Stephen Smith

With more and more people taking an interest in local history, volunteers like Stephen Smith are making it much easier for people to step back in time and experience the past of Blackburn and Darwen.

Stephen, 60, from Feniscowles volunteers as part of a team who source, research and write articles for the Cotton Town website.

Cotton Town includes a mix of old pictures, photographs and articles which bring to life the history of Blackburn, Darwen and the surrounding areas to help paint a picture of the locality as it was.

Formerly a groundsman for Lancashire County Council, Stephen has always been interested in local history.

It was while researching his own family tree that he became absorbed in the subject, he said: “Once I’d traced my ancestors I wanted to find out more about where and how they had lived, so I started to look for information about the local area.”

It was then that he discovered the Cotton Town website: “I really enjoyed reading the pieces and decided that I’d like to help by contributing articles for the site”, he said. 

Stephen applied to be a Community History volunteer and soon settled to work as part of the team.

“My favourite part of the role is carrying out the initial research; I start by looking for material that captures my imagination and then gather together as much as I can on the subject. Once I’ve done that I start to write the article for the site”, he added.

Over the years Stephen has uncovered some fascinating stories, including the tale of the Blackburn Vampire and the account of the swindler William Gourlay. 

Stephen is currently working on an upgrade to the site to improve the user’s experience and is scanning records for soldiers who fought in the First World War for the centenary of the start of the conflict next year.

Executive Member for Culture Leisure and Young People, Councillor Damian Talbot, said: “Stephen is an excellent example of the Council’s Your Call initiative, he's a true asset to the borough and I’m sure there are lot of people who have benefitted from his articles, keep up the good work Stephen!”

Librarian for Community History, Diana Rushton, said: “Stephen is an excellent volunteer. When he started here 7 years ago, he was obviously interested in local history and we’ve been able to harness his enthusiasm to the benefit of local people as he has enriched the site, adding to its popularity.  

“In addition to working on Cottontown he is always happy to help staff with local and family history enquiries, proving that he is a real asset to the Community History service.”

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