Labour History Lancs.
Thank you, Alan. D. Born
“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.”
St George's Church
There's nothing to see there now, only fairly new, fairly unremarkable town houses, but once on Darwen's Harwood St there was a church – the Church of England's St George's. It was on the corner with Vale St. It was consecrated in 1903 by the Bishop of Manchester. Lord of the Manor the Rev William Arthur Duckworth donated the site and paid half the costs. He had it built in memory of his brother George who'd died in 1854 at Crimea.
The Duckworths emerged from obscurity at the dissolution of the monasteries when they bought land formerly owned by Whalley Abbey. The family continued to make shrewd purchases of land and in 1811 William Arthur's grandfather, also George Duckworth, bought the land occupied by Over Darwen. His son William became a lawyer, a Scrooge like character who scrutinised legal documents for flaws and ruthlessly exploited them. He lived and worked in Manchester and was canny enough to realise the then village's industrial potential and added more land, including much of Chorlton, to his portfolio. These investments were to realise a fortune in rentals in years to come. He moved south with his cunningly gotten gains and became an adornment of society at Orchardleigh near Bath.
Sir Henry Newbolt, a well known author at the time, portrayed William Duckworth in his novel 'The Old Country' as Joseph Earnshaw, a north country lawyer, rock jawed and iron handed.
William Arthur was William's second son and, not expecting to inherit the family fortune, became a clergyman. The eldest son George however had a yen for the military life and bought himself a commission in the Dragoon Guards. It was a strange decision when a life of great wealth was there for the asking. Perhaps he liked the uniform. It is to be hoped he did. He died of cholera and was buried wrapped in it. There was talk of the family going out to Crimea to visit the grave, but nobody was quite sure where it was and the area was notoriously unhealthy, so nothing came of it.
Rev W A Duckworth had to wait till 1876, when his father died, before he inherited his millions. He had himself a new mansion built at Orchardleigh. He was not a frequent visitor to Darwen. He usually stayed at the Millstone hotel. His relations with the town were sometimes strained. Shooting rights were a valuable source of income and he closed footpaths to keep people off the moors. This led to a bitter dispute which wasn't resolved until 1896 when rights of way were established. Darwen Tower was built to celebrate the victory.
St George's Church must have been handy for worshippers living in Harwood St. but it didn't flourish. After less than 70 years it was derelict and was demolished in 1975. Bishop Thornton, who had consecrated the church had declared that the land it stood on was being made sacred to God and should never revert to common or secular use. After the church was demolished, the site was a popular spot for bonfires, not what the good bishop had in mind.
Thank you, Alan. D. Born
DOWN CURIOSITY STREET - STORY TWO: William Henry Marsh Parr
Must have seemed a bit like winning the lottery, the chance of a lifetime – the opportunity to join the maiden voyage of a luxury liner with first class accommodation provided free. William Henry Marsh Parr was born at Hindley Green on October 10th 1882. By the time of the 1891 census William was living in Chorley New Rd, Horwich. Both his parents, John and Hannah, were office caretakers. He had two sisters Fanny and Hannah. William became an apprentice at Horwich Loco Works as an electrical engineer, He got his name in the papers for the first time on June 28th 1906, in the Bolton Evening News, when he was prosecuted for trespassing.
He completed his apprenticeship and was offered a plum job as assistant electrical engineer with Harland and Wolff in Belfast. In 1910 he married Gertrude Poole of Nantwich and by 1911 the couple were living in Elaine Street in South Belfast with their three month old daughter Dorothea. In 1912 came his chance of a lifetime. He was selected as one of the elite team of maintenance staff to join the maiden voyage of Harland and Wolff's most prestigious project: RMS Titanic.
I talked to an old lady once who grew up in Southampton. She remembered very clearly the sky on the evening of the 14th April 1912. It was ominous and lurid, a dramatic red. That day the Titanic had called at Cherbourg and Cork and then sailed on, almost 2,000 miles to its icy encounter.
It was just before midnight on April 14th that Titanic struck the ice. Within a couple of hours she was gone. Gone too William Henry Marsh Parr. His body was not recovered. Gertrude never remarried and later resettled in her native Cheshire, living at Wood End Cottage in Chester Road, Sandiway. She died on 8 June 1952.
William got his name in the Bolton Evening News again on the 13th October 2017 when a plaque was unveiled on Poppins Tearooms, Lee Lane, Horwich where he had once lived.
DOWN CURIOSITY STREET - STORY ONE: FLORA AT LARGE
Ken hadn't seen Flora for years. Time was on a summer's eve he'd walk up Preston New Road to Blackburn's Corporation Park and wend the broad walks and drives to the shady bower where the statue of Flora dwelt. He could only admire her from afar. She stood high above him on her plinth. She was a sturdy lass. She could have done her ten hour shift in the mill and still have had the energy to spring clean the house and beat the dusty daylights out of her carpets. It was said that at the advent of spring she would alight from her plinth and roam the twilit groves with amorous intent. It was the advent of spring that had stirred Ken's blood and given him the notion of seeking her out.
Corporation Park was created on land at Pemberton Clough bought from Joseph Feilden. The reservoir there became the park's lake. A couple of Crimean cannon were acquired and on the opening day, October 23 rd , 1857, they boomed out over the town, causing some alarm.
The statue of Flora, representing spring, was donated in 1871 by Thomas Hartley Fairhurst, monumental mason of Whalley Range. It was sculpted by Thomas Allen of Liverpool, who settled in the town and worked on a number of buildings.
Years ago Ken had often done the round of pubs on Blackburn's "Barbary Coast." What roaring, rowdy places they had been then. In some, especially down Darwen St, there'd been dangerously glamorous sirens propping up the bar, blowing heart shaped smoke rings in his direction and batting unfeasibly long eyelashes. He'd often been tempted, but his mate
Gerry had always saved him.
“Don't be having owt to do with them. They're not even women.” Gerry wouldn't be out with him tonight. Would he succumb to temptation? Fat chance! Blackburn's "Barbary Coast" was no more. The "Big Bull" was now a betting shop; "The Stoker's Arms "was now a bridal boutique; "The Grapes" was a posh coffee shop. "The County" and "The Legs of Man" weren't even there any more, and he searched in vain for "The Vulcan" and "The Courts" both swallowed up by Blackburn College" burgeoning campus.
The "Sir Charles Napier" was still there and Ken had a couple to fortify himself. Hadn't there been a "dive"nearby, the"Top Hat Club" It had had a licence to stay open late on the grounds that it supplied food – a few mouldy pies and curled up sandwiches in a cabinet on the bar. There'd been a dance floor awash with beer and ringed by glowering thugs avid for trouble. Was it still there? Ken peered over to where he thought it had been. There'd never
been bouncers on the door. They'd been inside keeping people in.
Ken walked up Preston New Road. It was turned ten but still light. Nobody about in the park. Could he remember the way to Flora's bower? He could. His footsteps wound their way unerringly to the shady arbour where fragrant twilight yet lingered. Ken recoiled with shock.
The arbour was empty. Flora's plinth was still there, but it was empty. Flora had gone! She had stepped down. She was at large. He hardly dared to look round. Might she not step from the shadows at any moment and seize him? He was poised for flight, but realised there was still enough light for a photo, for proof. He got his phone out. It would be a blurred shot; his
hands shook so. For a moment, just for a moment he thought of lingering, of venturing into the heart of the park where he would be at her mercy. No he'd not had enough to drink for that. His nerve failed him and he fled.
Next morning, lying awake in bed, he regretted his timidity. He should go back, take an offering. Wasn't she the goddess of flowers? Take flowers then. He had to tell somebody. He knew where Jerry would be - in the library devouring the day's papers.
“I've got something to show you.” He fumbled out his phone. “Corporation Park last night.”
Jerry peered at it over the rim of his glasses.
“It's a bit blurred.”
“You can still see – Floras plinth. It's empty. The stories are true. She does walk!”
Jerry was not impressed.
“You don't read the local rag do you?”
“I do not.”
Jerry went up to the enquiry desk for a back copy. He opened it up and showed an article to
Ken: "Flora gets a make-over" ran the headline. There was a picture of Flora being winched on to a
lorry. The story described how local firm, Brent Stevenson's Memorials, founded in 1883 by
Thomas Stevenson, were taking Flora away for repair and renovation. Neither of them
spoke. Ken discreetly zipped up his tartan shopping trolley, so the bunch of red
roses wouldn't show, then turned to the sports page.
“I was just winding you up,” he said and began reading the report of the Rovers v Burnley North England
match. There wasn't much for his comfort there either. Burnley had won 5 – 0.