Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

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Jun 2016

Tue 14 Jun 2016
Keith Warrender – The Battle for Kinder Scout.


Keith gave us very comprehensive explanation of the background to the Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout, Derbyshire that occurred on 24th Apr 1932 which started a chain of events that lead to the opening up of much of what was previously common land and taken by the Enclosures Acts to deny access. We now take it for granted that we can walk the hill unhindered, but it wasn’t always so.
It was not the first or last Mass Trespass but was the most significant. Even near Chorley there was a Mass Trespass of the Winter Hill area in 1896 where the public access was also denied.
Kinder Scout is a large area of high moorland between the Manchester area to the west and Sheffield to the east. During the 1930s many rambling groups were active in both areas but their access to the best walking areas were denied. In some circumstance it was possible to access specific area with written permission.

Keith Warrender

Historically the area was Common Land but seized by the rich and powerful under the Enclosures Act in 1840. In 1872 the Manchester Guardian printed a report of a rambler being beaten by a gamekeeper. The landowner wanted to keep the moors for grouse shooting only. The Water Board were also involved as they wanted to restrict access as it was partially a water catchment.
The owners were under the impression that trespass was against the law, which it wasn’t as trespass is a civil offence and you can only be sued for it.

Some of Keith's books

In 1923 a photograph of a rambler had been taken and published by the landowners in the Manchester Newspapers with a £5 reward offered to anyone who would identify him. Nobody claimed the reward which wasn’t surprising as the rambler was from Sheffield.
During one of the many camps held by the various rambling groups it was decided to hold a mass trespass and advertise the event to be sure of maximum attendance. One of the main organisers was Benny Rothman (1911-2002) who was only 21 years old at the time.

Bowden Bridge Quarry assembly 1932

Memorial plaque at Bowden Bridge
Benny had been a personal friend of our speaker Keith so we were able to hear first-hand accounts of the events. The Authorities decided that they would crush the rebellion before it started and put police on guard at Hayfield Railway Stations to apprehend Benny when he arrived.
Unknown to them he didn’t want to spend money on a rail ticket so cycled there from his home in Timperley. He walked to Bowden Bridge Quarry with his friend Wolfie to her a speech by Jack Clayton about the day. About 400 people had turned up and Jack bottled-out. Amongst the crowd was the historian A.J.P.Taylor and Sir Michael Tippet. Benny Rothman had to take over and gave an introduction before marching peacefully up through William Clough. There they saw a line of gamekeepers with sticks. An innocent walker was coming down the Clough from the other way and knew nothing of the trespass. The marchers thought he was one of them and waved. On seeing this the gamekeepers assumed the lone walker was a trespasser, approached him and beat him to the ground.

Some gamekeepers had their sticks taken from them, broken on two and handed back. There were also several scuffles. The walkers continued up onto high ground, claimed a victory and returned to Hayfield.
The Police were waiting and arrested several who they though were the ringleaders. They included one man who didn’t even agree to the trespass.
The group was brought before the Derby Assizes.
A Grand Jury of two brigadier generals, three colonels, two majors, three captains, two aldermen and eleven country gentlemen considered their case.
There was not a single working class person and no rambler amongst the jury.
This is hardly a fair jury.
They were charged with riotous assembly and assault of a gamekeeper.
The sentences were:
Harry Mendel - discharged
Benny Rothman - 4 months
Tony Gillett - 2 months
Dave Nesbitt - 3 months
Jud Clyne - 2 months
John Anderson - 6 months

The repercussion were far reaching and the Authorities realised their mistake on arrests etc.
It can be argued that the events of 1932 lead to the ‘Access to Mountains Act’ and further acts that opened up our countryside.
We owe a great debt to Benny and those brave 400 protesters.
The Manchester Rambler folksong was written by Ewan MacColl in 1932, the same year as the trespass.
The chorus is:

I'm a rambler, I'm a rambler from Manchester way
I get all my pleasure the hard moorland way
I may be a wage slave on Monday
But I am a free man on Sunday



Joan Dickinson has unearthed an interesting list of significant dates in Chorley's past. Though we're not sure where it came from.
You can see it via this link.