THE fight is on to preserve a stunning memorial to members of a Darwen church who gave their lives in the Great War.

The large mosaic - some 15 feet wide and around five feet high - sits under the main round window in Hollins Grove Congregational Church.

The church closed at the end of December and the building is currently up for sale.

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen:

Albert Gavagan, secretary of Darwen Heritage, discovered the church’s spectacular mosaics when he was involved in trying to locate all the town’s remaining war memorial as part of commemorations for the centenary of the First World War.

“I was fortunate to be granted access to the building to photograph and memorial,” he said. “I was expecting the usual brass plaque that you find. I certainly was expecting anything quite so large or so spectacular. It took me completely by surprise; it is a stunning work of art.”

The memorial was dedicated at a service in April 1921 and it cost members of the church £1,900 - a large sum of money at that time. The artist was Walter J Pearce who was based in Manchester, a former stained glass artist who had perfected the technique of attaching coloured class to the wall to create the mosaics.

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen:

A booklet for the memorial’s dedication explains why the church produced such a lavish tribute: “We have thought that nothing but the best would be worthy of those who offered themselves, and suffered, and died that we might live.”

Having photographed the memorial, Albert has been in contact with the War Memorials Trust to see if funds can be made available to save the mosaics.

“We have had someone look at it and it could cost between £40,000 and £60,000 to successfully remove it from the church and to fit it somewhere else,” he said. “The War Memorials Trust did as for more information and then we went into lockdown which has seen everything come to a halt.

Darwen Town Council have also been approached and have agreed that the memorial is worthy of saving but have not made any financial commitment.

“We already have three war memorials at the heritage centre which have been rescued from buildings in the town which have been demolished,” said Albert. “We do have a wall on which the mosaic would fit but it is such a lot of money.

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen:

“We really don’t know what we can do. Unless there is a benefactor out there with that kind of money it might be lost.

“As last resort we might see if we could take the two name plaques of either end and try to save them.”