LAST month it emerged that Nick Knowles and his DIY SOS team will convert the rundown St Silas's Parish Centre in Blackburn into accommodation for the town's homeless for a BBC Children in Need special.

The news sparked memories of the 185-year-old building for regular Bygones contributor Barbara Riding.

She tells me in the 19th Century, when children from poorer families had no access to education, a few Blackburn children attended a Sunday school in a cottage in Dinkley Square.

When it became too small, the vicar of Blackburn, the Rev J.W. Whittaker, received for a grant from the National Society, a charity set up to provide education for the less well-off, of £50 (£4,000 in today's money).

Mrs Riding tells me: "Joseph Feilden of Witton Park supplied the land and Billinge Sunday School was built with the date 1834 displayed over the central window.

"In 1870, the Education Act was passed so children should receive education seven days a week, not just on Sundays, but it was 1881 before Billinge Sunday School took this on board.

"Miss A. Moulding was appointed as the first head, with another teacher, Miss Smith and two monitors to assist her. She kept a Log Book which gives us valuable information. The children had to pay two pence a day, which went towards paying for materials used in school and the teachers’ wages.

"In 1882, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools recommended a gallery should fixed up in the school for the younger children.

"This was made of rows of benches sloping up towards the ceiling with steps up the side. My mother-in-law, Ethel Riding attended the school in 1899 and remembered the gallery.

"As the teacher was there when she went home at tea-time and when she came to school the next day, she thought that she lived up in the gallery. I met a lady who remembered sitting in the gallery in 1893. The teacher down below had a jam jar on her desk with water and a black lead brush in it. Every now and again she would march up the steps of the gallery, splashing the children’s’ slates so that they could clean them properly without spitting on them!

"Eventually a larger school. St Silas’s Church opened in 1898, and what had originally been a school became St Silas’s Parish Centre.

"50 years ago I danced there every Monday afternoon."

Mrs Riding added: "80 years ago, I performed on the stage in a school play 'The Golden Touch'. "