DARWEN'S Theatre Royal, gaunt reminder of nights of enchantment, was put up for sale in 1956.

Many years had passed since the final curtain fell on the live theatre in town and 60 years ago, it contained offices and a warehouses.

The Royal had a special place in the heart of townsfolk - for it was across the old time footlights and through a haze of tobacco smoke that they saw artistes, unknown at the time, but who went on to achieve world wide fame.

Charlie Chaplin, who first visited Darwen as a page boy in a Sherlock Holmes play and later played with Fred Karno's 'Mumming Birds' was probably the most famous.

Houdini, the American handcuff king; Wee Georgie Wood, Randolph Sutton, George Formby - who married a Darwen girl - Harry Korris and Dan Leno, were others.

The youthful, unknown Chaplin was remembered by Edward Middlehurst back in 1956 of South Street, who was a stage hand at the theatre.

Like Darwen, the theatre had its ups and downs - it was built in 1877 as temperance hall and in 1880, the first pantomime Robinson Crusoe was produced, which played for a month.

In 1908 the name was changed to the Hippodrome, when a variety agent Will Dalton took over.

Scott and Whaley, Charles Melville, William Calvert Herman Veyin the Shakespearian actor, and Wilson Barrett, also appeared on stage under his management.

Before WWI, a man who was to achieve immortality in a sterner business than theatreland addressed a political gathering at the theatre - Winston Churchill was another famous name in the annals of the Theatre Royal.