IT IS just a small corner of a graveyard . . . virtually forgotten for 61 years

There was no indication of the sad stories of the 48 children from the local orphanage who are buried there.

Their final resting place was an unmarked grave. No-one would have know that they had lived. No-one would have known of their death.

But now, at last, the children will be remembered -- thanks to a memorial headstone which has been in put in place to mark the two paupers' graves.

The children, who ranged in age from four months to 21 years old when they died, were all brought up at Crowthorn in Edgworth which was the first ever National Children's Home to be built outside London.

They were buried in the two graves at Edgworth Methodist Church between 1875 and 1941.

A written record of the graves had been kept by the Bolton Road church. But the graves had never been marked by a stone until a former employee at Crowthorn investigated. The youngsters are believed to have died from a variety of childhood illnesses which were prevalent throughout the 19th century and before the Second World War, such as tuberculosis, whooping cough, scarlet fever and diphtheria.

Jack Fielding, who worked at Crowthorn as a residential social worker for 20 years, was stunned that so many children were buried in the churchyard without any memorial.

Mr Fielding, who now works as a teaching assistant at Smithills High School, got together with former pupils of Crowthorn, which become a school in 1952, and they raised enough money for all the names of the orphans to be engraved on a headstone.

Crowthorn, which opened as an orphanage in 1872, is now a National Children's Home school, but it closes later this month because of its location and a shortage of teaching staff.

Mr Fielding, who lives in Egerton, said: "Crowthorn is a very important part of the area's history. Everyone who worked there knew that some children were buried in the churchyard, but when I started delving into the church records I was quite shocked to find out there were so many in one spot.

"I feel quite proud to have helped to get a headstone because the kids deserve something to mark their memory."

The minister at Edgworth Methodist Church, the Rev David Hamflett, said: "I was quite shocked by the whole thing as well. People at the church had talked about the graves, but it was such a tiny spot that it was difficult to believe so many children could be buried there.

"It's nice that a permanent marker has been in put in place at last for the children."

A special dedication ceremony will be held at the church on Sunday at 2pm.

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