When news happens, text LT and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
Deluge brought death to Darwen
A SOGGY summer has caused widespread flooding throughout East Lancashire — 160 years ago, the rains brought death to Darwen.
For a reservoir, high on the edge of the moors above the town, burst its banks and flooded the town centre.
A dozen men, women and children drowned in the cramped cellars they called home.
The drama of that night, in August 1848, has now been recalled by Marjan Wouda, who has designed a sculpture trail around Bold Venture Park, built over the site of the old reservoir, which serviced the town’s expanding industry.
The drama of that night was told at the subsequent inquest.
It heard how two women, Ellen Townley and Mary Day, held three children above their heads in muddy water barely a foot from the stone ceiling of their cellar below a narrow passage called Lumb Street.
Next door, John Townley, his wife and children were hauled to safety by John and Ralph Shorrock who had blood-stained hands from clawing through a small, broken window.
In another cellar, in Church Street, widowed Alice Nixon had an agonising choice as the water rushed into the hovel she called home.
She had just enough strength to save one of her little children; the other was left to its fate.
Next to the Black Bull in Market Street, a cellar under a tailor’s shop was occupied by Henry Bury, a fishmonger, his wife and three children.
When the flood struck he and his wife managed to drag two toddlers to a higher part of the cellar till they were rescued — they could do nothing for their baby.
Perhaps the most poignant moment of that desperate night, as the storm raged, was the death of the Knowles family who occupied one of three adjoining cellars in Bury Street beneath the shop of shoemaker Christopher Bibby.
As the flood water raced in through the solitary door Richard Knowles called to his six-year-old son: “Oh, my lamb.”
This moment of anguish from a night of desperation has been recalled by Marjan on her trail. The words have been created in steel and suspended from the branches of a tree.
They appear to rise, like bubbles, out of the waters of the lake that now covers the area of the broken reservoir.
“There was such a sadness about the story,” said Marjan, who lives in Darwen.
“Any parent, I’m sure, would find the story of such piteous grief to be very moving.”
Bold Venture Park now is very different to that night of horror when the dam burst and the water level of the reservoir dropped 40ft in moments.
But the ghostly nature of the area’s history is now on display thanks to Marjan, who has created seven sculptures, while a final piece has been added by Thompson Dagnall, who has carved “Who Pays the Quarryman” into an exposed face of the old quarry.