BLACKBURN town centre’s hidden watercourse has been revealed in all its glory for the first time in more than half a century.
Construction work on the Cathedral Quarter has uncovered the normally culverted and roofed River Blakewater.
Most of its length through the Cathedral grounds and alongside the Boulevard is now visible.
The first part of the river was opened up in March and now the majority can be seen —but only for a few weeks as it is set to be covered over again next month.
The ambitious £28million Cathedral Quarter plan to transform the town centre includes strengthening of the concrete tunnels rebuilt during the town centre redevelopment of the 1960s.
The Victorian culvert through which the River Blakewater runs goes right under the town centre, with a small branch from the historic All Hallows Spring, behind the Adelphi pub, joining the main flow down from its source on the moors above Guide.
For just a few more weeks as experts from the Eric Wright Group repair and strengthen the walls and roof of the tunnel, visitors will be able to see the river for the first time since the height of the Industrial Revolution.
The maintenance is essential to take the weight of the new Cathedral Quarter development and lorries needed to build the hotel, offices and clergy court that will rise on the site.
The strengthening of the south end of the culvert roof will be complete in mid-June to enable access across to Dandy Walk for vehicles, allowing the next phase of to commence with the construction of the office building and Premier Inn at the beginning of July either side of the culverted river.
Ray Smith, chairman of Blackburn Local History Society, said: “For many people this offers a fascinating chance to see a bit of the town’s past. When I was a youngster, kids used go under the culvert roof and run through to the other end. A lot of local people of a certain age will be very interested.”
Blackburn with Darwen council regeneration director Brian Bailey said: “It is very exciting to see the different parts of the scheme coming to life. As well as uncovering parts of our town's history, the Cathedral Quarter development will play an important part of the future of town centre.”