen)

Darwen’s schools in memorial challenge

THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery have challenged Darwen’s schools to help them come up with a fitting tribute to soldiers from the First World War.

The group is already planning its 2014 commemoration of 100 years since the outbreak of war.

A bid for cash from the Heritage Lottery Grant is being prepared to fund a project to honour fallen soldiers buried in the town’s cemetery.

There are 90 Commonwealth War Graves and many family tributes to loved ones who died in the First and Second World War.A spokesman said: “We would like to construct a structure of remembrance in the cemetery that will contain the names of the war dead and the location of their graves in the cemetery.

“Can you help us to design the memorial? We feel the memorial should reflect the environment the soldiers we living in while they were serving in France and Belgium.”

The challenge has been sent to all schools in Darwen. Anyone interester should contact John East at johneastdtc477@

20th June 2012 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Stone pillars in Darwen repaired in rapid time

Coun Foster and Rosemary Jackson with the repaired pillars

DAMAGE caused when a beech tree came down, blocking the path between Whitehall Park and Darwen Cemetery during the Jubilee weekend, has been repaired.

Staff from Blackburn with Darwen Council cleared the tree and repaired the damage to two stone pillars.

They said the area was now safe and cleared. Rosemary Jackson, secretary of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, said: “I am pleased with the speed of the repair and work done by the council.

“This demonstrates the good working relationship between the friends group and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.”

18th June 2012 (The Citizen)

Darwen voluntary group in youth plea

A VOLUNTARY group is asking young people in Darwen to help them in its restoration projects.

The Friends of Darwen Cemetery have implemented a young volunteer scheme to encourage teenagers to take an interest in their community.

The scheme, which is run in partnership with Darwen Aldridge Community Academy, uses the talents, skills and willingness of young people.

The opportunity of becoming a volunteer at the cemetery is open to high school students in years seven, eight and nine. The programme organised by DACA and Blackburn with Darwen CVS has seen over a dozen young people sign up so far.Youngsters can also join the ‘adopt a grave’ scheme and others will be part of the group’s regular working party on a Saturday.

15th June 2012 (The Citizen)

Offenders cut grass at war grave

A TEAM of offenders has cut the grass and tidied up in an area of Darwen Cemetery that was overgrown.

The Lancashire Telegraph reported last week that the grave of Private Peter Farley, who died during the First World War, was overgrown.

Now, through Blackburn with Darwen’s Payback service, the grave has been revealed after the grass was cut, and the area cleaned up, by a team of eight offenders.

Chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, John East, said: “We work closely with Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and the Payback team and welcome them coming up to the cemetery.”The Payback scheme has done remarkable work throughout Darwen and in the cemetery, and we are always delighted to have them.”

8th June 2012 (Lancashire Telegraph)

‘Shame’ of Darwen war grave hidden by long grass

A SOLDIER’S grave partially hidden by overgrown grass at Darwen Cemetery has been branded ‘disrespectful’.

The headstone of Private Peter Farley is barely visible among the grass, to the disgust of local volunteers.

Royal British Legion members say it is in stark contrast to the well-tended graves of war heroes abroad.

Stephen Potter, from the Legion, said: “If you go to countries like France and Belgium, their war cemeteries put ours to shame. The borough council don’t maintain the cemeteries to the extent they should. This is a soldier who fell for his country.”Within the 20 acre cemetery there are 97 war graves dating from 1861. Pte Farley, from Entwistle Street, Darwen, died aged 23 in November 1916 in hospital after being injured in the First World War.

Colin Briggs, from the Friends of Darwen Cemetery volunteers who look after the site, said: “Family visiting loved ones’ graves have complained about the state of it in general. We are doing our best but it shouldn’t just be down to us.”

Matt Morris, of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, said: “We maintain 170,000 marked graves in 30,000 sites across the UK. The graves should be kept in a state that is befitting of the sacrifice that individual made. We have an agreement with the local authority to do the gardening and we maintain the headstones. We will be contacting the local authority and asking them to look into this.”

Town councillor John East said: “Blackburn with Darwen Council is responsible for the maintenance of cemeteries and because of cuts, it isn’t being done in an adequate manner.”

Coun Faryad Hussain, borough executive member for environmental improvements, said: “We hope to finish the current grass cutting cycle soon. Clearly all services have been hit by the huge cuts.”

6th June 2012 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Huge tree falls in Darwen park

A HUGE tree came crashing down in Darwen’s Whitehall Park this weekend, landing across the old country lane leading to the moors.

Darwen Town Councillor John East said it was ‘sheer luck’ that no vehicles or pedestrians were nearby when the 60ft willow tree crashed down.

The fallen tree, which demolished 100-year-old stone gate pillars and blocked the bridle path access to Darwen Cemetery, is thought to have fallen sometime on Sunday or Monday. Blackburn with Darwen council workers are expected to undertake the work to move the tree from where it blocks the bridal path sometime today.

Coun East said: “It’s a very popular spot, especially with folk walking their dogs. If anyone had been hit by the tree they wouldn’t have stood a chance. The path is also used by four by four vehicles occasionally too. Someone could easily have been killed.

“Now we are hoping that the Council clean up the mess and replace the elegant Edwardian gate pillars as soon as possible. they have been very good though and should clean it all up after the Jubilee weekend. It will be a big job for them to haul it away.

“There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with this tree and it might be time for the Council to conduct a close inspection of tall, old trees throughout the borough.”The tree took with it large branches from other trees in the old cemetery at the top of Lark Street and blocked both the entrance and the bridal way up the lane.”

2nd May 2012 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen school pupils volunteer for clean-up scheme

A TEAM of volunteers from a Darwen school have formed a ‘grot squad’ to return areas of the town to their former glory

The team, from Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA), started their first project today, cleaning an area at Belgrave Square that was ruined by vandals.

There was outrage recently when a grave in the area was daubed with spray-painted slogans.

But the grave was cleaned, and now the grot squad has been in to clean up its surroundings.

The squad is the result of a partnership between DACA and Friends of Darwen Cemetery chairman John East.Kelly Spink, Nurture group co-ordinator at DACA, said: “After the headstone was vandalised, we thought we could help out.

“John East does a lot of work with the school, so we thought we could go out and clean the community.

“We will see how this one goes and if it goes well we can think about taking on other projects.

“We have to tidy up this area first, but who knows there might be other things we can do.”

consisted of five Key Stage Three pupils, from Years Seven and Eight.

She said: “Kids get a bad name when it comes to vandalism and things, so this is why we thought this was a good idea “We asked if they would be interested and they all said they were up for it.

“The kids here are very hands on.”

John East said he hoped it was the start of a campaign.

He said: “I am really chuffed about this and hope it is the start of something where the kids can go and help wherever they are needed.

“Vandalism does take place and the youth in the town gets a bad press.

“But if these kids go out into the community it shows they are not all the same.”

30th April 2012 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Bat walk at Darwen Cemetery

A BAT walk has been organised by the Friends of Darwen Cemetery.

The free event on Saturday, May 12, is suitable for adults and children. Meet at 8pm at the Whitehall Community Building in Whitehall Road, for a short talk before a walk in the Western Cemetery.

For the second occasion running, the walk is to be led by the East Lancs Bat Group. A previous walk in September attracted more than 60 people.

Walkers are advised to beware that the ground in the cemetery is very uneven, so sensible footwear and care is needed. Torches may also be required and children should be accompanied by an adult. For further information, call Rosemary on 01254 708828 or 

23rd March 2012 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen Old Cemetery transformed by ‘people power’

WORK is almost complete on a new nature garden in Darwen which “shows the love of outdoor spaces still runs through Lancashire veins”.

A team of 15 volunteers have put in more than 500 hours of work over winter to create the feature at Darwen Old Cemetery, which has transformed a “scruffy” piece of grassland at the top of the site, off Lark Street.

The Friends of Darwen Cemetery successfully bid for a £10,000 Awards For All grant to do the work, and it is estimated the voluntary work equates to a similar amount.

Friends chairman Coun John East, said: “We decided on a nature garden in the cemetery because of its proximity to the moors.

“We are trying to preserve the environmental and cultural significance of the cemetery, as well as to inspire children to come and take ownership of their heritage.”

The circular garden has a central space containing stone ‘mushroom stools’, designed by local school children.

There is also dry stonewalling, a dry stonewall bench, and wild-flower seeds have been planted in three large soiled areas.

“The local scouts have erected bird and bat boxes in Lark Street.

Coun East said: “It’s an incredible bit of work that demonstrates the power of local people when they want to achieve something.

“From being a neglected cemetery three or four years ago, it’s now an outstanding area for recreation that puts Darwen on the map.

“It shows the importance of parks and open spaces to the people of Darwen, and is similar to how the town fought for the freedom of Darwen Moors.

“That love still flows through the veins of Lancashire people.”

A new war graves trail is also being planned by the Friends, plus members are planning ahead for a Heritage Lottery bid to commemorate the centenary of start of the First World War in 2014.

The garden will be officially opened at 11am on Saturday, April 28 by Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen Coun Karimeh Foster.

22nd March 2012 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Names plea over Darwen war memorial

HELP is needed tracing names which belong on a recently-found First World War memorial.

Members of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery uncovered the stone plaque in the town’s Old Cemetery, but only part of it has survived.

Tony Foster has uncovered all of the names on the stone, but is certain that a third column of names is still missing.

All the people named attended Redearth Road Chapel.

The Friends are interested in restoring the stone but would like to include all the names still missing.They have been told that the memorial was seen intact during the 1980s, and that one of the missing names was James Irving Whalley.

For more information on how to help, and for images of the memorial, visit


February 2012

It is an area that had become run down and neglected.

But thanks to a hardworking and busy group Darwen Cemetery has been given a new lease of life.

The Friends of Darwen Cemetery set out to tidy it up and improve its historical, cultural and environmental significance. 
Now they are urging other residents to help.

Jobs of the friends have completed include: Large areas of overgrowing rhododendrons have been cut back and chipped; an Ashes Circle has been created with the help of local stonemason Brent

Stevenson; paths have been improved; others have been opened up; and trees and flowers have been planted.


The Friends have organised several historical walks, led by Tony Foster and Harold Heys, to raise the profi le of the cemetery – the most recent attracted a following of nearly 150.

The Friends were particularly pleased with the success of various activities to mark the cemetery’s opening. 
Lord Darwen attended and he and the Borough Mayor, Councillor Karimeh Foster, unveiled a memorial stone to mark the first burial – a baby boy who had been interredin a pauper’s grave – in the summer of 1861.

For more information, contact the chair, 
John East on (01254) 771957 or ; 

you can also contact the secretary 
Rosemary Jackson on  (01254)708828, email:

Visit their website at

4th January 2012 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Fears that Darwen Cemetery could be ‘full in a decade’

CONCERNS have been raised that soon there will be no room to bury Darreners in the town.

Darwen Eastern Cemetery is filling up and it is feared if no expansion takes place, it could be full within a decade.

But Blackburn with Darwen Council said Blackburn’s cemetery at Pleasington was a priority.

Coun Faryad Hussain, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive member for environmental improvement and sustainability, said: “There is room for consideration for an extension to Darwen Cemetery but at the moment the priority is Pleasington Cemetery which could be full in as little as three years.

“We have planning permission for Pleasington and once work is completed there the situation at Darwen Cemetery will be reviewed and we will look at the possibility of extension.”

Coun Roy Davies said: “It is a problem and it has been coming for years.

“I’ve already got a plot for my burial, and when I get buried it will be just for me. But years ago you used to get three or four people buried together.

“Maybe we need to look at something like that, but I don’t know all the rules and regulations.

“We need to look at what options we have. Do we start a new cemetery?

“People want to be buried in the town they came from, so we have to make more space.

“Another option could be to look at removing graves that are more than 100 years old.”

Darwen Town Coun John East, who is chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, said: “People in Darwen would like to be buried in Darwen, and there is a fear they will not be able to. It will be interesting to see if the council can come up with any provisions to expand it.”

Darwen’s first town cemetery was opened in 1861 as, during the Victorian era, local councils and health authorities were forced to look at alternatives as church yards began to fill up with bodies.

25 November 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen Cemetery paths branded ‘dangerous’ by councillor

PATHS in Darwen Cemetery are so neglected they have become ‘downright dangerous’, a town councillor claims.

Coun John East, who is chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, said heavy investment was needed from the borough council.

The claim comes just weeks after eight graves were toppled by vandals. They have since been fixed by stonemasons from Brent Stevenson’s Memorials, free of charge.

Coun East said: “Pleasington is given priority by the council, who are constantly fighting budget cuts. There just isn’t enough staff to do the amount of work needed.

“The paths in the Western Cemetery are being neglected, though.

“Some of them are a disgrace.

“It’s downright dangerous. But the council will just say there’s no money to fix them.

“But if a litigation came along I’m sure they’d find the money then.”

Sayyed Osman, director of environment, housing and neighbourhoods at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “Given the cuts the council has faced, we simply can’t afford to fully resurface every path at the cemetery.

“We have undertaken essential work to ensure they are made safe, though, and are working closely with the Friends group to source the additional funding required to make full repairs.

“The majority of burials take place at Pleasington and so we have to spend a lot of time there.”

10 November 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Stone mason will repair Darwen graves free of charge

GRAVESTONES which were vandalised at Darwen Eastern Cemetery will be repaired free of charge.

Eight headstones were toppled over last week, as well as 24 being damaged at Great Harwood Cemetery.

However, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council told those affected they would have to pay for repairs to the graves themselves.

Now stonemason, Brent Stevenson, has said his company will fix all the graves free of charge.

Mr Stevenson, who is the fifth generation of stonemasons at Brent Stevenson Memorials in Blackburn, which has been running since 1883, said: “It’s just something we can do for local people.

“We’ve done a lot of work up at Darwen Old Cemetery for the friends group where we haven’t charged. We don’t like to see these things happen.

“Morally, it’s the right thing to do.”

Mr Stevenson’s son, James, 27, is the one that will actually do the work, which Mr Stevenson promised will be finished by Christmas.

He said: “I don’t know how long it will take, but we will get it done before Christmas. We are going to make a start next week.”

Mr Stevenson explained that, under a code of working practice from the National Association of Memorial Masons, the new gravestones will be of a superior quality to those that were knocked over.

He said: “When we do them you won’t push them over.

“We use a stainless steel rod to fix all the elements together, instead of concrete which they used to use before the guidelines came in.

“Our graves have a 30-year standing guarantee so it will actually be better for the families in the long term.”

Coun John East, from Friends of Darwen Cemetery, said: “I’m really pleased. I’m delighted this has resolved itself.

“It’s a really nice gesture from Mr Stevenson.”


8 November 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen vandalised gravestones help offer

A DARWEN town councillor has offered to help re-erect graves that were kicked over in Darwen’s Eastern Cemetery last week.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council is asking families affected by the vandalism to pay for the repairs themselves.

Similar attacks in Hyndburn will be paid for by Hyndburn Council.

And Coun John East, who is also chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery group, said there has to be a solution if family members of desecrated graves are untraceable.

He said: “I sympathise with the families and I’m appalled at what went on.

“I’d be happy to broker a deal, maybe with a local stonemason to help with the graves.”

He added that, if the culprits were found, they should be made to do the work.

One member of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery group said: “It only needs one of those kids, someone who does know right from wrong, to make on phone call and mention a few names.”

3 November 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

East Lancashire grave vandals damage head stones in ‘sickening’ attacks

FAMILY graves have been vandalised in two ‘sickening’ attacks in East Lancashire.

Twenty four headstones were pushed over and damaged at Great Harwood Cemetery, and eight have been toppled in Darwen Eastern Cemetery.

One councillor who has relatives buried in Great Harwood Cemetery has called for those responsible to be ‘birched on the town gates’.

And a police officer described the crimes which happened over the Hallowe’en period as ‘insensitive, despicable and mindless’.

Alan Robison, whose mother Bertha, 60, father Roy, 73, brother Colin, 20, and cousin, Margaret, 58, are buried in the same plot in Great Harwood, said he was ‘disgusted’ their grave had been targeted.

The 63-year-old, who is retired, said: “I felt incredibly sad when I saw what they’d done. It is so disrespectful and mindless.

“I know that other graves have also been smashed.

“Nothing like this has ever happened in the past and I hope the police catch the people who are responsible.”

A widow, who buried her husband in Darwen Eastern Cemetery last week, said: “It’s disgusting, it’s sick.

“Whoever has done this should be made to feel extremely bad about it. What if it were their relatives?”

Coun Munsif Dad, cabinet member for cemeteries, said Hyndburn Council would pick up the bill for the repairs because of the ‘appalling cicumstances’ of the attack.

But Blackburn with Darwen Council said it would be asking families to foot the bill.

Coun Dad said: “I am shocked, disgusted and saddened that grieving relatives have had to face this added burden due to this act of mindless vandalism.

“Due to the appalling circumstances surrounding this incident the Council will fund the repair of the damage and we are getting in touch with the relatives to let them know.”

Great Harwood Coun Ian Robinson said: “It’s disgraceful. There are always one or two people who think they’re above the law.

“I would bring back corporal punishment, it’s the only way they’ll take note. I would birch them on the town gates on a Sunday and make an example of them.

“This is the thin end of the wedge. If they think they’ve got away with it once, they will do it again.”

Councillor Dave Smith, lead member for environmental improvement and sustainability at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said he was sickened by the attack in Darwen.

He said: “A cemetery should be a safe and peaceful place of rest. The vandals need to realise the devastating effect this will have on the families and loved ones involved. Our sympathies are with the families and we have informed the police.”

Police said the damage in Great Harwood happened between 3pm, on Friday, October 28, and 8am on Monday, October 31.

Blackburn with Darwen Council say the damage in Darwen Eastern Cemetery occurred on Thursday evening.

No arrests have been made in either case, and police are appealing for witnesses to come forward.

Community Beat Manager, PC Andy Sarchet said: “This is an insensitive, despicable and mindless crime that has understandably upset many local people and close relatives of those in Great Harwood.

“In the Darwen incident we believe the offenders entered the cemetery located to the back of the site.

Families have been informed and we are investigating both incidents.

“We are appealing for any witnesses or anybody with any information as to whom are responsible to make contact.”

Anyone who saw anything suspicious is urged to call police on 
01254 353334 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

18 October 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Organisers of Darwen Cemetery Hallowe’en walk defend ‘disrespectful’ claims

ORGANISERS of a Hallowe’en tour of Darwen Old Cemetery have defended the event against claims that it is ‘disrespectful’.

The Friends of Darwen Cemetery (FODC) are encouraging families to walk around the cemetery on the evening of Sunday, October 30, led by historians Tony Foster and Harold Heys.

The cemetery, which has been used for burials in the last year, and is shortly to be opened as an ash-scattering site, also contains 90 war graves.

An advert for the event, states: “Learn about the victims of the Second World War bombings, the throat slitters, the stranglers, the poisoners and many more.

“But be warned – anyone of a nervous disposition should stay well away.”

One man whose grandmother is buried in the cemetery said: “I think it’s disrespectful. This is a place of tranquillity and rest, not an amusement park.

“There are other places such as Bold Venture Park where this kind of thing could have been done.”

Darwen mayor Coun Paul Browne said: “This is a very sensitive issue, and I would be bothered if some of my relatives were in there.

“Personally, I don’t see the point in them walking in the cemetery. There are umpteen other ghost walks that are done in Darwen in places like the town centre. The organisers must tread very carefully.”

Coun John East, chairman of FODC, said: “This is not going to be spooky, it’s going to be historical.

“It’s looking at the history of Darwen through the people buried in the cemetery – the good, the wise, and sometimes bad.

“There will be nothing to frighten anyone and we won’t be disturbing the peace of the area at all.”

Stuart Walmsley, father of soldier Brett Walmsley, of Greenway Street, who was buried in the cemetery in 2007, said: “I don’t think it really matters, so long as it’s not just about spooky tales and actually focuses on the cemetery and the work that goes on there.

“It might even encourage children not to be scared of going to these places.

“I would just hope that dogs aren’t allowed to go on the walk as they just turn the whole cemetery into a toilet and owners don’t clean up after them.”

10 October 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Descendants of India Mill man at Darwen headstone unveiling

MEMORIAL The Rev Geoff Tolley, mayor Coun Karimeh Foster and Lynda Coward, from India Mill, with the headstone to Eccles Shorrock (inset)

MORE than 30 people braved heavy rain to see a headstone to the memory of Eccles Shorrock, the man who built India Mill and its famous chimney.

It was unveiled at Darwen Cemetery by borough mayor Karimeh Foster.

Several descendants of Shorrock, from as far away as Oldham and 
St Annes, attended the ceremony.

Coun Foster said she was pleased to see several young people taking an interest in the town’s heritage and that so many people had turned up to pay their respects in spite of the bad weather.

Coun John East, chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, welcomed everyone and introduced speakers Tony Foster and Harold Heys.

The Rev Geoff Tolley dedicated the headstone.

Eccles Shorrock died in 1889 after suffering from mental illness for several years and his grave had been left unmarked until now.

The Friends organised the black granite headstone to mark World Mental Health Day, which takes place today.

7 October 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Blackburn and Darwen cemeteries to close earlier

SIXTEEN cemeteries and crematoriums in Blackburn with Darwen will be closing early as the nights draw in this winter. 

The changes will be brought in on Sunday, October 16.

Buildings and grounds affected include Darwen old and eastern cemetery closing at 4.30pm; Blackburn cemetery in Whalley New Road will close at 5pm and Pleasington crematorium, off Tower Road, will close at 5.30pm.

6 October 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen India Mill builder’s grave to be marked after 122 years

THE man who built India Mill and its world-famous chimney, Eccles Shorrock will finally have his grave marked in Darwen Cemetery this Sunday – 122 years after his death.

Shorrock, mill owner and benefactor and the man who put the town firmly on the map, died in late September 1889, not surrounded by his family in his fine house, Low Hill, at Bury Fold, but alone in Room No 4 in Edinburgh Royal Asylum.

For Shorrock suffered from manic depression, what would today be called bi-polar disorder, and his burial at noon a few days later was strictly private and low-key.

The stigma of mental illness followed him to his grave.

There was a short service and one of the greatest Darreners was laid to rest in the family vault with little ceremony although hundreds of local folk thronged the main road up to the cemetery and many more gathered respectfully at the entrance.

At 2pm on Sunday, the day before World Mental Health Day, there will be a short service and unveiling at the vault of a polished black granite headstone in his memory.

The Friends of Darwen Cemetery have organised the headstone and the short ceremony will precede its unveiling by the Mayor of Blackburn and Darwen, Coun Karimeh Foster.

Local historians Harold Heys and Tony Foster will speak briefly about the life and death of Eccles Shorrock and the Rev Geoff Tolley will say prayers.

5 September 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen Old Cemetery rose repair following ‘vandalism’

REPAIRS have been made to a new Lancashire rose monument in Darwen Old Cemetery after its stem was snapped off.

Members of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery (FODC) group found the damage last week, and believe vandals are to blame.

FODC chairman Coun John East said: “The stem had been broken off and we presume it was an act of vandalism, but can’t prove it.

“The damage was not severe and it was repaired within 48 hours.”

The monument was designed by 11-year-old Hannah Jackson, who won a town-wide schools competition run by FODC for ideas on how to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the site’s opening and the newly-renovated memorial garden.

Hannah’s design was made into a centrepiece for the garden by Blackburn stonemason Brent Stevenson, who has also donated stone benches and wedges for the garden.

The garden is to be used by the people of Darwen to scatter ashes and reflect on their loved ones.

24 August 2011 (BBC News – Lancashire Website)

Lancashire cemeteries’ tales of heroes and villains

One cemetery in Lancashire chooses to lock its gates to deter trouble – another decides to throw them open to embrace the local community.

Two very different approaches to interaction with residents, that come in response to widely-differing levels of vandalism.

Chorley Council has closed its Southport Road cemetery gates at night, after a spate of thefts from graves – even the pedestrian access is under review.

However, while Chorley is not alone in the north west, volunteers at Darwen Cemetery are taking the opposite tack.

Friends of Darwen Cemetery – who have recently commemorated the cemetery’s 150th anniversary – are actively encouraging as many local people as they can through the gates.


They believe that encouraging more visitors keeps away the troublemakers.

The friends group was set up in March last year, in partnership with Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.

Their aim is to improve the look of the cemetery, greatly overgrown in some areas with roots of rhododendron and ivy.

They have come up with a wide variety of activities to encourage everyone in the town to take an interest in the heritage and wildlife which the cemetery offers.

Friends chairman John East said: “We have been lucky at Darwen. There has been very little vandalism but we and the council have to keep a close eye on things.

“Meanwhile, we are doing our best to get everyone interested and so far the response has been very good.”

Murder walk 

Walking tours though Darwen Cemetery are well-attended

Dozens of broken and flattened headstones have been re-erected by the group, as well as the usual activities that Friends groups undertake – seeding, chopping and planting; digging, weeding and levelling.

Children have been encouraged to go on bat walks, make nesting boxes and plant trees and wild flowers, while the parents and grandparents are being encouraged to tackle dry-stone walling and go on a range of organised tours.

The 150th anniversary was marked a few weeks ago by the unveiling of a stone to mark the first interment, an illegitimate baby boy, buried in an unmarked grave because his mother had no money to pay for it.

And on Sunday 9 October, to mark World Mental Health Day, the Friends will unveil a headstone to commemorate Eccles Shorrock.

The benevolent mill owner put the town on the map when he built the impressive textile mill, India Mill and its famous chimney, visited by peregrine falcons and steeplejack Fred Dibnah.

Mr Shorrock had bi-polar disorder and died in the Edinburgh Royal Asylum in 1889. His grave was never marked because of the stigma of mental illness.

The cemetery is also home to the graves of 90 Commonwealth soldiers and other industrialists who helped shape the town in the 19th Century, and their stories are told in regular tours through the grounds.

One of the next organised tours on the evening of Sunday 30 October will be a Halloween walk that will recall several murders and deaths.

It is this community involvement the Friends feel is the way forward.

“You have to get young people involved,” said Mr East. “You have to encourage them to take ownership of the cemetery.

“All our efforts combined makes the cemetery a place of value to people.

“We hope that people will honour what we’ve got here.”

 Scarring on a headstone by rhododendrons before they were cut back by the Friends

Key dates for Darwen Cemetery

  • 2 June 1861: The first burial took place in Darwen Cemetery. It was a baby boy, born illegitimately to a poor young mother. A commemorative stone was finally laid on the grave of Richard Hurst Eccles on the 150th anniversary of his burial.
  • March 2010: The Friends of Darwen Cemetery was formed.
  • December 2010: The Friends were granted £10,000 from the Awards for All Big Lottery Fund to help them complete a nature and memorial garden.
  • 9 October 2011, World Mental Health Day: A headstone will be unveiled commemorate the founder of India Mill, a former spinning mill. Eccles Shorrock had bi-polar disorder and died in the Edinburgh Royal Asylum in 1889.

                                        By Emma Stanley BBC News, Lancashire

18th August 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen headstone memorial for India Mill founder

A HEADSTONE to commemorate the founder of India Mill will be unveiled in Darwen Old Cemetery on World Mental Health Day.

Eccles Shorrock had bi-polar disorder and he died in the Edinburgh Royal Asylum in 1889.

It is said that building India Mill in the 1860s broke him financially and mentally.

He was buried at Darwen Cemetery without anything to mark the family vault.

Four of his eight children also suffered severe mental health problems.

Now the Friends of Darwen Cemetery (FODC), with the help of Blackburn stonemason Brent Stevenson, have decided to mark his life and will conduct a short unveiling ceremony on Sunday October 10th.

13th July 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen pupils picture perfect for contest

SAY CHEESE Leia Atkin framing her pals at the school, from the left, Jordan Armitage, Elizabeth Livesey, Jennifer Taylor and Katie Hargreaves

Pupils at Sudell Primary School, Darwen, clicked with the town’s Civic Society photography competition.

They won first, second and third prizes in the competition, which asked for pictures throughout the seasons.

It was to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of Darwen Old Cemetery.

24th June 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen girl’s winning design for memorial garden

ELEVEN-year-old Hannah Jackson of Ashleigh Primary School, Darwen, has unveiled a new

memorial in Darwen Old Cemetery.

Hannah’s ‘Lancashire Rose’ design won a schools’ competition last year by the Friends of Darwen Cemetery (FoDC), to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the site’s opening and a newly-renovated memorial garden.

Hannah’s design was made into a centrepiece for the garden by Blackburn stonemason Brent Stevenson, who has also donated stone benches and wedges for the garden.

The garden is to be used by the people of Darwen to scatter ashes and reflect on their loved ones.

John East, chair of the FODC said: “Hannah’s design is wonderful and everyone has admired it.

“It is fantastic to have young people involved in the work of cemetery’s restoration.

“The whole project is bringing the community together and we are so grateful to Brent Stevenson for his patronage and support as well as all the local residents who volunteer to help each week.”

5th May 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

First Darwen Cemetery burial marked, 150 years on

IT’S exactly 150 years ago today that the first burial took place at Darwen Cemetery.

It was a baby boy, born illegitimately to a grieving young mother who couldn’t afford the grave, let alone a headstone.

Richard Hurst Eccles has been one of Darwen’s unknown – until now.

He was buried on June 2, 1861, and the ceremony was over in minutes.

Since that day there has been nothing to pinpoint his grave, other than old cemetery records.

However, this evening the Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen, Coun Karimeh Foster, will unveil a commemorative stone to finally mark the little boy’s interment and, at the same time, the opening of the cemetery.

Representatives from the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and United Reformed Church will also be present, as well as members of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery who have been working hard to renovate the area over the past 18 months.

Richard was the son of Mary Ann Eccles and his birth took place in Foundry Street, Darwen, on April 12, 1860.

At the time of his birth about 20per cent of all infants born in Darwen never lived long enough to see their first birthday.

Richard did achieve this milestone, but died shortly afterwards on May 31, 1861 at Back Redearth Road.

The funeral service was conducted by the Rev E C Montriou, of Holy Trinity, (now St Peter’s) and the burial was paid for by the Local Board of Health.

It cost 7s 6d – the grave was 2s; the clergyman’s fee 2s 6d, and the sexton’s fee, 3s.

Following the ceremony there will be a dinner, at the Whitehall Hotel, to mark the cemetery’s 150th anniversary.

Guest of honour will be the new Lord Darwen, formerly Paul Davies, who succeeded to the title last week on the death of his father, Roger Michael, the third baronet.

Percy Davies, a prominent Quaker and Socialist, and owner of Greenfield and Waterfield Mills, became the first Lord Darwen in 1946.

31st May 2011 (The Citizen)

Lord Darwen dies, aged 73

LORD Darwen, Roger Michael Davies, has died aged 73.

He had been ill for some time and died in his sleep at home near Chelmsford, Essex, on Friday.

He is succeeded by his eldest son, the Hon Paul Davies.

The new Lord Darwen will be in the town on Thursday as guest of honour at a dinner at the Whitehall Hotel to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of Darwen Cemetery.

Coun John East, chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery who are organising the dinner, said: “Paul’s father had not been well for some time.”

“However, Paul had arranged to come up to our dinner a few weeks ago with his wife and sister and will still fulfil that commitment even though it is obviously a difficult time for the family.”

Lord and Lady Darwen will attend a ceremony to mark the unveiling of a headstone on the previously unmarked grave of the first interment.


5th May 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen site on the way for ashes scattering

THE first dedicated ashes scattering site in Darwen is taking shape.

Current rules state that ashes can only be interred in the town’s two cemeteries, but the Friends of Darwen Cemetery have started work on a flower garden for families to use instead.

Stonemason Brent Stevenson has laid foundations for a circular path just inside the main entrance.

He has also laid a plinth for a central rose and one of the three seating areas.

Coun John East, chairman of the group, said: “Our proposal is to have a little flower garden where people can come and scatter ashes and contemplate.”

The plans are part of a wider community clean-up project to rejuvenate the whole cemetery.

The next working party takes place in Section C on Saturday, May 28, from 10am to 1pm.

Tools and equipment will be provided, but volunteers are asked to bring their own brushes, rakes and cutters.

28th April 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Trees from royal gardens are to be replanted in Darwen

TREES from the Queen’s own collection are to be replanted in Darwen to mark the royal wedding.

An East Anglian Elm and a Sweetgum tree from The Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, have been donated to Darwen Academy and the Friends of Darwen Cemetery by head of arboretum Tony Kirkham, who was raised in the town.

The elm will be planted in the cemetery on Saturday, but details on the Sweetgum have not yet been revealed.

Mr Kirkham, 53, who used to live in the Bull Hill area, is responsible for more than 14,000 trees in the living collection at Kew.

He was first introduction to arboretums by Whitehall scout leader John East – now chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, who awarded him a foresters badge.

Mr Kirkham said: “My roots are in Darwen and if I can do anything to help, I will.

“When I come home to see my parents I hope I’ll be able to see the trees and perhaps there will be a blessing of them.”

Both trees are three years old and measure about 1.2 metres. In 75 years, they will grow to be 20 to 25 metres tall.

The Sweetgum has been grown from seed collected by Tony in North Carolina, and the elm has shown special resistance to disease.

Coun East said: “It’s spectacular that we’re getting some trees from the Queen’s collection.

“We’re highly delighted to be celebrating in this style, and want to thank Tony very much.”

7th March 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

MP to join Darwen cemetery friends

THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery have recruited the town’s MP to help their cause.

Jake Berry has promised to ‘get his hands dirty’ helping the action group at one of their regular working parties later in the year.

Mr Berry said he was “very impressed” with the work done to renovate graves and to build memorial gardens in the last year, and also by the work by the Probation Service’s Payback team who have been in action at the site recently.

The next general meeting of the group, chaired by John East, will include the first AGM and is on Wednesday, March 23 at Bolton Road United Reformed Church from 7.30pm.

The next working party will be on Saturday, March 26 between 10am and 1pm in the Western Cemetery, Cemetery Road.

23rd February 2011 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Friends of Darwen Cemetery look for £10,000

THE Friends of Darwen Cemetery are looking for £10,000 to prepare for the site’s 150th anniversary in June.

Members of the group, which was set up a year ago, want to spent the money on renovating the oldest part of the cemetery, known as section B.

The section contains the unmarked grave of a baby boy who was the first person to be buried in the cemetery in 1861.

Blackburn-based stonemason Brent Stevenson has already agreed to create a gravestone free of charge in time for the anniversary celebrations.

Members want to re-erect surrounding gravestones that have fallen or been toppled, as well as create a nature and memorial garden for the local community.

In five years they want the site to be used as a heritage centre for schools.

Anyone who is willing to help with funding is asked to contact members by visiting www.darwencemetery.

23rd December 2010 (Lancashire Telegraph)

AN action group working to restore Darwen’s heritage is celebrating a £10,000 Christmas present.

The Friends of Darwen Cemetery group has been granted the money from the Awards for All Big Lottery Fund.

The group, which launched in March to restore the dilapidated Darwen Old Cemetery, said the money would help them comp-lete a nature and memorial garden to be used by youngsters.

Previously, the volunteers have been awarded £5,950, which was then matched by Darwen and Rural Neighbourhood Board.

Group secretary Rosemary Jackson said she was ‘really excited’ about the funding news.

She said: “The money will be spent on transforming an old rose garden in the cemetery that has been allowed to become dilapidated.”

“We will be working on putting paths in and plants that encourage wildlife such as birds and bees.”

“We are thinking of getting the RSPB in to do bird counts with local children, and people from Lancashire Wildlife Trust to do bat walks.”

“The garden will be a focal point for the community to learn about nature, and also a place to reflect on loved ones.”

Chairman of the group Coun John East said: “I am delighted with further funding from Awards For All to develop our ongoing community projects involving members of the local community, especially young people.”

The project is one of a wide range of beneficiaries receiving good news this Christmas.

In all, 109 groups across the North West are celebrating a total funding pot of close to £896,000.

Helen Bullough, of the Big Lottery said: “These projects will make a real difference to communities across the North West.”

Coun East said a total of £200,000 would be needed to completely restore the cemetery and re-erect toppled headstones, and it was likely to take five years to complete.

11th October 2010 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Darwen Old Cemetery vandals smash gravestone

YOUTHS have smashed a gravestone into three pieces after running amok in 
Darwen Old Cemetery.

Now a friends group is working with local 
children to stop similar attacks occurring, 
and is even considering giving pupils the 
chance to ‘adopt a grave’.

The stone cross monument to Alice Varley 
and her two baby sons has now been laid flat, 
awaiting repair after the vandalism.

Delicately carved with flowers and birds, 
it was erected in the late autumn of 1906, and had stood undisturbed until a loud crashing noise was heard and three teenagers were seen running away from scene at 5pm on September 8th.
Coun John East, chairman of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery, said: “Damage like this is very rare in this cemetery, but it’s very disappointing for it to happen.

“The monument has been laid down while we concentrate on refurbishing other parts of the cemetery, but it will eventually be put back.

“We have reported this incident to the police and we’re also now working with Darwen Aldridge Community Academy on their ‘Stand Out In Darwen’ camapign, trying to address issues with young people.

“We’re trying to get year seven, eight and nine pupils interested in helping out and in the ‘adopt a grave’ scheme.

“We want to encourage an inter-generational workforce to help restore the site.

“The young people who want to cause damage are far more outweighed by the young people willing to help.”

So far, the Friends of Darwen Cemetery have re-erected 150 headstones felled during council health and safety work.

Members hope to create a heritage site where local residents can trace their family history and the history of the town.

Five Darwen schools have signed up to help look after graves in the cemetery and pupils have been invited to an outdoor Armistice Day service by the cemetery’s Cross of Sacrifice at 11am on November 11th.

15th September 2010 (Lancashire Telegraph)

How yobs ended Darwen woman’s peace

ALICE Varley had been at rest in a quiet corner of Darwen’s old cemetery for over a hundred years.

Her tidy grave was surmounted by a small cross, beautifully crafted with flowers and birds.

Alice, the widow of local man George Varley, was buried in the late autumn of 1906 and was reunited in death with her two baby boys, both christened John, who had died within a few months of each other.

An inscription below the cross entreated passers-by that, of their charity, they might pray for the repose of her soul. No doubt over the years, an occasional passer-by did just that.

A quiet prayer for Alice would have been in keeping with the grave’s position, just off the beaten track and sheltered by bushes and where the only sounds would have been the chirping of the birds and the rustling of the trees.

Until last Wednesday evening at about 5pm when a loud crashing noise broke the tranquillity.

Three teenagers, one wearing a distinctive black and white check shirt, decided that instead of a quiet prayer, it would be fun to push over the delicately engraved cross, smashing it into three pieces.

They were seen running towards the top path.

Darwen Cemetery has seldom been plagued by young vandals over the years.

The only damage to the headstones and crosses has come from the council’s controversial topple-testers.

So on behalf of all those who enjoy a quiet stroll in the old cemetery and the small band of largely elderly volunteers, I would just like to ask that if the lad or lads who didn’t actually destroy the old stone cross would like to “shop” the idiot who did, then Darwen police will be happy to hear from them.

Perhaps one of them has a conscience.


5th August 2010 (Lancashire Telegraph Letters column)

Word swapping ‘newspaper’

I recently sent a few paragraphs to Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Shuttle “newspaper” on the work of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery.

It was upbeat and I made sure that the council got a deserved “thank you” for their recent support.

However, my second paragraph had read: ‘Most Saturday mornings during the summer the Friends have been working at the old cemetery which had become very run-down in recent years.’ The line ‘very run down’ had become ‘a bit run down’ by the time it got through the council’s Thought Police.

This is how council newspapers work.

A few weeks ago I took part in a council-organised forum on the future of the Shuttle and I made the point that it would be better read if it wasn’t so oily and obsequious; ‘a bit’ for ‘very’ is an excellent example of this unctuous servility.

Frankly, ‘very run down’ was rather on the mild side as anyone who takes a walk through the old cemetery will soon discover.


July/August 2010 edition of Blackburn Council’s Shuttle newspaper

Volunteers needed

THE recently-formed Friends of Darwen Cemetery have certainly hit the ground running – thanks to help from the Darwen and Rural Neighbourhood Board, Darwen Town Council and Lancashire Probation Trust’s Payback operation.

 Most Saturday mornings during the summer the Friends have been working at the old cemetery which had become a bit run-down in recent years.

 A grant from the local neighbourhood board helped get stonemasons in the spruce up headstones. With the town council’s help, rhododendrons in the area will be cut right back.

Teams from the Payback unit have been strimming the grass, chopping bushes and filling in a lot of the sunken graves.

 Says Friends chairman John East who is a member of Darwen Town Council: “The cemetery is already looking much better, certainly the area where we are concentrating our efforts. We have been very fortunate in getting so much help. But, of course, we are always on the look-out for volunteers to join us.”

 Contact Friends secretary Rosemary Jackson on (01254) 708828 for more details on the group.


How Council newspapers work

Harold Heys writes: I sent in a few paragraphs to the Shuttle on the work of the Friends. It was very upbeat as you will see (above) but my second paragraph had read:

Most Saturday mornings during the summer the Friends have been working at the old cemetery which had become very run-down in recent years.

You will see that “very run down” had become “a bit run down” by the time it got through the Council’s Thought Police. Frankly “very run down” was rather on the mild side. The cemetery has been allowed to become a disgrace.

13th July 2010 (Lancashire Telegraph Letters column)

A revealing tale of two cemeteries

Since early spring volunteers, most of them elderly, have been spending many hours on the mammoth task of tidying up a small section of Darwen’s historic cemetery which next June will have been open for 150 years.

It’s been hard work battling against sunken graves, toppled and broken headstones, spreading rhododendrons and bushes in a sea of thick grass and weeds.

Last week I visited Accrington Cemetery. It’s nearly as old as Darwen’s but that’s where the similarity ends.

 More than 60,000 have been interred at Burnley Road and every one, from cotton manufacturer William Barnes, its first “customer”, seems to have been treated with dignity and respect.

It’s in tip-top order with manicured lawns, excellent tarmacadamed paths and neat kerbs, an abundance of mature trees and colourful flowerbeds and barely a handful of headstones in need of some restoration.

Darwen’s doesn’t come close. And I’m not blaming the two or three workmen who do their best.

I am occasionally drawn to compliment smaller, neighbouring authorities such as Hyndburn, Rossendale and Ribble Valley in conversations with Blackburn with Darwen Council officers and councillors. Few of them can resist a mild sneer. Insignificant by comparison is always inferred.

Next time one of them raises an eyebrow of disdain I’ll suggest they take a look at how Accrington – for one – cares for its forefathers.

 As for the hard – working Friends of Darwen Cemetery I suggest they keep well away. It would break their hearts.HAROLD HEYS Darwen

Saturday 3rd July 2010 (Lancashire Telegraph)

£11,900 to improve Darwen Cemetery

A GRANT of £5,950 has been made to the Friends of Darwen Cemetery for improvement works, by Darwen Town Council.

The figure matches that given last month by Darwen and Rural Neighbourhood Board, bringing a total of £11,900.

Rosemary Jackson, secretary of the FODC, said: “We are delighted with the award and do believe this grant will further the development of a very important, heritage and local amenity.

“We have all been working hard, from local children, residents, agencies, to Blackburn with Darwen Council, to make a real impression on a much-neglected facility.

“This proves that local people can make a real difference to their town and everyone should be proud and we thank Darwen Town Council for their vision and commitment to the town of Darwen.”

Chairman of the group, Coun John East, said that a total of £200,000 would be needed to completely restore the cemetery and re-erect toppled headstones, and that it was likely to take five years to complete.

7th June 2010 (The Citezen)

£5,950 boost to Darwen graves project

SEVENTY-two graves at Darwen Old Cemetery will be re-erected and repaired after an action group received cash help.

The Friends of Darwen Cemetery were awarded £5,950 by Darwen and Rural Neighbourhood Board to complete the work in the Victorian ‘C’ section near the Ashton Memorial.

A dedicated ashes scattering area will also be built.

John East, chairman of the group, said: “We applied for £11,000 and got about half, but it’s enough to do this section and we are very pleased.

“It will be a real milestone in the history of the cemetery. We are turning things round from deterioration to something the community can be proud of.

“Hopefully our stonemason can start soon and will have completed the work by July.”

The Neighbourhood Board has advised that the group is looking for matched funding from Darwen Town Council, and the application is being considered.

 12th May 2010 (Lancashire Telegraph)

Humbled by asylum seeker

I’D like to thank the small group who gave two or three hours of their time recently to continue the clean-up of Darwen cemetery.

I’d especially like to thank the man from Sri Lanka, a Muslim asylum-seeker, who saw the Friends’ website and decided to come and help us.

Not knowing where the cemetery was, he set off and walked a mile-and-a-half or so from his home and, as he walked through Whitehall Park, spotted our small group chopping and weeding and digging.

He breezed up, introduced himself and got stuck in, joining a second Muslim asylum-seeker from the Yemen who was also helping us as a ‘thank you’ for having had the Lancashire tradition of friendship extended to him in recent months.

They managed to converse in a mix of English and Arabic and did an excellent job together before my wife and I took them to our home and gave them lunch – and an hour-long English lesson.

The lad from Sri Lanka, a Tamil forced to flee the civil war which has ravaged his country, has two university masters degrees and his wife is a university lecturer.

And yet they can’t look for work until they get refugee status. It could take years. Their lives are slowly wasting away.

He wrote a few paragraphs during his English lesson. He wrote of meeting new friends and said the day was one of the most memorable of his life.

He was humble in his appreciation of the friendship he had found. I couldn’t explain to him how humble he made me feel.


May 2010 (The Warialda Standard, New South Wales, Austraila)

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:


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:

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.”