ONE important building visible on the 1898 Ordnance survey map of Wilpshire, is Blackburn Orphanage, on Whalley New Road.

The foundation stone was laid by the mayor John Rutherford in 1889, but due to lack of funds, did not open for a further two years.

It was founded by a joiner, James Dixon, who began the fund for it in 1886, with his £50 life savings after finding half a dozen boys sleeping rough in the doorway of a Blackburn warehouse.

He had come to Blackburn from Scotland at the age of 23 to find work as a carpenter and his Presbyterian conscience led him to become a Sunday school teacher, which prompted him to work for the poor and destitute.

This led him to founding the Ragged School, providing poor children with an education before opening the fund for an orphanage.

This friend Thomas Hart added a further £50, with the executors of the late Mrs Thwaites adding £100.

By using his contacts he went on to raise £3,700 with many small individual contributions and he bought some land at Wilpshire for the new building.

His diary records that in 1889 he found a little boy called Peter Tomlinson asleep with his mother on some straw in an empty house in Pipemaker's Entry, on Furthergate.

She had sold his clogs for drink, so Peter became the first child admitted to the new orphanage for boys - another was 11-year-old Adolphus Curran, from Duke Street, whose brother Arthur later joined him.

The orphanage staged various events to raise money to keep going, including 'pound days' when people were asked to donate money or a pound of food. Many people regularly donated small amounts of money and James also came up with the idea of sponsorship.

It was run by James' wife Jane, who looked after 60 children, as well as her own three daughters. Her death was a huge loss.

By 1905 it was expanded to create a separate building for girls, with a school room, sewing room, dormitories and matron's parlour.

During the First World War 116 past orphans fought for their country, with 10 giving their lives and in WWII seven of them were killed.

As children grew up and left at the age of 16, they felt indebted for their care and offered donations which, along with generous legacies from other charitable wellwishers, ensured its valuable work continued.