The History of Blackburn Rd Cemetery,
In 1852, Mr. Nicholas Starkie ‘most generously and unsolicited’ presented two acres of land in a very eligible situation as a public cemetery. This was to be the start of the Blackburn Road cemetery, which since that time has been extended and enlarged.
This gift came about because of the state of the burial grounds in Padiham which had become a matter of national concern. Around 1834, there had been an outbreak of Asiatic Cholera resulting in many deaths. The Parish records show that during September and October alone, sixty-eight people of all ages died, compared with the average of about eighteen deaths for the whole year. The situation was so bad that it was reported that bodies were being placed in the river for the current to wash them away.
In 1852, an Order was issued that all the old cemeteries in Padiham were to be closed, However, in order to use the new cemetery in Blackburn Road, the Rev. S.J.C. Adamson, the Vicar of St. Leonard’s, insisted that the funeral services were to be conducted according to the rites of the Church of England: no dissenting ministers were allowed to officiate and the appropriate burial fees were to be paid to himself. This was bitterly resented by the non-conformists.
However, there was insufficient money available to complete the layout of the cemetery so the church was forced to recruit “voluntary” and very numerous trains of horses, carts and men for a day’s work. The result, according to the Vicar, Rev. Adamson, was “one of the most ornamental localities in the neighbourhood, either as a source of contemplation for the living or a quiet and appropriate meeting place for the dead”. In those days, new public cemeteries were designed with as much care and attention as public parks.
When the new St. Leonard’s church was built in the late 1860s and many bodies in the old church graveyard were re-interred in the new cemetery. A small chapel was built in the grounds as a memorial to Le Gendre Nicholas Starkie, who died in May 1865. The foundation stone was laid by his widow, Mrs Anne Starkie, in September of the same year.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, all respectable families felt obliged by social convention to spend a good deal of money (which some could ill afford) on a good turnout for themselves and their relations. This can even be seen today in the form of elaborate or expensive headstones - the tallest of which is near the Chapel (see photograph section). It was erected by Jessie, the wife of Rev. James Tyas who died in1876 at the age of 49.
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