A “BREATHTAKING” war memorial to Darwen lads who fell in the Great War has been saved and put on display in the town’s heritage centre. It will be the centrepiece of the main exhibition room which will be open tomorrow morning for the first time in over a year.

Sadly, it will not be the original mosaic which is still firmly attached to a wall in the former Hollins Grove Congregational Church. But it will be the next best thing, a colour photograph on board measuring 9ft x 4ft, about two thirds of the original size.

It was dedicated exactly 100 years ago, in April 1921, when congregations were numbered in hundreds. The church closed 18 months ago when attendance at services had dwindled to almost nothing.

The booklet for the Memorial Dedication Service, stated: “We have thought that nothing but the best would be worthy of those who offered themselves, and suffered, and died that we might live.” It cost nearly £2,000.

In the past few months Albert Gavagan, secretary of Darwen Heritage Centre, has worked tirelessly to try to ensure that the beautiful mosaic, which depicts Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper might be saved. But it would have been too costly.

The church building at the bottom of Hawkshaw Avenue was under offer a few weeks ago and the mosaic will probably be covered over or even broken up.

Albert got in touch with top photographer Paul Greenwood who produced a stunning photograph of the memorial to 20 church members who didn’t come home from the war. Above it is the inscription: “Greater love hath no man but this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15-13 (KJV).

“It’s the best we could do,” says Albert. “We were disappointed that it proved impossible to take down the original which was made from coloured glass but this photograph is stunning.”

Darwen Town Council and the Lloyd Trust have both provided financial assistance towards bringing the memorial to life and in such a prominent and popular venue.

Says Albert: “The volunteers who run the centre have been very active during the closure, carrying out essential maintenance work and creating an environment which is both interesting and safe.”

Other groups will be using the building and, in trying to cater for everyone, they have revised opening times to Wednesdays 10 -1 pm, Fridays 1 - 4 and Saturdays 11 - 3.

A one-way system has been created to enable social distancing to be maintained and all visitors must use the side entrance on Church Street.

Some remarkable new displays include Herbert Parkinson’s, Houghton’s Saddlers, Industrial Darwen, Toys from the 50s and 60s, the Public Baths, Darwen parks, the wood and lots more.

“Come along and take a look – it’s free!” says chairman Tony Foster.