LOCAL historians in Darwen spent months earlier this year trying to track down the silver spade used by Coun Alexander Carus to turn the first sod for the building of Darwen Tower. They eventually found it – and now it is back in town!

Researcher Tony Foster, chairman of Darwen Heritage Centre, is thrilled with its return and promised it will soon became part of the centre’s displays of Tower memorabilia.

“I can’t think of any item which is more important to Darwen folk who have the town’s history to heart than this spade,” he said.

“It was last seen about 30 years ago, but we were determined to find it – and hopefully have it back here.”

Historian Dilys Dyer tracked it to the West Sussex home of David Duckworth, a great-grandson of Alexander Carus. It had been proudly displayed on a wall at his home for years.

She is an old friend of the Carus family and sent David a draft of an essay written for a new book on local history by semi-retired journalist Harold Heys.

Darren & Darreners, People and Places will go on sale at the Heritage Centre on the morning of Saturday, October 23.

Dilys said: “David responded kindly and with a promise that the spade would be returned to Darwen, its ‘spiritual home’.”

He said: “Not only is the spade part of my family history, it is an integral part of the history of Darwen.” He said the centre would be an ideal place to have it displayed and earlier this month he travelled to Darwen to hand it over to Albert Gavagan, the HC secretary.

Said Albert: “We had a good chat, like old friends, and then he unwrapped the famous spade and handed it over. It was quite touching. I’m sure it will bring in a lot of people to the centre.”

Alexander Carus was one of Darwen’s leading employers. He was a JP and, for over 25 years, a town councillor.

He was mayor in 1895-97 and will always be remembered in Darwen for digging the foundation stone for the tower before a crowd of over 3,000.

The good folk of Darwen had raised over £4,000 for the tower to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The 85-foot hight tower took just ober a year to complete, opening on September 24, 1998.

William Ranken, of Hoddlesden Hall, had died abroad in 1889 and Carus moved quickly to buy it from his estate. His family grew up there and it was there that he died in December, 1920.

He was a prominent Catholic, closely associated with St Joseph’s, and was buried at Pleasington Priory. He and his wife Agnes, who came from Manchester, had 10 children who survived infancy.

Carus and Sons were one of the biggest textile manufacturers in the Darwen area until, after the Great War, the company switched to the manufacture of healthcare products and especially surgical dressings.

Hoddlesden Hall was built off Bayne Street in 1861 to replace the original hall which was up the hill in the centre of the village on the site of the Ranken pub. Vernon-Carus Ltd sold the impressive hall in the 1980s and it was converted into four separate dwellings in 1998.

Dilys Dyer and her late husband Alan lived in the old coach house for years. “It was delightful,” she said. “Lovely views and beautiful beech trees overhanging the side of the house.”