Moorlands, Memories and Reflections

The next production: Moorlands, Memories and Reflections

This year is the centenary of the publication of Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. It was published by Tillotson’s, publishers of The Bolton Evening News and other local titles which Clarke wrote for. It’s a lovely book, very readable and entertaining, even if he sometimes gets his historical facts slightly wrong. It is set in the area which is now described as ‘The West Pennine Moors’ stretching from Bolton to Chorley, Blackburn, Pendle and Rossendale. It includes some fascinating accounts of life in Bolton itself in the years between 1870 and the First World War, with accounts of the great engineers’ strike of 1887, the growth of the co-operative movement and the many ‘characters’ whom Clarke knew as a boy or young man.

The last time the book was reprinted was in 1986, thanks to the efforts of George Kelsall of Littleborough. I did a short introduction to it,which was based on the expanded third edition which he published himself in 1924. We launched it at ‘Teddy Ashton’s Well’ on the moorland road between Belmont and Hoghton, just south of Abbey Village.

Copies of the early editions, and for that matter the 1986 reprint, are difficult to come by. I’m contemplating doing a limited run of say a hundred (an appropriate figure for the centenary) numbered copies with a new introduction. It would probably sell at about £25, hardback. I’d welcome expressions of interest from readers who would be willing to buy a copy. It could work as a ‘subscriber’s edition’, the way many nineteenth century writers got their works funded. So please let me know if you would like to be a ‘subscriber’.

What is a bit more certain is the publication of my own centenary tribute to Clarke’s book, which will be called Moorlands, Memories and Reflections. It isn’t a ‘then and now’ sort of thing though I do make some historical comparisons, and speculate what Clarke would have thought of certain aspects of his beloved Lancashire today. There are 28 chapters, covering locations and subjects which Clarke wrote about in the original book, with a few additions.

Salvo with Benny Rothman, leader of 1932 Kinder Scout Trespass, in the Shooting Hut, Winter Hill, 1982

It includes the Winter Hill rights-of-way battle of 1896, a few additional snippets about the Bolton ‘Whitmanites’, handloom-weaving, the remarkable story of ‘The Larks of Dean’ and Lancashire’s honourable tradition of supporting refugees. I will publish it as my second ‘Lancashire Loominary’ product and it will also sell at around £25 depending on final costs for printing. It should be out late September.


Over Belmont Moors

This is an excerpt (Chapter 8) from the forthcoming book Moorlands, Memories and Reflections – a centenary celebration of Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories

Over Belmont Moors

Belmont features strongly in Moorlands and Memories. It remains a delightful village, though plagued by traffic. In Clarke’s day, it was his favourite cycling route from Bolton to Blackpool, despite being steeper than the alternative route along Chorley New Road.

The route I oftenest take to Belmont is Brian Hey, the road to the right to the stone quarries. It is grand to walk or ride this way in the early morning of a summer’s day, when the sun is dispelling the gauzy moorland mists and the little birds are piping in the sweet solitude.” (p.138)

Boggarts over Belmont

Clarke takes us, on his bike, past what was The Wright’s Arms (there’s now a nice cafe next to the Italian eatery) and down into the dip before the start of the climb along the village street. He praises the purity of the water from the fountain, close to the Black Dog Inn. Beyond the village he brings up one of his favourite topics – boggarts. A boggart is a Lancashire hobgoblin, or spirit. Most Lancashire writers mentioned them, and some still do, I’m very glad to say. The Belmont boggart lived somewhere along the road outside the village, before the track off to a farm. Clarke describes:

There is said to be a boggart or ghost on this road – somewhere between this farm and the village. Not ever having been on this road in the dark, I cannot vouch for the spectre myself, but tradition tells that a great many years ago, early in the nineteenth century, or the later part of the eighteenth, a young man, after being executed for robbing a coach was found to be innocent, and the legend says that he haunts this spot, calling out to such persons as pass that way at night, ‘Do you believe me innocent?’ and must continue at that uncanny job till some unscared soul kindly answers, ‘Yes’. Wherefore, I entreat you, for pity’s sake, if you ever come across this poor ghost…to reply to his plaintive query in the affirmative.” (pp 144-5)

Hopefully someone has taken up Clarke’s request. I’m not aware of any boggart-sightings in recent times.

Teddy Ashton’s Well

Clarke was a great self-publicist, and one of his most well-known bits of self-promotion lies a bit further along Belmont Road, towards Abbey Village. This is ‘Teddy Ashton’s Well’, which he christened sometime before the First World War. It is actually called ‘Slate Well’ and is opposite Lower Roddlesworth Farm. It’s impossible to stop a car there, so don’t ry. However, you can use it for the purpose which Clarke intended, as a nice comfortable spot to sample some clean moorland water, prior to tackling the last climb towards Belmont. He describes its products as “the most felicitous unfuddling liquor in the world. Dame Nature’s choicest brew.” (p.146)

Which highlights a facet of Clarke’s character – his disinterest in alcohol. It was common in the 1890s and 1900s for socialists and radicals to be ‘tee-total’ owing to the effects drink had on working class people. Bolton Socialist Club, in its early years, had a ‘no alcohol’ rule. On a personal level, Clarke may have avoided drink because his father was, apparently, over-fond of a pint. Throughout Moorlands and Memories, and indeed Windmill Land, you’ll find few references to pubs. Those which do feature are there for historical reasons not as recommended stopping-off points!

Back in 1986 a few of us, including George Kelsall, re-dedicated the well to ‘Teddy Ashton’, as a bit of our own self-promotion to launch the new edition of Moorlands and Memories. I suspect it has gone back to its overgrown state by now. Maybe time for a clean-up!

A ‘rail ramble’ from Darwen to Chorley

Clarke describes exploring the area around Hollinshead Hall and the old hall that lay crumbling nearby. Today, both buildings have gone, apart from a few stones. However, the bathing house remains and can be accessed by walkers from the Tockholes Road, heading across the main Belmont Road and on to Great Hill.

In Moorlands and Memories he describes a fascinating event: a family ‘rail ramble’ organised by Bolton Labour Church’s Sunday Afternoon Class, probably in 1904,from Darwen, through Tockholes, over Great Hill and on to Chorley. “There were youngsters with us on this long walk, and they footed it famously. Two little girls from Darwen did champion; also a little boy from the same place. The father of the girls told us that at the ‘Northern Weekly’ Barrow Bridge picnic they walked all the way from Darwen and back (about 20 miles). “ (p.170). The group had taken the train to Darwen and returned by train from Chorley

There’s a more detailed contemporary account in his Northern Weekly for August 6th May 1904, where he recalls “over fifty men, women and children going over Winter Hill and stopping at Eighteen Acre Farm. They argued socialism, Tolstoyanism, and many other ‘isms’ before standing to sing Edward Carpenter’s hymn of the socialist movement:

England arise! The long, long night is over

Faint in the east, behold the dawn appear…”

The Labour Church was a fairly short-lived socialist organisation; it was at its peak in Lancashire between 1894 and 1914. It was linked to the Independent Labour Party and the Clarion Cycling Club, through individual connections. Its Bolton secretary was James Sims, a close friend of Clarke’s, who lived near Church Wharf by the parish church. The Labour Church’s Sunday Afternoon Class organised regular walks around the local moors, often led by John Fletcher, the ‘clever collier-botanist of Westhoughton’ as Clarke describes him.

The walk took them past Drinkwater’s, now a ruin, where they were given drinks of milk by the farmer’s wife. Most of the farms in this area were bought by Liverpool Corporation as part of their water supply scheme, and were demolished. At least the path from Hollinshead Hall up to Great Hill is in better condition today than it seemed to be when Clarke’s group walked it. And there is a fine viewing point at the summit of Great Hill, with views across the West Lancashire Plain and on to Southport.

Looking south from Drinkwater’s is Round Loaf – there is a path but it can be difficult after heavy rain. Round Loaf looks man-made – because it is. It is an ancient burial chamber which has been excavated in recent decades.

The group would have continued past Drinkwater’s and past the remains of the small coal pits, still visible on the left. Soon after, the path splits, with one track heading off towards Withnell. The route to Chorley goes down hill towards White Coppice. The views across Lancashire and north to the Lakes are magnificent. The path takes you out by the cricket ground at White Coppice, where – at least in normal times – teas and light snacks are available in the pavilion. It must be one of the loveliest locations for a cricket ground anywhere in the country. The rough road takes you down past the school and to the small group of houses which make up the hamlet of White Coppice. One of the most celebrated residents was W.E. Eccles, a religious zealot, but a man who did a lot of good for his community. Clarke mentions the ‘tint mission church’ that was Eccles’ HQ. From there, the walking group headed along “pleasant winding lanes, where lovers wandered under the bright stars – the wooded hill called the nab, looking like a dark thick cloud on our left – we made our way through the locality curiously christened Botany Bay, to Chorley, whose town hall was our guiding light for miles. Form Chorley we took train home, healthily tired with our long moorland ramble…” [1]

[1] Moorlands p. 171


Summat fert do durin’ th’lockdeawn

Or ‘something to do during the lockdown’………

You can buy a bundle of my books on Lancashire-related themes for the combined price of just £25 including post and packing in the UK!

The titles are:

The Works (a novel about life in Horwich Loco Works and a fictitious future as a workers’ co-operative)

Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton (an illustrated literary and political biography of the great Lancashire writer and philosopher)

With Walt Whitman in Bolton – spirituality, sex and socialism in a Northern mill town (an illustrated history of Bolton’s amazing links with the great American poet)

The combined full price (not including P&P) would be £37.89



The Works – a working class novel for the 21st century

A novel of Lancashire working class life, love and politics

‘Working class novels’ have gone out of fashion. Or have they? Maybe it’s just that they don’t get much recognition, coupled with reluctance by publishers to take risks.

That’s partly why I decided to self-publish my first novel, ‘The Works’,  as ‘Lancashire Loominary’. It’s mainly set in Horwich and Bolton with some excursions further afield to Mid-Wales, London and China.

Horwich Loco Works was one of the North’s biggest railway engineering works. It closed in 1983 after a determined attempt by its workers and the people of Horwich to save it. The Works is about the realities of shopfloor life and politics, and ‘what might have been’ had the Works been saved from closure. It’s also about personal relationships, bereavement and racism.

The story is partly based on my own experience on the railways in the 1970s and 1980s, but it’s a work of fiction. While the main focus of the novel is on the 70s and 80s, the story takes the reader through to the present-day and into the future.

The novel is illustrated by over 30 black and white photographs inside the Works, taken by me in 1983 as part of the campaign to save the Works. I’d love to identify more of the characters in the photos. Some will still be alive, including the young chap on the cover. It would be great to hear from them.

Publication date: March 23st 2020 (Launch at Wayoh Brewery, Horwich, March 20th at 18.00)

ISBN: 978-0-9559171-6-5

Price: £12.99 (add £2.50 for post and packing) SPECIAL PRE-PUBLICATION OFFER £10 plus £2.50 postage (unless local to Horwich, in which case, free)

Orders by post to Lancashire Loominary, 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Paul Salveson’. Don’t forget to let me have your return address and also an email address so I can tell you it has been despatched.