Sunday, 30 November 2014

The History of the Harwoods of Darwen,

An new amazing book has just come out for all you Darreners
The History of the Harwoods of Darwen, Volume 1 is now available to order on-line at

Brian Lomax 1967 - 2014

Friends of Darwen Days

It is with deep regret that I have to inform you of the passing of a Darwen Days stalwart and former vice Chairman Mr Brian Lomax

Brian as well as carrying out his committee duties spent hundreds of hours taking thousands of pictures all around Darwen for your enjoyment. Brian has given Darreners and wider audience hours of enjoyment and untold memories. You would always see Brian with his camera slung around his neck almost hidden by his camouflage jacket, either on the main road, snooping around old buildings or up on the moors. Brian was his own man but his dedication to the early days of Darwen Days was immense.

Brian's legacy will be the photographs he has placed on Darwen Days. Also the memories he leaves us of the time we spent together.
Brian we thank you for your great work and dedication and help in making Darwen Days what it is today.

Absque Labore Nihil - a true Darrener

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The battle of Jutland

The battle of Jutland
A dramatic oil painting by Charles Dixon, will be returning to Darwen library at the end of November after 40 years on display at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery. The painting was donated to Darwen Corporation in 1920 by ‘an anonymous friend’, in memory of all the Darwen men who were killed in the Great War and was on display in Darwen’s reference library for over 50 years before being moved in 1974. The Friends of Darwen Library will unveil the large painting at a coffee morning in the library, all welcome – admission free.
Darwen Library - Saturday, 22 November from 10am – 12.30pm.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Young Ralph was our hero...

Young Ralph was our hero...

Captain Lawrence Oates walked bravely to his death in the Antarctic ice of 1912, but few know of a similar sacrifice by Ralph Bolton, a young Darwen lad just a few years later.

They had nothing in common ¬–except for heart-wrenching heroism.

Oates had been educated at Eton; Ralph at St Barnabas' school. The Oates family were landowners in the South, rich and well-connected; Ralph's parents were poor, Northern mill folk. Oates was a former cavalry officer with the 6th Dragoons and had fought with distinction in the Second Boer War; Ralph was a cotton weaver and a sergeant in the Church Lads' Brigade. Oates was tall and strong with an effortless elegance; Ralph was, well, just a little Darren lad.

Of course, Oates died before the horror of the Great War; Ralph and his pals died at the height of the conflict when sacrifice, duty and heroism, even among the young, were daily occurrences. The tragedy of their deaths has been overshadowed ... until now.

The bravery of 16-year-old Ralph in giving up his top coat to his young cousin and leaving him sheltered in the lee of a low stone wall in the darkness of a moorland blizzard will be remembered at a concert in Blackburn Cathedral which will feature the world premiere of a tone poem composed by world-renowned musician David Mellor, whose parents once had the off-licence at the corner of Edmund St and Ratcliffe St..

The Greater Love Hath No Man concert on Saturday, November 15, 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.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Darwen Days 2015 Calendars

Available at Brenda’s collectables on the three day market or on sale in the web site shop

Monday, 4 August 2014

My Memories, Living at the Cemetery Lodge, Darwen Cemetery Neville W Cordingley JP – D.O.B. 9th June 1934

I lived in the south lodge at Darwen Old Cemetery along with my father, Wilfred Cordingley who was the cemetery registrar and my mother May Cordingley until 1943 when my father died in Blackburn Royal Infirmary of peritonitis.
I have many vivid memories during my time living in the cemetery lodge. Many are the times I would take my pals playing in the cemetery and running wild, climbing trees and playing tricks on my pals in the three chapels that were situated in the Church of England, Nonconformist and Roman Catholic sections within the cemetery. Each of these chapels had a small reading desk behind which I would hide and, when my pals came looking for me, I would press the bell push on the underside of the reading desk to scare them. Perhaps that is when my family ‘christened me’ Neville the Devil. Sadly, these chapels no longer remain.
I also remember when we had severe snow in Darwen and my helping the grave diggers shovelling the snow away from the entire main roads in the cemetery so that burial could take place; I remember receiving a wage packet, just like the rest of the men. Another memory I have is sneaking up on the grave diggers when excavating the graves and kicking soil and clay onto them. They never caught me as I ran away before they could climb out of the graves, all I could here was. “Neville, you young devil”. In those days all the graves were dug by hand – no mechanical diggers.
My most vivid memory happened on Monday 21st October 1940. This was the day that a German bomber flew directly over the cemetery lodge. I remember this because I was off school this particular morning, To this day I cannot remember why I was off school. Because the sirens had sounded I was instructed to ‘get under the table’ along with my father and mother. Now, being nosy, I crept out and looked through the living room window when I heard the plane overhead. The plane was so low I could actually see the pilot. Of course, I received a spanking for not staying under the table as instructed.
Later that same day ambulances arrived, bringing the bodies from the Crown Street bombing. The Nonconformist chapel was used as a temporary mortuary. I received yet another good spanking when I crept up to see what was going on in this temporary mortuary. My vivid memory was seeing the grave diggers hosing down the entrance to the chapel and sweeping blood with stiff brushes.
The only other occasion bombs were dropped in Darwen was on Saturday 19th October 1940 when the top house in Alice Street took a direct hit. The house was completely demolished, apart from the outside toilet in the back yard which was untouched; there were no causalities. My wife, who lived across the road in Jepson St., tells me that her mother had made a jelly and left it to set on the mantelpiece in the front room. Her mother was very concerned that the jelly was OK.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Did you miss out???

A new book on Darwen and its Characters, written by Harold Heys and published by the Friends of Darwen Library, sold out within 24 hours of its launch at Darwen Library. The FODL are planning to print a second edition which will be available before their next coffee morning on November 22.

Meanwhile, there has been a lot of interest in close on 50 photos of war memorials from Darwen churches. Said chairman John East: "Every family in Darwen lost someone in the Great War. And most people who come into the Library to look at the photos recognise a family member who fell or served in the conflict."

The FODL are also experimenting with a rolling TV show of pictures from the Library archives. Take a look - there's bound to be something to interest everyone whether it's street scenes, trams and buses, churches and schools or parks and cemeteries.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

"Darwen and its characters"

DARWEN Library is staging an exhibition of photos of church memorials to local lads who died in the Great War – more than 1,300 of them. There will be about 50 photos in the display which will run for over two months until early October.

The exhibition will be opened on Saturday, July 26, at a coffee morning in the Library (from 10am).

A glossy new book on "Darwen and its characters" by semi-retired local journalist Harold Heys will be launched at the same time. There will also be a sale of local memorabilia. Says John East, chairman of the Friends of Darwen Library: "It will be a busy morning. Anyone looking to buy a present for someone, especially a Darrener living abroad, will have a ball."

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Grannys War

A wonderful and superb book about the Shorrock family a must read folks, now available to order from Jill Faux 01228 710661

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Come and Join us

Darwen Days are looking for somebody to help with all Darwen’s events such as Darwen’s Day, 1940s day and St George’s day next year
Would you like to join the DD team?
Do you have time on your hands?
Do you enjoy our town’s history?
If this is for you please send us a message or email, we would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014


Thankfully the weather over the recent May Bank Holiday weekend was, on the whole, sunny and bright. However, the elements were the last thing on the minds of our senior citizens as we look back to arguably one of the major national announcements which came at 2.41 a.m. on Monday, May 7th, 1945 declaring that the war in Europe had finally ended. Churchill, informed at 7am that day, set about telling the nation that official celebrations would begin the following day, 8th May.

Darwen, like the rest of the country, had experienced six years of austerity and rationing. Five inches of bath water, few eggs and certainly no bananas were just some of the measures taken.

Neither had the town escaped bombs. For example, one weekend in 1940 we were bombed twice and a double decker bus, travelling up Marsh House, was sprayed with bullets.

Quickly after Churchill's speech two typically 'stuffy' announcements to the nation followed. The first, from the government:-

"Bonfires will be allowed, but the government trusts that only materials with no salvage will be used."

The Board of Trade issued the following instructions:-

"Until the end of May you may buy cotton bunting without coupons, and it must not cost more than one shilling and three pence a square yard."

To the delight of the nation, Churchill later appeared with the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace where he announced to the crowd below "This is your victory - Advance Britannia."

As to government instructions, do Darreners ever take any notice of officialdom? Trestle tables were quickly assembled, schools throughout the town closed and consequently a glut of vegetables became available from the Duckworth Street canteen. Word soon spread and the towns folk turned up with buckets, wheelbarrows and anything else they could lay their hands on to help the party along. Never mind that no money could be had. Never mind that their men folk were thousands of miles away, all ages were quickly put to work ensuring that V.E. Day would be one to remember.

Page two:

Neighbours dashed in and out of each other's homes to hastily sort out who was doing what in the catering department whilst sharing their ration coupons. A sea of red white and blue adorned everybody and everything, from hair ribbons to bunting. Pianos, quickly hauled out of barely-used front parlours, helped sing songs throughout the town and 'Knees Up Mother Brown' could be heard for miles around.

Later that day Darreners also congregated in the town centre, and a stream of dancers formed various lines to conga through wherever they could find an opening! Presumably the following day the majority of the adults were suffering extraordinary hangovers, that's if the pubs didn't run out of beer first, but it had been worth it. (Young Darreners take note - you're not the only ones who can party until all hours).

Here's a picture of one held on Sudell Side Street which features some of my family - can you spot any of yours? Do you have any memories or photos of that day? Darwen Days would love to hear from you and see those black and white shots.

Finally, I've been asked by one of my relatives featured in that photo if anyone has, or knows of, any photographs of Darwen when there were thirty or more factory chimneys belching out enough CO2 to smother China. Hardy lot, aren't we - both then and now!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Big Quiz

HERE'S a challenge for all Darweners - especially the ones who have been around a bit! How well do you know the old place? That's the question being asked by the Friends of Darwen Library who, together with Darwen Days, are currently staging a display of 50 old photos with a twist. A dozen of the photos don't have captions and instead visitors are asked to pay £1 for an entry form and then see if they can answer the questions Who? What" Which? and so on. Some are easy; some need a bit of work. And for some you might need to take granny along to have a close look. Says Harold Heys, FoDL secretary: "There's no chance that anyone will get them all right." Now, there's a challenge!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014


The strong folk of Chapels - Dissenters or Nonconformists as they came to be called - suffered with the return of the Monarchy in 1660. Secret meetings were hastily arranged in defiance of the harsh laws imposed limiting their civil rights. Banned from any recognized learning, they banded together to build Lower Chapel.

Strong-willed, opinionated and not to be thwarted (rings a bell amongst Darreners?!) they produced good orators and preachers and Lower Chapel became a place of worship and education.

Although Charity Schools were introduced at the end of the 1700's there was a phenomenal rise in Sunday Schools in the 18th century as a result of the industrial revolution. Free tuition was offered on the one free day from employment. To name but two - Pickup Bank Sunday School opened in 1790 followed closely by Pole Lane Sunday School in 1793.

At the beginning of the 19th century hardly any day schools could be found and families relied on the good will of local preachers mainly to educate their off-spring. The first Sunday School to become a day school was introduced by a Rev. Yateman Starkie in 1818, established in Over Darwen known as Heyfold School.

The Mill and Factories Act improved matters in 1833 followed in 1845 with the declaration that textile workers children should receive at least three hours of education per day. The new reduced working hours for children (part time working) meant that they could finally receive a basic education.

A milestone was reached in 1870 with the introduction of the Elementary Education Act for all children under the age of ten. In that year there were thirty schools (none of them private) working in Darwen under full pressure with classes of at least fifty earning government grants.

Many of our older generation have memories of their part-time education i.e. half a day at school and half a day in the mill. However, not content with their education, many proud Darreners carried on their own education by visiting Darwen Library and burying themselves in books. Thanks to Andrew Carnegie and his £8,000 donation, this was opened in May 1908.

November 4th 1938 saw the opening of Darwen Grammar School at a cost of £50,000 and in September 2010 Darwen Aldridge Community Academy opened its doors not only for education but also to introduce new innovations to all sectors of our community.

Proud Darreners have the feisty Nonconformists of Lower Chapel to thank all those years ago. Is it any wonder that their never-say-die spirit lives on in this town?!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Old Chapel

As Darreners welcome Wetherspoons to Railway Road, let's not forget that next door (where Chippy's taxis can be found) stood a building which was an integral part of the town many moons ago, remembered perhaps by our senior citizens.

Built in the Italianate style at a cost of £10,000 the Theatre Royal opened its doors on 12th March 1877. With a large stage, dress circle, gallery and seven dressing rooms the building also included four shops on the ground floor and offices on the first floor. However, the post office took over from those shops in 1890.

It saw many name changes including the Hippodrome Cinema, the Darwen Picture Palace and others with a variety of owners and grand re-openings with various scene changes and a scandal or two. A famous one involved Jimmy Wearden who appeared in 1881 as "Owd Peg Leg." He had one wooden leg (some say two) and was noted for being a ladies' man. Nevertheless he did a runner (either on one leg or two) after assaulting a lady artiste in the middle of the night.

Umpteen famous stars appeared at the popular venue, many staying at Bank Street lodgings and included Stanley Jefferson (Stan Laurel) who starred in pantomimes between 1907 and 1909. Lily Langtry topped the bill in April of 1915 followed later by Jimmy Jewel and Sid Field. Curious acts included "talking pigs" performing cats and rats and boxing fights, all serving to entertain our townsfolk over the decades.

The music hall days were numbered with the introduction of 'the talkies' and the new fangled 'wireless' and so the popularity of music hall entertainment diminished as live shows were often coupled with short films. Entertainment was greatly changing along with its audience.

The last performance was the 'Waltz Dream' by the Musical Society in 1936 and during the second world war the building was used for storage. However, in 1960 the venue appeared in a Norman Wisdom film "There Was A Crooked Man" where it was seen as a Blackpool pub, The McKillup Arms.

Sadly it was demolished in 1961 but Darwen Days wonder if our old timers have kept any of the posters of shows in days gone by or any other mementos of our social history which would add to our fascinating account of changing times in the town..