In the village of Higher Walton, by the side of the River Darwen on Higher Walton Road, stands a memorial to Kathleen Ferrier. One of the most celebrated singers of her generation, she was born in the small mill village in 1912. The monument was unveiled on 22nd September 1993, forty years after Kathleen’s premature demise. At the time of her death, it is said that her popularity was second only to that of the queen.
The monument is made of Caen limestone recovered from an 1800s house in Wilpshire, Blackburn. It features the pink Kathleen Ferrier Rose, named in the singer’s honour. The blue plaque states: Kathleen Ferrier CBE Born 22nd April 1912. A Singer of International Fame, Her Voice Gave Deep Pleasure to Multitudes, 1912-1953.
The idea for a commemorative memorial and garden came from two local residents, Anne Bradley and Roy Bannistre Parker. Roy, an engineer, constructed and inscribed the monument. Anne was a librarian at Poulton-le-Fylde College. After she retired, she published local history books and collected an archive of postcards, photographs, newspaper clippings and accounts from older residents of Higher Walton. These are all now stored in the Lancashire Archives.
Anne wrote of the monument that “using a few hundred pounds of local authority money and great company money (we) have rescued from a litter of rubbish and dead trees a half acre of land”. The garden area was originally planted with daffodils, bluebells, tulips and snowdrops.
Today, there is still a small formal planted area either side of Shop Lane. On one side is the stone memorial and plaque, together with the rose bush. On the other side of the road is an enclosed garden of shrubs entered by a gate.
There is also a locked gate behind the memorial that would have led down the River Darwen. This has presumably been closed for safety reasons as the path to this area has been eroded and there are steep banks down the the river.
The monument stands on Shop Lane and can be seen at any time. There is free parking at the King George’s Field car park, just off Higher Walton Road (A675). Turn left out of the car park and head up the main road to the monument.
Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Garden, Anne Bradley (1993), leaflet published by Lancashire County Council
A Nostalgic and Historical Walk Around Moons Mill, Higher Walton, Preston Anne Bradley (1991), Claughton Press Ltd
News From the Archives: Newsletter of the Lancashire Archives Edition 189 December 2017, Lancashire County Council. Available online as a pdf document.