By Paul Salveson
The Winter Hill rights of way battle in 1896 was Britain’s biggest “mass trespass”. Over three successive weekends, thousands of Bolton people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way they claimed had been illegally blocked by the landowner. Whilst the 1932 Kinder Scout Trespass is better known and is rightly celebrated, the events of 1896 lay forgotten for many years.
I first came across the Winter Hill “trespass” in 1980, reading Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories, which was published in 1920. He wrote that “on Sunday September 6th 1896, ten thousand Boltonians marched up Brian Hey to pull down a gate and protest against a footpath to Winter Hill being claimed and closed by the landlord.”
Solomon Partington, one of the leaders of the mass trespass
The land was owned by Colonel Richard Ainsworth, heir to a powerful Bolton family who had become rich as the owners of bleachworks. The main confrontation was at the gate which Ainsworth had erected to stop peop…