Bolton Actress, Maxine Peake is supporting plans to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Britain’s biggest rights of way dispute in September this year. Plans are underway to celebrate what is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Winter Hill in 1896. In September that year, thousands of people from Halliwell and surrounding areas of Bolton, took part in huge protests in defiance of wealthy landowner, Colonel Richard Ainsworth, after he blocked off public access to the moors to host private grouse shooting parties with his friends. For many working class people in the late 19th century, a Sunday morning walk on the moors, was their only respite from the noise and pollution of the mills and factories. There was widespread anger when public access to the moors was blocked. On Sunday 6th September 1896, thousands walked from the bottom of Halliwell Road, up Smithills Dean Roan and then via Coal Pit Road onto the moors, defying Colonel Ainsworth, demanding their right to access the moors of Winter Hill. Although the dispute was unsuccessful, years later Bolton Council took ownership of much of the land on Winter Hill, helping to ensure public rights of way. The events of 1896 had largely been forgotten until the early 1980s, when Bolton writer and historian, Paul Salveson, published his book, Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’ enabling people to learn the the story of 1896 and some of the leading characters involved.
A commemorative Winter Hill walk is planned from Halliwell in Bolton to Winter Hill on Sunday 5th September 2021, and people are being encouraged to take part. Organisers hope that after the difficulties of the pandemic during the past 18 months, the walk will be an opportunity for people to enjoy local moorland and celebrate local history. Other activities are being organised in conjunction with The Woodland Trust, Bolton Ramblers, Smithills Hall Museum and others.
Maxine Peake said, “I think it is really important that we remember Bolton’s battle for Winter Hill in 1896. This was an important fight by ordinary people to access local moorland. I was only eight when I went on my first commemorative walk in 1982 with my late mum Glenys and step-grandfather Jim. There was a real sense of camaraderie. People wanted to come together and celebrate an important chapter of working class history that could so easily be forgotten. The fight for the right to roam is as important today as it was in 1896. We must keep on fighting for better access to open spaces”.
People can find out more c/o the Winter Hill 125 Facebook group.
Bolton News Article.
The article below follows a successful public meeting with Guy Shrubsole, Nick Hayes, Katrina Navickas, Maxine Peake and Paul Salveson.
Salford Star Article.
UNISON North West article.
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