VISITORS to Blackburn Central Library on January 22 can discover an important part of the town’s heritage through the legacy of a great philanthropist.

Harriet Roberts will give a talk at 2pm about James Dixon, born in 1855, who was the founder of Blackburn Orphanage.

A contemporary of Dr Barnardo, during his lifetime he was a well-known local personality and fundraiser who used his skills as a marketer, entrepreneur, preacher and businessman to achieve his vision of a children’s home for the vulnerable, poor and needy.

Ms Roberts will talk about this fascinating man and his legacy, using material from the extensive orphanage archives which were uncovered in 2010 as part of a Heritage Lottery funded project. The children’s records provide a remarkable picture of the society of the period from 1850 and Dixon’s personal diary gives a glimpse of his drive and motivation.

She will describe the social conditions and desperate family situations endured by the children before their admission to the orphanage.

Mr Dixon died, aged 80, in 1936, but his work continues in the charity now known as Child Action Northwest.