A VICTORIAN town centre building, which has been on the market since October, is set to be turned into a heritage and arts centre for Darwen.

Holker House in Railway Road, which was constructed in 1871, has been bought by the charity The Livesey Foundation with the intention of making it a home for the history of Darwen.


It will also be used for a variety of community purposes such as charity and social meetings, exhibitions, a venue for councillors and tourist information.

Councillor John East, spokesman for the foundation, said that after the terrible news of the three-day market shutting down, Darwen vitally needs a way to rediscover its heritage.

He said: “The news about the three-day market was extremely disappointing and I do not want Darwen to become a forgotten town next to Blackburn so I think this new centre will be a way for people to rediscover what is special about this town.

“The building is in sound condition and the idea of a heritage centre is an exciting prospect.

“It will not be politically led, it will be people led and we want to involve children, young people, and as many heritage groups and community groups as possible.

“It is an ambitious and challenging project and I hope it will be enjoyed by the town.”

The house was built by medical officer Dr George Hindle and was later owned by Dr James Ballantyne, who was mayor of Darwen in 1898 and 1899.

Holker House was then used as the Divisional Education Office for Darwen until 1974, when it became the Area Education Architects’ Office and then in 1985 it was taken over by Blackburn College, which vacated in 2005 before the property was bought by Stephen Milligan in 2007.

Dave Owen, of local history group Darwen Days, is also supporting the project and said that as the town had such an amazing history it deserves a centre that celebrates that.

He said: “Darwen was famous for having the first steam tram in the country and one of the biggest paper factories in the UK.

“It’s got a fascinating history and it will not just be used for history but also charitable groups can use it. I’m all for it and I’m very excited about what The Livesey Foundation want to do with the building.”

There will be a public meeting on March 22 at 6.30pm in Holker House to discuss ideas of what to put in the building and all enquiries should go to Cllr East.