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, behind Bolton Lancashire.
In August 1896, Colonel Richard Ainsworth, the local landowner and factory owner, closed a track known as Coalpit Road. He put a gate across it part way up the lane to the top of the hill. This lane had been construced by his father as access to a small coal mine on the side of the moors. He had decided that the local people walking along the track disturbed the grouse and his shooting parties. 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 bankrupt the leaders for damages and his fees.
Even though the landowner won, after his death the council eventually opened the paths 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 and Colonel Aisworht contructed his gate. The gate there now stops vehicle access and tries to keep Mountain Bikes out. Its a shame that recent bad weather has eroded the upper secion of the track and it is no longer the great bike route to Winter Hill it was, But its still the best direct way to the top of WInter Hill.