Blue plaque returns to Broughton crossroads building

Posted on - 10th June, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Broughton, History, Preston News
The blue plaque was on the side of the Touch of Spice restaurant which was demolished Pic: Google

A heritage blue plaque that vanished from a former pub in Broughton shortly before the building was demolished has been replaced – after the village group that it commemorates gave up on it ever being found.

The distinctive marker was put in place on the side of what was then the Golden Ball – at the junction of Garstang Road and Woodplumpton Lane – back in 2005. It commemorated the founding of the Broughton Catholic Charitable Society (BCCS) on that location more than 200 years earlier – committed to alleviating poverty in the area.

Following the closure of the pub in 2007, the plaque survived the building’s conversion to three different Indian restaurants over the next decade – The Bay Tree, The Gate of Bengal and Touch of Spice.

Read more: Broughton’s Toll Bar Cottage cafe drawing visitors from near and far

The society remains in existence to this day, but the pointer to its long past went missing in 2019, a matter of months before the structure it was attached to was flattened to make way for a new residential care complex.

Three years on, and Broughton Parish Council has funded a brand new blue plaque to recognise the group’s vital role.

The new blue plaque funded by the parish council Pic: John Holland

BCCS secretary Peter Van Parys told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that he was delighted to see the society’s history once again take pride of place in the centre of the village where it was founded. However, he added that the whereabouts of the original sign remain a mystery.

“There were rumours going around at the time that the building was going to be demolished and [it was suggested that the plaque] had been stored somewhere.

“But nobody knows where it is now – it just never turned back up.”

Read more: Broughton Bypass to see ‘preservation’ work due to surface issues

Peter says that it is fitting that the society is once again being commemorated, particularly in the wake of the Covid pandemic – because it was during the dark days of another disease outbreak that it was founded in 1787.

“The original idea came from the smallpox epidemic at the time. Many farmers died from smallpox, leaving their wife and the family to survive – so everybody got together and started a charitable trust to help the widows.

“And now we’ve all just gone through a pandemic of massive proportions, very similar in [that] it killed a lot of people.

“Nowadays, websites and things like that are all very well [for recording local history], but there’s no substitute for walking past a plaque and, seeing it, prompts people to talk about it,” Peter explained.

The new plaque – now on the “extra care” building that replaced the pub – uses the same wording as the original that went walkabout.

Read more: Community comes together to celebrate Beatrice Todd and the women of Winckley Square

The BCCS is thought to be the oldest Catholic charitable society in the country and currently boasts around 1,200 members – including 180 priests. Peter says that he is keen to see new people join to stem a general decline in numbers in recent years – and to ensure the organisation’s longevity.

Membership is open to anyone of the Roman Catholic faith who was born or raised in the old county palatine of Lancashire – which incorporates the Diocese of Lancaster, Liverpool, Salford and Shrewsbury – or whose parents were.

All fundraising is done internally from members via subscriptions, almsgiving and legacies. “We don’t rattle the bucket,” Peter laughs.

In addition to what he describes as the “spiritual benefits” of membership, the society’s founding charitable principles remain very much intact. Each year, suggestions are invited from members about good causes that the organisation could support, either at home and abroad.

In 2019, a Relief of Hardship Framework was also established, with the intention of funding several charities with annual grants over a maximum five-year period. To date, a total of

£54,000 has been granted through this mechanism to groups including Read Easy (Preston), Chorley Help The Homeless and Lancashire TAGG.

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