THOMAS GRAY imagined them as places of calm, where, but for the
occasional moping owl, the air "a solemn stillness holds". But for
those churches with plenty of green space in close proximity to
nightlife, such stillness is often in very short supply.
Faced with a churchyard full of ball games, litter, and, on
occasion, syringes and other detritus, Blackburn Cathedral has
decided to erect signs to educate people about "the appropriate way
to behave in a cathedral precinct".
Canon Andrew Hindley said that matters had reached such a pitch
"that we needed to deal with them in a way that was very clear, and
which put a marker down. This is a burial ground, with generations
of Blackburn people buried here.
A particular problem was "with young people from the local
More than a dozen signs have been put up, explaining that the
area is a "sacred ancient burial ground" that visitors must "treat
with respect", and prohibiting litter, ball games, shouting and
swearing, alcohol, drugs, and bicycles.
The cathedral is close to nightclubs and pubs, and Canon Hindley
says that he is aware that "people are using the grounds for sex
late at night, having had a drink." There have been problems with
prostitution in recent years, but this has been "taken care of" by
installing CCTV cameras.
A £5-million redevelopment project that is under way will bring
all clergy and lay staff to live in a cathedral close; and, Canon
Hindley said, it was "important, therefore, that the space is safe
for these families".
A quarter of the population of Blackburn with Darwen - in the
lowest ten per cent among the most deprived councils in England -
drinks at "hazardous or harmful levels", according to NHS
statistics. Drug use is also higher there than the regional
The cathedral was dedicated to supporting those affected by
addiction, Canon Hindley said. It supported the THOMAS Project, a
local charity founded by a Roman Catholic priest, offering drug and
alcohol rehabilitation. The Cathedral is also working with
Blackburn Youth Zone to recruit a youth worker who will work in its
grounds. Youth Zone has invested £6 million in a three-storey
building 150 yards from the cathedral, to provide activities and
practical support for young people, especially those who are
disadvantaged and vulnerable.