An Early Mass Trespass – Winter Hill.
Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Morning
For a walk o’er Winter Hill?
Ten thousand came last Sunday
But there’s room for thousands still.
O the moors are rare and bonny
An’ the heather’s sweet and fine
an the road across the hilltops is the public’s
yours and mine
Long before the famous trespass on Kinder from Hayfield, there was the less well known, but much larger march over Winter Hill.
In August 1896, the local landowner (and factory owner) Colonel Richard Ainsworth, decided that a track known as Coalpit Road was private putting a gate across. He was planning to use the whole area of open moorland for grouse shooting. Two locals, the wonderfully named Solomon Partington and Joseph Shufflebotham, decided to organise a mass trespass to reclaim the “historical right of way”. On 6th September, around 1,000 assembled at the bottom of Halliwell Road near Bolton town centre and set off on a seven-mile walk via the disputed track and over the top of the hill.
More joined the walk as they headed towards Coalpit Road, many of them employees at Ainsworth’s bleach works, which is now where my house is.
By the time the gate was reached, there were 10,000 walking, led by a brass band. The following weekends more marches were held, but eventually, Ainsworth succeeded in getting writs issued to the leaders and the marches stopped while the court case was held. Unfortunately, the Colonel won the case and proceeded to take it out on the leaders by bankrupting them for damages and fees.
Even though the landowner won, the council opened the paths up to public access and they have been used ever since.as the direct way up Winter Hill from Bolton.
The memorial stone was erected in 1996, the centenary of the march. It is located just where the main track leaves Coalpit Road proper. The gate there still tries to keep Mountain Bikes out, but they just pass the bike over the top to start the great track up the hill.