Stephen Foster (1946-1999)

This is the earliest photo of Stephen, who was born on 23rd March 1946 and christened at St John's, Darwen.


Here is a photograph of aunty Kit with her son, Barry, and my mum, with her son Stephen, they are sitting behind 573 Blackburn Road, which is where Stephen was born.

I'm not sure where mum moved to after having Stephen at Blackburn Road. I know she lived in a little pink cottage in Brock after she got married as our father was in the army and probably stationed in Preston.

Here is Stephen sitting on my mum's knee, with our dad and his sisters Dorothy and Jenny.

Until the divorce between our parents came through we used to go and visit our grandparents in their house in Preston. Here is a photo of one such visit, Stephen is sitting on grandad Foster's knee:

From an early age Stephen lived at 80 Redearth Road with mum, Bessie Foster, and grandma Bridget Ward (nee Shannon), and me, when I arrived in November, 1947. My grandad, Joe Ward also lived with us until he died in 1951. Here is a photograph of him holding Stephen, it is taken in the backyard of number 80:

Number 80 was a two-up-two-down corporation house with a backyard. The Black Horse public house was two houses down: this pub played a huge role in our lives, not only when the Wilson's ran it but even more when my aunty May and uncle Jim Turnbull took it over.

Here is an aerial photograph of the area in the 1950's, reproduced from "Images of England : Darwen", compiled by Martin Baggoley, Tempus Publishing Ltd. I got this copy from another family heritage website, that of the Grimes Family.


The building which reflects the sun and looks like it has a white roof is Primrose Mill; the road running past this at the top is Ratcliffe Street, on the right there is a row which includes 32 Ratcliffe Street where aunty May and uncle Jim Turnbull lived before they moved to the Black Horse. We would go sleding in winter down Primrose Street which is opposite, by the side of Primrose Mill.

The mill encircled in green is Sunnybank Paper Mill. The triangle in front of this is the 'Nasty Back' where we used to play for hours. This photograph must have been taken in the early 1950's because we used to play at building houses in what was left of the row of houses at the bottom of the triangle after they had been pulled down (just behind Redearth Road).

The chimney at the bottom of the picture is Darwen Paper Mill chimney. To the left of the chimney you can see the Black Horse bowling green; overlooking the bowling green are the backs of 76-90 Redearth Road: me and Stephen would look out of the window of the back bedroom and see the bowling green. The other thing we would see is India Mill and its famous chimney.

Here is a photograph of India Mill taken from the other side of town; Redearth Road is hidden by the mill.

Image from Darwen Days

I have included this photograph as many of the mills were still in operation when we were growing up. I cannot remember seeing all the smoke coming out of the chimneys but I certainly remember there were lots of chimneys. In fact, the tall chimney to the left of India Mill is, I am guessing, Holme Street Mill: I remember watching this being felled when I was a teenager; it was magnificent!

The Black Horse bowling green wasn't in use when we were little so we used to play there. We used to dress up a lot. Here are two photos of Stephen, the one on the right, with Stephen dressed in a cowboy outfit, is definitely on the old Black Horse bowling green, I'm not sure about the second one in which he is a shepherd.

Here is a photo of Stephen taken in Redearth Street at the same time as the one of both of us (top left). In fact you can see Redearth Street in the aerial photograph - it is to the left of Nasty Back.

Stephen went to St John's Church of England Primary School, here is one of the school photos:

and here is one of his whole class; Stephen is on the second row from the back, third from the right. Sybil Bibby and Valerie Roberts are on the the row in front of Stephen, Sybil is second in on the left and Valerie is sixth in from the left. The teacher is Mr Painter.

Image from Darwen Days

Here we are with Stella Wilson (it was Stella's mum, Marie, who ran the Black Horse before my aunt and uncle) and her cousin Michael in Sunnyhurst Woods:

We'd spend many hours climbing on 'the rocks' which was a pile of very big rocks and quite dangerous, these were just to the right in the 'cowboy' photo. You can see them on the aerial photograph above: at the bottom right-hand side of the Black Horse bowling green. We also played for hours at DPM (Darwen Paper Mill) on India Street, where the pulp paper was stored. You can see this as well on the aerial photo: it's the white building in front of DPM chimney. I recall my grandma catching us climbing up to get into DPM and it was the one and only time I got smacked!

We did lots of really naughty and dangerous things when we were little, like stealing lead off roofs and selling it to get money for fireworks.

We once got caught by a policeman as we were playing in Holme Mill, a disused cotton mill; I remember the policeman taking us all home and speaking to my grandma. Stephen had got away with it as he had to leave early to deliver the newspapers. We both earned money by delivering newspapers. Here is a photo of our grandma outside the newsagents with the woman who owned it and her son, who was Stephen's friend.

Stephen was in the cubs and was on parade when Queen Elizabeth II came to Darwen in 1955. Here he is on the very day, with our mum and Mary Eccles, who lived across the road from us:

Then he joined St John's Boys Brigade and played the drums, which was useful as he later developed his drumming to play in several pop groups.

on this one he is the first on the left.

Stephen went to Spring Vale Secondary School. Here are two more school photos:

As children, we both belonged to the 'Black Horse' gang. Other members included Helen Harwood, Shirley Harwood, Gerald Bibby (these all lived across the road); Sybil Bibby (who lived next door to us); and Valerie and Pauline Roberts who lived in Star Street.

Here is Valerie, Stephen and Sybil with their bikes. We all used to go on long bike rides. I remember us once cyclying to Leyland to go train spotting.

We used to have fights with the 'Nasty Back' gang. We'd be friends when we were sledging down the 'Nasty Back' but were enemies only a month or two earlier when it was bonfire night and we would have a battle as to who would have the biggest bonfire on the back!

I remember Peter Atkinson, who was the leader of the Nasty Back gang, offering to swop his sledge with mine and give me a shilling. I refused as I knew mine was the best sledge on the back! My cousin Kathleen had given it me and it was called 'Speedy.'

We went to various youth groups including Redearth Road Methodist and Belgrave Meeting House. We were in several pantomimes at Redearth and then at Belgrave we got involved in different shows. Stephen went on holiday to Butlins Pwhelli with some of his friends from Belgrave youth group. Here are a couple of photos of him from this holiday:

Most of us go through a 'serious' phase in our mid to late teens; here is his passport photo:

and here he is in the backyard at 77 Redearth, he had left school and served his apprenticeship as a joiner at Walpamur. It was at this point that he started to wear glasses which, of course, added to the 'serious' look:

Once qualified, Stephen set up his own business as a joiner; this later developed into making and renting out portable toilets: Red Rose Mobiles. He was very proud of his business and his toilets could be found at most big events in the area. The delux model was once used in Sheffield when Tina Turner was performing; they were also used at Hoghton Towers where Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, stabled his horses when he took part in local horse trials; and every year all of his toilets would be in use at the Grand National.

He played drums and sang in several pop groups. He would often get members of the audience up on stage taking part in 'Old MacDonald's Farm.' Here he is with two members of one of the groups:

Stephen married three times, Lilian, Jean and Gera. He didn't have any children of his own but he helped to bring up Jean's two daughters and Gera's daughter and son, whom he adopted.

Here is Stephen and Gera having Christmas dinner with me and Kathleen at Nancy Street, it is probably about 1987:

He died suddenly on 25th April 1999 (the same day our mother died in 1985), aged 53 years, whilst on holiday in Lanzarote. This is the last photo of him before he died, which is Stephen through and through:

Stephen built his own house, Copperbeech, in Tockholes where he lived for many years:

He is buried in St Stephens graveyard, Tockholes:

He was very much involved in the local community who placed a bench in commemoration of him in the village: you can sit and look into the distance and see Blackpool Tower on a clear day: