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Commemorative Plaque on Coalpit Road

WINTER HILL TRESPASS 1896 - Commemorative Events

Events will include live theatre and music, talks on the history and nature of the area, tree planting and, of course, a walk following in the footsteps of the original protesters.


THE HISTORY: Bolton had its very own mass trespass on Sunday 6th September 1896 there was a march to reclaim an ancient right of way over Winter Hill. Colonel Ainsworth, land and factory owner decided that Coalpit Road was his private road to allow him to go grouse shooting on Smithills Moor and hence he closed it. He erected gates across access roads, fixed "Trespassers will be prosecuted" signs and hired men to warn people off the property. There was a public outcry and Solomon Partington and Joseph Shufflebotham placed a small advertisement appearing in the Bolton paper, paid for by the Social Democratic Federation. It invited the public to join a demonstration on Sunday morning, 6 September 1896, to test the right of way over Winter Hill in the form of a mass trespass. A crowd of 1000 met in Bolton to listen to some speeches. Numbers increased tenfold as they marched up Halliwell Road to Coalpit Road and the edge of the moor. At the gate they were confronted by a small contingent of police. According to the Bolton Chronicle, "Amid the lusty shouting of the crowd the gate was attacked by powerful hands…… short work was made of the barrier, and with a ring of triumph the demonstrators rushed through onto the disputed territory. Plans were soon in place to repeat the procession. A song was commissioned. "Will yo' come o' Sunday morning', For a walk o'er Winter Hill. Ten thousand went last Sunday, But there's room for thousands still!" "O the moors are rare and bonny, And the heather's sweet and fine, And the road across this hill top, Is the public's - Yours and mine!" Despite some rain the following Sunday, 2000 people came and listened to speeches. Again, the crowd grew as it set off for the moor, completely blocking Halliwell Road. The following Sunday a further march with 12,000 people took place, and though the leaders were prosecuted and fined, the right of way was established.

However, these demonstrations were not successful, Colonel Ainsworth succeeded in getting writs issued to the leaders and the marches stopped while the court case was held. The Colonel won his case, proving to the court this it wasn't a right of way and he was within his rights to close the path. The leaders of the march were bankrupted for the legal fees and damages they had incurred.

It took many years for the path to be declared a right of way, and it wasn't until the 1930's when the council bought the land and free access was gained up Coal Pit Road to the top of Winter Hill.