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Darwen Cemetery

This week's post focuses on the history of Darwen Cemetery, and is the last in my series of posts on the Blackburn and Darwen Collection. Also below are details of an Open Day for Blackburn Cemeteries and Crematorium which takes place this weekend.
View towards Darwen Tower (Copyright Clementslinda @Wikimedia Commons)
Darwen Cemetery opened in 1861, with a second section added in 1876. A need for a spacious cemetery had emerged in the 1850s as Darwen's churchyards became full. As with Blackburn Cemetery, Darwen had three chapels, one each for Anglicans, Nonconformists and Roman Catholics.
There are dozens of fascinating people buried in Darwen Cemetery. The lives of many are explored in more detail on the History page in the Research section of the website of the Friends of Darwen Cemetery. Below I have highlighted some of the most celebrated in Darwen's history.
Darwen's India Mill with its grand chimney
Nineteenth century Darwen was dominated by the cotton trade. New mills appeared on the horizon and local cotton manufacturers became rich and powerful. The names of manufacturing families like Eccles, Shorrock and Ashton are well-known in the town. The first Eccles Shorrock arrived in Darwen in 1830 when he bought the Bowling Green Mill. He forged partnerships with Bannister Eccles, Thomas Ashton and James Shorrock, and built Darwen Mill and New Mill. His nephew, Eccles Shorrock Ashton (1827-1889), inherited his uncle's mills and after his death he dropped his surname, becoming the second Eccles Shorrock. He made a great contribution to Darwen's economy and landscape when he constructed the India Mill, with its magnificent chimney. 

Sadly, in 1882, Shorrock's business was devastated by the effects of the famine in India. The cotton market slumped, a thousand of his workers lost their jobs, and he fell into bankruptcy. Unable to cope, Shorrock suffered a mental breakdown and was sent to an asylum in Edinburgh. He died a few years later, aged 62. His body was returned to Darwen to be buried in the cemetery on 1 October 1889. Eccles Shorrock's grave was left unmarked until October 2011 when, to mark World Mental Health Day, the Friends of Darwen Cemetery arranged an official unveiling of a new black granite headstone.
Entry in the Darwen Burial Register for Eccles Shorrock junior
Born Martha Jane Walmsley in Blackburn to the headmaster of Park Road Congregational day school and his wife, Martha Jane Bury (1850-1913) would go on to be the President of the Women's Co-operative Guild. Although she was fairly well-educated, family circumstances led to Martha working in the mills from the age of 11. She married weaver John William Bury in 1882. Through evening classes, John eventually became qualified to work as a clerk and then mill manager. At the age of 42 and the mother of five children, Martha finally stopped working in the mill.

Martha was elected secretary of the Darwen branch of the Women's Co-operative Guild in 1893. She was first elected President of the Guild in 1896. A keen reformer, her work led to the introduction of minimum wage for co-operative employees; and as a Poor Law Guardian for Blackburn she sought improved treatment for unmarried and poor pregnant women. In her last years she pressed for divorce reform. She died suddenly aged 62 and was buried on 4th June 1913.
Despite her great achievements and her prominence in the history of welfare reform in Darwen, in the cemetery's burial register under "Rank or Profession", Martha is referred to merely as "the wife of John W. Bury". Perhaps the cemetery's register was one area still in need of Martha Jane Bury's feminist reforms.
1915 Painting depicting the sinking of the Lusitania by the German U-boat U 20 (German Federal Archives)
Like many cemeteries in the Deceased Online database, Darwen is home to memorials or headstone inscriptions for those who died overseas or have no known grave. One such inscription on his family's gravestone is dedicated to the memory of William Dewhurst (1893-1915), a former member of Darwen's St Barnabas Church, who died aboard RMS Lusitania when it was sunk by a German U-boat on 7th May 1915. In May 1915, Dewhurst was on his way back to Lancashire to enlist in the British Army after living for a time in Fall River, Massachusetts, USA.

If you have enjoyed reading about the history of the Blackburn and Darwen Cemeteries and would like to learn more, do come and meet at least one of the Deceased Online team at the Open Day for Blackburn with Darwen Crematorium and Cemeteries taking place at Pleasington Crematorium this Sunday, 5th October, 11am to 3pm. Access is free and visitors will be able to view the records on Deceased Online, as well as take a tour of the new cemetery extension and a look behind the scenes in the crematorium building following extensive refurbishment and improvements to facilities over the last 18 months. There will also be be various other exhibitors on the day.

If you can't attend the Open Day but would like to contact the Deceased Online team, you can always get in touch via our Twitter or Facebook pages.


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