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?!

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