THE larger of the two iconic waiting rooms that welcomed thousands of passengers to Darwen’s pioneering tramway system for many years has been given a new lease of life.

But now, instead of waiting for rattling, clanking trams to take passengers down to Blackburn Boulevard or up to Hoddlesden or the Whitehall terminus, it’s the snip snip of a hairdresser’s salon that awaits callers.

Susan Barnes ran Hairkutz on Duckworth Street for over 20 years but just about every time she drove past the waiting rooms on Belgrave Square she imagined shutting up shop and moving into one of them, preferably the larger of the two.

She got her opportunity when Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council sold the lease to her shop and, at the same time, the Edwardian waiting room became available.

“Everything fell into place,” said Susan. “The size was perfect and my dad did most of the work to ensure that everything was in place for the opening.

“Since I was an apprentice, I’d imagined running my own salon here on Belgrave Square alongside the iconic Boer War memorial and well, now, here I am!”

Pride of place is a large print of a watercolour by Albert Hurst, Darwen’s foremost artist of the post-war period which he painted 30 years ago.

In the late Victorian era Belgrave Square, on the edge of the Circus, was something of a dumping ground before a large fountain was built on the land.

The introduction of a modern, steam-driven tramway system which was was electrified 20 years later, and the Boer War campaign, provided the answer of what to do with the space.

The waiting rooms – ladies to the left, gents to the right – were designed by Borough Engineer Robert Smith-Saville and built in 1902. They were opened on January 1, 1903, to mark the forthcoming Coronation of King Edward VII, and the memorial, topped by a roaring lion, was unveiled before a vast crowd on April 18.

Solicitor Frederick George Hindle, whose offices were just across Bolton Road, paid for trees to be planted to the rear.

Fourteen Darwen volunteers died in the South African War and it was the town’s war memorial till the Bold Venture Park cenotaph was opened after the Great War.

Susan said: “There’s so much history attached to Belgrave Square and I’m both pleased and proud to be working here in my home town and among so many memories.”