Northern Weekly Salvo 290

The Northern Weekly Salvo

Incorporating  Slaithwaite Review of Books, Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette and Northern Umbrella. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly and Th’Bowtun Loominary.

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email:

Publications website:

No. 290 December 30th    2020                      End of Year Special

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; definitely Northern. Read by the highest and lowest officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, sleepy Hungarians, members of the clergy and the toiling masses, generally. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club, Station Buffet Acceleration Council and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” – Jo Cox, maiden speech in House of Commons, June 3rd 2015

General gossips

Challenging, weird, awful, terrible, I could go on. The descriptions have become clichés, there is little left to say. The Thursday evening ‘clap for the NHS’ is a distant memory but the pressure on NHS staff is, if anything, worse than it was back in those golden sunny evenings of Spring. We need a well-resourced NHS more than ever.  I’ve been lucky – managing to avoid getting the virus (so far) and same with

Tottington Viaduct and Scholes Lodge – a super walk along the Holcombe Brook Branch – see below

close family. But some good friends have had the thing and it has been bloody awful. A lot of people are very sick and it seems to be getting worse. But there is a libertarian nay-sayer in me which resents some aspects of society’s response. It has been used by some bureaucrats as an excuse for doing stuff which has nothing to do with the pandemic but falls into the ‘can’t be bothered’ or ‘we never liked doing this anyway so let’s use it as an excuse’. I’ve seen public footpaths closed ‘due to Covid’ and far too many important public facilities shut down (toilets being the most obvious – yes there’s a risk in keeping them open but it can be managed). So let’s hope the vaccine will start to have an impact and in the meantime I’ll have to hunker down and get on with writing those weighty tomes I keep saying I’ll do. Further lockdowns seem inevitable and necessary. There’s always a silver lining, and my e-bike has been getting a fair bit of use over the Christmas period fulfilling orders for the Bolton Bicycling Bookshop. Have a happy, healthy New Year and try not to think about Brexit!

New Year up North

My ‘Looking Back’ feature in this week’s Bolton News is on how Boltonians celebrated New Year in ye olden days. Just like anybody else you might reply? Actually, no. They seem to have gone completely over the top in their party-ing. The mills shut for three days (when everywhere else in Lancashire carried on working normally). Bolton’s New Year Fair was the biggest in the North of England, attracting tens of thousands of visitors over a three day riot of festivities. The fair

A drawing from Allen Clarke’s novel ‘The Knobstick’ set in the late 1880s – a scene from Bolton New Year Fair

included a ‘menagerie’ (with lions and giraffe), all sorts of music and singing, street food including black peas and ‘tripe on a  stick’, children’s rides and amusements and lots more. Allen Clarke, writing in 1930 as ‘Old Boltonian’, describe it thus: “…it consists of menageries, circuses, exhibitions of all kinds, hobby horses, swing boats, ‘Aunt Sallys’, pea saloons, coconut shies and all the multifarious lures and pocket fillers in the amusement line that the wit of man has devised.”

The tradition of ‘letting in the New Year’ also seems to have been different in Trottertown. Allen Clarke once again highlights Bolton’s distinctiveness. He talks about his own street where dozens of men emerge from their homes, just before midnight. When the clock strikes midnight they are allowed back in, wishing the waiting assemblage a Happy New Year. He mentions that light-haired men, or women dark or fair undertaking the job, is considered bad-luck!

Newcastle seems to have a similar tradition, called ‘first footing’. Once again, it was considered ill-luck for a woman to be first through the door. But maybe this was a clever female device to avoid being shunted outside in the freezing cold while waiting for the clock to strike? Suggestions welcome, as well as examples of other regional ‘New Year’ traditions.

This is based on a longer feature published in The Bolton News on December 30th. The full version is here:

Along the old Tottington Lines

The ‘quiet’ time (is there anything else at present?) between Christmas and New Year has always been a good time to get out for a walk, ideally along a disused railway. Despite it being so close, I’d never

Along Tottington Viaduct looking up to Peel Tower, Holcombe Hill

ventured along the former Bury – Holcombe Brook branch. I had a look at it many years ago and it seemed completely overgrown and impassable. Not so now. The route from Bury as far as Greenmount is a popular footpath and cycleway. It forms part of Sustrans National Cycle Route no. 6. Local people call it ‘The Tottington Lines’, I’ve been informed, so I’ll stick with that.

A pioneering community railway

First a bit of history. It is one of the most interesting branch lines in the country, mainly because of its distinction in being electrified – not just once, but twice. It was also a good example of a real ‘community railway’, initially owned by the people who used it, or at least the better-off part. The railway from Bury to Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall (now ‘The East Lancs’ heritage railway) opened in the mid-1840s. The people of Tottington felt a bit left out and got together to raise capital for their own railway. These far-sighted people included local mill-owners, bleachers and dyers, cotton printers and iron masters. Interesting that in those days small communities like Tottington had its own industrial bourgeoisie with money to invest in ‘the local good’. The Bury & Tottington District Railway was an example of a railway owned by its people, or at least some of them.

There was an element of class conflict in the railway’s construction – the Earl of Derby (one of whose predecessors got his head chopped off in nearby Bolton) – strenuously opposed the railway and its incursion onto his land.

Two of the pioneering electric cars built by Dick, Kerr – at Tottington Junction, just outside Bury, c 1913

Fortunately he was over-ruled and the line opened on November 11th 1882, actually going beyond Tottington to Greenmount before terminating at Holcome Brook. The Bury Times in January 1877 prophesised that the trains would be used by tourists ”in quest of mountain air” available in the environs of Holcombe Brook.

The company contracted out the actual operation to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway which provided the locos and rolling stock and had a sizeable shareholding in the venture.

It seems that the high hopes of visitors flocking to Holcombe Brook to sample the mountainous climate were disappointed, though freight traffic did better. In 1884 the L&Y’s traffic manager reported that ‘cloth traffic’ from Holcome Brook was doing so well that the goods yard required extension. The goods yard at Greenmount was improved and there was a substantial goods yard at Tottington, the site of which is still clearly visible and part of a local nature reserve with bee hives.

Turn of the century improvements: rail motorisation

The community-owned railway was over a century ahead of its time and the L&Y snaffled up the remaining shares and assumed complete control – but it was a vote of confidence in the railway’s prospects. However, passenger traffic continued to lag behind freight receipts, exacerbated by tram competition. The railway fought back. In 1905 the L&Y introduced a pioneering ‘rail motor’ service, operating at 40 minute intervals during the day with

Tottington Viaduct – note the bases of the piers – intended to extend to double track

an extra late train on Saturday evenings, no doubt to cater for people returning from the fleshpots of Bury. There was an augmented Sunday service, permitting leisure travel and more spiritual journeys. New ‘halts’ were opened and passenger numbers grew. The ‘rail motor’ train was built to an L&Y design but the vehicles were constructed by Kerr Stuart. It was an odd design, comprising an articulated unit of steam loco and carriage, with two transverse boilers.

Local passengers would have appreciated the electric lighting and comfortable seating; the collapsible steps gave much-improved access to the low platforms. The carriage was steam-heated with electric bell communication. All in all, a marked improvement, though the original design was replaced by a more conventional single-boiler ‘motor’, with the design rolled out by Horwich to other lightly-used lines across the network.

Electrification (Twice)

The really major development occurred in 1913 when the line was electrified. The firm of Dick, Kerr &Co. of Preston (later to become part of English Electric) wanted to test out their concept of an electric passenger railway which they were hoping to build in Brazil. The Holcombe Brook branch was a perfect length for a pilot scheme (just under four miles), with steep gradients which would test the capabilities of their design. The L&Y agreed to Dick, Kerr’s proposal, seeing it as valuable for their own emerging ideas for electrification. The Liverpool – Southport line had been electrified at 630v DC, 3rd rail, as early as 1904. The line was wired up for overhead electrification at 3,500v DC, supplied from a power station built at Radcliffe. The first fare-paying service began on July 29th 1913 and attracted great interest nationally. It was a genuine pioneer of a future commuter railway. The catenary was supported from single masts, the bases of which are still visible along the trackbed at various locations.

The L&YR had decided on a third-rail system rather than overhead electrification and the route from Manchester to Bury was selected as one of its first schemes which would be rolled out to other routes around the network, including Oldham, Bolton and Royton. The First World War put paid to those plans. For the time being, there was an ‘end on’ connection at Bury Bolton Street of two different types of electrification at different voltages. What became of Dick, Kerr’s Brazilian plans isn’t recorded, but the L&YR judged that the best future option for Holcombe Brook was conversion to its standard 3rd rail system, connecting with its Bury scheme. Conversion was completed in 1918. The original stock used for the Dick, Kerr overhead scheme was displaced and eventually rebuilt as diesel-electric railcars, operating between Blackpool Central and Lytham until 1929 (Richard Watts, I bet you didn’t know that!).

The branch settled down to life as a moderately well-used commuter line with a busy goods traffic, served by several private sidings between Bury and Tottington. Freight was, of course, steam-operated. Although infrastructure such as Tottington Viaduct shows that the intention was eventually to operate the branch as double-track, it remained single, with a  passing loop at Woolfold, throughout its life. After the Second World War the electrification equipment was in need of renewal and BR clearly saw the line’s future was limited. The branch was actually de-electrified in 1951 and passenger services reverted to traditional steam operation, using a venerable L&YR ‘Radial Tank’ based at Bury shed, usually 50829 or 50731. Services were operated in push-pull mode, obviating the need for the loco to run-round at Holcombe Brook. From being a state-of-the-art electrified commuter line, the branch reverted to traction dating from 1889. The passenger service ceased in 1952, with freight ending in 1963.

What a pity it hadn’t survived few decades more – housing development along the corridor, particularly around Tottington and Greenmount, as well as Holcombe Brook, would have made a viable Metrolink extension, if a route out of Bury could have been devised which avoided the East Lancashire Railway and its steam operations.

The line today

But dream on Paul, it wasn’t to be and probably never will be (but you never know). Instead, thanks to the efforts of Bury Council and Sustrans, most of the route is a footpath and cycleway. It’s actually got a tarmac surface which I’d say was a bit over-the-top, but I’m not complaining.

We started our walk from the site of Tottington Station, where the remains of the former single platform are clearly visible. The area is a charming community garden with bee hives and helpful signage. It was the day after Boxing Day and lots of people were out for a walk or bike ride, with probably far more people walking along the trackbed than

Remains of the concrete platform edging at Tottington Station

used it in its railway days. We headed north towards Holcombe Brook, over the magnificent Tottington Viaduct which crosses Scholes Lodges. We descended from the embankment and made our way along the well-made path through the Kirklees Valley, with plenty of signs of industrial remains. We came out by the former Kirklees  Bleachworks, now developed for housing, and picked up the trackbed near Woolfold. It’s an easy walk back and it was good to see so many people using the route. As mentioned above, there are many remains of the original bases used for the overhead electrification masts. A bit of signage to enlighten passers-by that this was a pioneer of railway electrification would be useful.

I’m planning to do the remaining parts of the route, at the south end. Sustrans has built a bridge replacing the demolished Woolfold Viaduct and its looks as though you can get into Bury and out the other side. Maybe a job for the e-bike.

This month’s short story

I’m hoping to do more short story-writing. Here is one I did earlier this year, caleld ‘Waiting for Mr X’ – based on real events, but embellished! A long time ago…see what you think:

This Month’s Short Story

The Delights of Politics (1): Deal or No Deal?

So, a deal has been done and we’ve avoided the chaotic mess that would have resulted from a ‘no deal’. Whether what we’ve got is any better than what Theresa May negotiated all those years ago (so it seems) I don’t know, but I somehow doubt it. A number of politicians whose views I respect are up in arms over Keir Starmer’s intention to vote with the Government on the deal. These include Clive Lewis, John McDonnell and Glynn Ford, whom many readers will remember as a North-West MEP back in the day. They have signed a letter to Starmer saying that Labour should not support the ‘rotten deal’ and let Johnson take the responsibility when it all goes pear-shaped, except we won’t be able to get pears as they are made in Belgium I think. But enough of this levity, it’s serious. The consequence of Labour MPs voting down the deal (along with the SNP, Lib Dems and DUP) could well be to wreck the deal, given that a few Tory MPs might go down the same road, for different reasons. So we’d end up with ‘no deal’ by default. I’m not sure this is really a good idea, and would infuriate a lot of people (not just Brexit voters) who want to move on from this whole sorry mess. The likelihood of getting ‘a better deal’, at least in the short term, is nil. If we really wanted to annoy our European neighbours, throwing the deal out would be a perfect way to do it.

So I hate to say it, but Starmer is right to grit his teeth and support Johnson’s deal. There is a bit future agenda that can be worked on, based on friendly co-operation with the EU states and (more importantly) businesses, universities and civil groups across Europe. But we can’t prevaricate any longer, whatever the rights and wrongs of the original Brexit vote (and I voted to remain and still think that was the right thing to do).

Delights of Politics (2):

Devolution and The North (from current Chartist magazine, with added bits)

The North of England is in tough times and in the coming year they may well get tougher. Covid has killed many thousands and upended the livelihoods of millions. The end of the Brexit transition period will cause huge upheavals and potentially further major hardship, with parts of the North bearing the brunt. No wonder the newly-formed ‘Northern Independence Party’ has already had thousands of messages of support on social media.

The region’s problems of social injustice and strategic economic weakness were already there; it’s just that the last year has compounded them. Decades of ‘neo-liberalism’ and ten years of austerity have taken their toll. Now, the rollercoaster of successive crises is here to stay: global warming is with us. The Arctic is melting and nothing can be the same again even if we wanted it to be.  2021 offers the opportunity for a reset; people don’t want the new normal to be like the old normal. The North must have a new economy and a new social contract; it can and must ‘build back better’.

How? The Hannah Mitchell Foundation is proposing a Campaign for Northern Democracy to argue that constitutional and democratic reform is a vital ingredient in the task of building a new economy and addressing social injustice across the North. To succeed in fixing our social and economic problems, we must fix the problem of the North’s democratic deficit and abject subordination to London. It’s not the whole solution, but it’s an indispensable part of the solution. The North needs its own grassroots movement to demand it.

The Campaign for Northern Democracy could provide that grassroots movement. The Hannah Mitchell Foundation is inviting all citizens and organisations who are working for a better North of England, and agree that democratic reform in the North is part of what we need, to join us. It will be progressive and inclusive but politically non-aligned.

As a member of the broad campaign, the Hannah Mitchell Foundation will work with others to specialise in developing the thinking behind, and practice of, progressive regionalism and regional democratic government. That can take many forms and ‘The North’ isn’t a monolithic whole. It contains at least three generally-accepted ‘regions’ – Yorkshire and the Humber, the North-east and North-West. In the past, advocates of regional devolution have used these ‘standard planning regions’ (as they were once called) as the basis of future regional government. Yet regional identities don’t always fit with planners’ thinking. While Yorkshire clearly has a strong emotional identity (as well as making sense as a regional economic unit), the North-West doesn’t. Lancashire does and a county-region taking in much of ‘historic’ Lancashire, including Merseyside and Greater Manchester, has a lot going for it.

Opponents still point to the referendum in the North-east sixteen years ago, when a proposal from the Blair government for a regional assembly was decisively rejected. It was from that defeat that the idea of ‘city regions’ began to take hold in the world of planning and local government. However, there are two very big flaw with ‘city-regions’. The first is that people don’t actually like them. Within the ten districts that make up ‘Greater Manchester’ you won’t find anyone, even within the city of Manchester itself, describing themselves as ‘Greater Mancunians’. Towns like Bolton, Wigan, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham still doggedly identify as ‘Lancastrian’ and many fly the Lancashire flag on Lancashire Day, November 27th.

The second major problem with the ‘city region’ concept is that it is highly centralist, concentrating economic and political power on ‘the city’ and consigning the so-called ‘satellite’ towns to secondary status. So in Greater Manchester, the economic growth of Manchester in the last decade has been undeniable. But the once-economically powerful towns surrounding it are in a dire way. More and more power has been ceded by the districts to the ‘combined authority’ which lacks either credibility or accountability.

The ‘county-region’ approach offers a different model where the region covers a bigger area but once which makes sense in terms of a viable regional economy, supported by a strong regional transport network and links between cities and towns on many different levels. Instead of power being concentrated on one centre, there could be two or three regional centres (in the case of Lancashire, Manchester, Liverpool and Preston) linked by good rail connections complemented by strong ‘second tier’ towns and cities such as Warrington, Lancaster, Bolton and St Helens. At the very local level, there’s a need for re-invigorated town (parish) councils, using the experience of councils like Frome as an inspiration.

For more, see

The Salvo Shop

The main sales items at the moment are my new book celebrating the West Pennine Moors – Moorlands, Memories and Reflections and my limited edition ‘Bolton –Lancashire’ facemask. The book marks the centenary of Allen Clarke’s book Moorlands and Memories which was about cycle rides and rambles around the West Pennines. It has been getting many positive reviews and the best tribute of all – lots of repeat orders!

Clarke was an avid cyclist and it’s highly appropriate that I’m able to deliver the book by bike. Allen Clarke often brought along copies of his books to sign and sell on his ‘Speedwell’ cycling club trips in the 1920s. Another Northern writer who had a similar idea was Todmorden novelist William Holt who would deliver copies of his books on horseback (c/o his faithful nag, Trigger).The facemask has been produced to raise money for local charities: Bolton Hospice and Bolton NICE (Neighbourhood Initiative for Community Enterprise). All proceeds are split between these two good causes. The masks cost £6 and are washable, adjustable and

Suitable for wearing on and off the train, tram or other forms of public transport.

comfortable. They look good too. So far I’ve had plenty of local orders as well as purchases from ex-pat Trotters in Wales, Canada, the USA and Australia.

Full details of all publications are on my website here (or see summary below): or email me for details at

Good places to buy my books and other things

A popular addition to my list of retail outlets is Bunbury’s real ale shop at 397 Chorley Old Road, Bolton. The bar side of the business is currently shut but they are open for takeaway. I can recommend their oatmeal stout and they have some superb German lager. Another slightly unconventional outlet is A Small Good Thing, on Church Road. This is a great little shop mainly selling organic fruit and veg and a range of ‘small good things’.

Bunburys on Chorley Old Road – stock up on my books and beer

Fletcher’s Newsagents on Markland Hill Bolton and The Pike Snack Shack on George’s Lane Horwich and Wrights’ Reads also in Horwich are stockists. Justicia Fair Trade Shop on Knowsley Street, Bolton, is handy for the town centre and has a full set of my books available (and some great gifts from around the world). Further afield the Pendle Heritage Centre at Barrowford has a supply; so has George Kelsall’s bookshop in Littleborough and The Carnforth Bookshop, a short walk from the station.

Winter Hill 125 wins more support

Plans to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the 1896 Winter Hill ‘mass trespass’ continue to evolve with strong interest from local unions, The Ramblers and many more groups and individuals. The celebration will take place on Sunday September 5th 2021 – get it in your diary now! My book on the mass trespass is available price £5 (plus postage if not local) – see below. It is hoped to have some major events during 2021, circumstances permitting. More details to follow. The best way of keeping updated is to join the Winter Hill 125 facebook page.

Small Salvoes

New product line: Lancashire-themed face masks!

The latest production of Lancashire Loominary is a ‘Bolton – Lancashire’ facemask. The ideal fashion accessory for the health-conscious Lancastrian Trotter. Available now and costs £6; proceeds to Bolton Hospice and Bolton NICE. The design features a Lancashire rose with the words ‘Bolton – Lancashire’.

Tripe Matters: Don’t forget to remember Forgotten Yorkshire now and help charities

The Tripe Marketing Board, the UK’s most progressive offal-based trade association, has a publishing arm. One of its most interesting books is Forgotten Yorkshire and parts of North Derbyshire and Humberside which is currently on sale through Amazon at the knock-down price of 99p. It’s a great book full of all sorts of things you’d never imagine happened in the white rose country, nor its neighbours in parts of North Derbyshire and Humberside. If you’re quick, you should get it in time for Christmas. It’s here:

See for more details about tripe in general and how you can support tripe as part of a balanced healthy diet and ward away nasty viruses and find your ideal partner.

Hannah Mitchell Foundation re-founded

The HMF is alive and kicking, once again! The annual general meeting was held by zoom on November 23rd and was well supported, considering we’ve been near-dormant for over three years. A new steering group has been elected and we agreed to seek partners in a new ‘Campaign for Northern Devolution’. We have a new website, still very much work in progress ( We’re also out there on facebook and twitter. The foundation is about promoting discussion on democratic devolution to the regions of the North.


Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

ALL STILL CAPED (railwayese for ‘cancelled’)


The Salvo Publications List  – see

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections (2020)  A hundred years ago Lancashire writer Allen Clarke published a forgotten masterpiece – Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. Clarke’s biographer, Professor Paul Salveson, has published a new book celebrating Clarke’s original and bringing the story of Lancashire’s moorland heritage up to date. Maxine Peake, in her foreword to Paul’s book, says “Hill walking, cycling, literature, philosophy, protest and The North…. these are a few of my favourite things.” She adds “Paul Salveson’s new book on Allen Clarke is irresistible.” See the website for details of how to buy:

The Works (2020). My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct (see above). Also on Kindle £4.99.

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free local postage or £3 further afield in UK. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 plus post and packing. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America.

You can get a better idea from going to my website:





Bolton Lancashire Facemask


I’ve done a limited run of ‘Bolton – Lancashire’ facemasks to help raise money for local charities – Bolton Hospice, Fort Alice and Bolton NICE (Neighbourhood Initiative for Community Enterprise). They sell at £6 (or £2 with postage). Go to ‘How to order my books’ on my website:


The ‘Horwich Works’ novel makes an ideal Christmas gift!

My novel set in Horwich and the Loco Works – ‘The Works’ – is still available. I’m doing a special ‘3 for 2’ offer at £20 with free local delivery within 5 miles of Horwich (if further afield postage is £5). Not a bad deal as the cover price is £12.99. Can also do at £10 with £3 postage if not local. Can sign/dedicate copies as required. Make nice Christmas presents! Go to for details or ring me on 07795 008691


Lancashire Re-United – the case for a new county-region

Lancashire Re-united?
The case for a new Lancashire county-region

By Paul Salveson

Lancashire and Yorkshire both have strong identities and despite historic rivalries, we have more in common, as Jo Cox would have said, than what divides us. Yet while our Yorkshire neighbours are building up momentum for a ‘One Yorkshire’ region, Lancashire is lagging behind. On Lancashire Day 2020, this paper argues for a re-united Lancashire, with its own democratically-elected assembly, based broadly on its historic boundaries but looking to the future for a dynamic and inclusive county-region that could be at the forefront of a green industrial revolution. It isn’t about creating top-down structures but having an enabling body that can help things happen: in business, arts, education and other fields. As well as a new county-region body to replace the mish-mash of unelected regional bodies and mayors with little accountability, a re-united Lancashire also needs strong local government (that is genuinely local) working co-operatively with the communities it serves and a vibrant economy that is locally based where profits go back into the community.

Back in 1895, Bolton writer and visionary Allen Clarke said:

“I would like to see Lancashire a cluster of  towns and  villages, each fixed solid on its own agricultural and industrial base, doing its own spinning and weaving; with its theatre, gymnasium, schools, libraries, baths and all things necessary for body and soul. Supposing the energy, time and talent that have been given to manufacture and manufacturing inventions had been given to agriculture and agricultural inventions, would not there have been as wonderful results in food production as there have been in cotton goods production?”  (Effects of the Factory System, 1895)

Utopian? Perhaps –  we need our utopian visions!. But there’s an element of realism there too. He recognised that capitalism had unleashed enormously powerful productive forces, but not necessarily with the best results. What Clarke was saying over a century ago is being said by many green activists and thinkers today and was what Gandhi preached in his own time and what Leopold Kohr, Franz Schumacher and John Papworth argued.  Humanity has the resources and skills to create a better world, for everyone; the consequences of not trying are worsening climate change and all that follows from it. The old cliché remains true: think globally, act locally – and regionally.

Clarke looked forward to a Lancashire that was a greener, more self-sufficient place – within a co-operative rather than a capitalist system. Now, as we struggle to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, is the time to think differently about the world we live in. This paper is about what Lancashire could look like in the next twenty years – by which I mean the ‘historic’ Lancashire, including Greater Manchester and much of Merseyside. But this is not about looking backward – it’s about creating a progressive and inclusive vision for a re-united Lancashire ‘county-region’ within a prosperous North and a Federal Britain. A Lancashire Co-operative Commonwealth.

The state of the county

The Lancashire of Allen Clarke’s day has changed in so many ways. In the towns, gone are the mills and mill chimneys with their attendant pollution and poor working conditions inside the factory walls. But we have also lost some of the civic pride and buoyancy of the great Lancashire boroughs including Clarke’s beloved Bolton.  ‘Lancashire’ itself has been split and divided in what was a travesty of democracy. No wonder there is a very worrying degree of despondency and cynicism within these towns that ‘nothing can be done’ and we are powerless. It becomes easy to blame scapegoats, be they immigrants, asylum seekers, politicians or whoever.

Lancashire has yet to find a new role that can build on its past achievements, without just being a dull collection of retail parks, charity shops and sprawling suburbia, nor indeed a heritage theme park. We have many successful businesses and a thriving academic sector with great universities, some world-class, in many towns and cities; there is the potential for that to spin-off into new industries and services that are world-leaders.

Manchester has emerged as a dynamic regional centre, though many of the once-thriving towns surrounding it are in a parlous state. This has got to change and consigning towns like Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale and Bury to the role of commuter suburbs is not acceptable. Instead of the centralised ‘city-region’ we need a more decentralised and collaborative ‘county-region’.

There is a disconnect between urban and rural, with tourist ‘honeypots’ around Lancashire and areas like the Ribble Valley and Trough of Bowland besieged by traffic from towns and cities and homes for local people made unaffordable by urban dwellers buying up second homes – a process accelerated by Covid-19.

The county that was stolen

Allen Clarke’s Lancashire has been shrunk by an undemocratic diktat in the 1970s. Nobody asked the people of Bolton, Rochdale, Oldham, Wigan and other towns if they wanted to be part of ‘Greater Manchester’. We have an elected mayor but without the democratic oversight of an elected council – which at least the original Greater Manchester Council had, before it was abolished by Mrs Thatcher in 1986. Something else we weren’t asked about. Now, in 2020, some politicians are talking about further municipal vandalism with the destruction of the remaining ‘Lancashire’ county council and three ‘super’ councils replacing it and the existing districts. Talk about making a bad job even worse. In Cumbria, there is talk of creating one single unitary authority; this would mean the death of ‘local’ government.

Allen Clarke was a strong believer in municipal reform and backed The Municipal Reform League, formed in Lancashire in the early 1900s. There’s a need for something like that but on a bigger scale, addressing the huge democratic deficit in the English regions, particularly the North, as well as the loss of power by local government. We need a ‘Campaign for Northern Democracy’ that can involve Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Cumbria and the North-East as friendly allies and partners.

Samuel Compston of Rossendale, a radical Liberal of the old school, spoke of the virtue of ‘county clanship, in no narrow sense’. He was on to something and his words were carefully chosen. Regional or county pride does not pre-suppose antipathy to other regions and nations, and it needs to include everyone within the region. But it requires a democratic voice, not just one person elected every few years as ‘mayor’, nor a committee of local authority leaders whose prime loyalty is to their own council ward.

Yorkshire has been quicker off the mark and the Campaign for a Yorkshire Parliament has won wide cross-party support; the Yorkshire Party has made several local gains. The Yorkshire-based ‘Same Skies Collective’ has developed some fresh new ways of thinking about regionalism. The Yorkshire Society is succeeded in reinvigorating a strong, inclusive Yorkshire identity – a very good model for us to follow in Lancashire.

Here, there’s a ‘Friends of Real Lancashire’ and we have a Lancashire Society which currently has a low profile. Lancashire needs to play its part in the regionalist revival  with a much higher profile and cross-party support. A reformed Lancashire that includes Greater Manchester and Merseyside makes sense as an economic unit but also chimes with people’s identities – in a way that artificial ‘city regions’ never will.

‘Greater Manchester’ typifies the problem of ‘city-regions’. It has reduced the once proudly-independent county boroughs to the status of satellites – commuter suburbs of Manchester (or ‘Manctopia’ as it was described in an excellent TV programme recently). Nearly 50 years on from the creation of ‘Greater Manchester’ our ‘city region’ still has precious little legitimacy and if there was a referendum tomorrow on being part of Lancashire or ‘Greater Manchester’ I have little doubt about the result.

A democratic new Lancashire

Regional democracy must be the next big jump for our political system with county assemblies, elected proportionately, taking real powers out of Westminster and Whitehall, backed up by strong well-resourced local government which has the right scale (not too big!).  In England, we haven’t grasped the distinction between the national, regional and local, with cack-handed attempts to combine the regional and local (witness current attempts to create a unitary authority for all of Cumbria and three huge ‘local’ authorities covering all Lancashire). The latter are neither sufficiently ‘strategic’ to be effective regional bodies, and anything but ‘local’. Cumbria itself is big enough to be a county-region but still needs effective local government beneath it.

We need to get power out of the centre – Westminster/Whitehall – and give county-regions such as Lancashire real powers (see below) complemented by local government which really is ‘local’ and relates to historic, ‘felt’ identities which make economic and political sense.

Parameters and powers

A re-constituted Lancashire county-region should include much of what once constituted Lancashire with the additions of parts of historic Cheshire to the south (Stockport, Tameside and Trafford in Greater Manchester). In some places, e.g. Warrington, Widnes and Runcorn, local referenda on joining the appropriate county-region could be held. The historic ‘Lancashire north of the Sands’ really makes more sense within a Cumbria county-region that works closely with its Lancashire sister. This provides a county-region of significant size able to wield economic clout without being too large (which a region of ‘The North’ would be, both in population and geographical scale). Crucially, it would reflect people’s identities.

A major failure of the attempts to create regional assemblies during the Blair Government was their obvious lack of powers, prompting the successful attempts by the advocates of the centralised status quo to label them as expensive ‘white elephants’. While on one hand it makes sense for a new county-region to evolve gradually in terms of the powers and responsibilities it has, it must be able to demonstrate a clear reason to exist from the start. That means taking over responsibility for many of the areas which Wales and Scotland already have. It should include tax-raising powers.

The county-region should be empowered to support economic development across its area, investing in emerging industries, research and marketing. The ‘Lancashire Enterprises’ of the 1980s, stimulated and overseen by Lancashire County Council, would be a good model to start with. Part of its role should be to encourage new social enterprises and encourage greater employee and community involvement in large enterprises.

For transport, a ‘Transport for Lancashire’ should be created to take over the powers of existing transport authorities, as well as the ineffective Transport for the North. There should be close collaboration between sister bodies in Yorkshire, Cumbria, the North-east, and the Midlands, with formation of joint bodies to develop inter-regional links.

Another regular canard against regional government is that it creates ‘more politicians’ – ’jobs for the boys’, another effective line of attack against the idea of a North-East Assembly in 2004. It depends how you look at that. Regional devolution must include reducing the number of MPs at Westminster, as their functions transfer to the county-region. The same goes for the civil servants. Some powers that are currently devolved, but with little democratic scrutiny (transport, health, etc.) could simply come under the democratically-elected county-region, with members elected by a proportional voting system.

Localising local government

One of the most disastrous decisions of local government reform in the 70s was the destruction of small, usually highly efficient, local councils. Medium-sized towns, such as Darwen, Heywood, Farnworth, Radcliffe and others often ran their own services, built good quality housing and underpinned a very strong sense of civic pride. They were ruthlessly destroyed in the spurious cause that ‘big is better’ and the knee-jerk approach of far too many bureaucrats to centralise as much as possible. Can anyone honestly say that these medium-sized towns have benefitted from the changes imposed on them in the 70s?

Within a Lancashire ‘county-region’ local government should ultimately be based on smaller but empowered and well-resourced units that reflect people’s identities – the Darwens, Athertons, Radcliffes as well as larger towns such as Oldham, Burnley, Blackburn and Blackpool. However, in the short term use should be made of existing powers to create local councils (‘town’ or parish councils) for small and medium-sized towns that don’t have their own voice, based on the ‘Flatpack Democracy’ model developed by independent town councillors in Frome, Somerset.

These smaller but more powerful local councils should co-operate with their parent borough council and neighbouring communities on issues of mutual concern within a Lancashire county-region – a ‘co-operative commonwealth’ as argued below.

Having vibrant town as well as city centres must be a major element of the county-region. This means having a vision for town centres which offer something that the mega-stores don’t offer: a sense of conviviality and sociability. The arts have a key role to play – small galleries, larger public facilities including theatres and annual festivals (Bolton’s Film Festival is a good example) can help revive town centres and give them a new role.

Some Lancashire towns have been successful in developing niche manufacturing which offer highly skilled, well-paid jobs – but there’s a need for much more, working in partnership with the higher education sector. The ‘Preston Model’ should be rolled out to other similar-sized towns and cities to encourage much more local procurement and business support. It all needs sensitive encouragement which should come from re-structured and empowered local councils working within a collaborative framework provided by the county-region’s Lancashire Enterprises, as part of  ‘The Lancashire Co-operative Commonwealth’.

A new green industrial revolution for Lancashire

Allen Clarke’s prophecy in Effects of the Factory System in (1895) that the cotton industry was doomed has finally come to be. Most of the mills that once dotted the south Lancashire landscape have been demolished. A few have survived but many are in poor condition, with only the prospect of demolition ahead of them unless something is done. The University of Bolton has had the sense to re-use some old mill buildings as part of its campus.

Yet most of the surviving Lancashire mills, perhaps with the exception of Manchester’s Ancoats, don’t have the wonderful mix of creative industries, office space and living accommodation that has been achieved with some of the mills in Yorkshire. At Saltaire, Salt’s Mill is perhaps the finest example, though rivalled by the Dean Clough Mills in Halifax. More should be done to protect our Lancashire mills and find good uses for them. Why should Yorkshire have all the fun?

Allen Clarke would have loved the idea of putting the mill buildings to better use – as places to live, but also as office and art space, recreational centres and performance areas. How about mill roof gardens? There’d be no shortage of space, with room to grow fruit and veg. Time for the ‘Incredible Edible Mill’!

We also need to build new, inspirational buildings that can take their place alongside the fine architecture bequeathed us by past generations. We need a vision, at least as radical as that of the Bolton landscape architect T.H. Mawson, of what our towns and cities should look like in the next 20 years, not what developers think is ‘good enough’ for us and makes the quickest return for them. We need some new Lord Leverhulmes (for all his faults!), women and men of vision, able to work collaboratively and creatively.

Lancashire could be at the forefront, once again, of an industrial revolution – but this time a green revolution which benefits everyone, not just a handful of entrepreneurs.

Sharing the same skies: the countryside for everyone

Alongside a vibrant urban society, economy and culture, we need to make the best of our countryside, the ‘green lungs’ that make Lancashire so special. At its best, it can compete with the Lakes and the Peak District in terms of scenic beauty and is relatively well served with vibrant shops and smaller towns.  It’s a huge asset in attracting talent into the region as a place to live and work.

Yet public transport access to the countryside is nothing like as good as it ought to be. Some of the most attractive areas have little or no bus services, or they don’t operate on Sundays – just when people need them. Places like Rivington, Pendle and Holcombe – let alone the Ribble Valley and Pendle – can be clogged with cars and motor bikes at weekends. At the same time, many stations that gave walkers access to the countryside, have closed.

Never mind HS2, let’s rebuild a world-class local transport network. For a fraction of the cost of that high-speed white elephant, we could have a network of modern, zero-emission trams and buses serving town and country, feeding in to a core rail network. If we look at the examples of Germany, Switzerland and Austria their popular rural areas typically have either frequent train services or rural trams connecting from the larger urban centres.

One of the few bright spots during the coronavirus outbreak has been the remarkable growth in cycling. Clarke and his friends Johnston and Wild would be delighted. Quiet roads, good weather and time on your hands was the ideal combination. Cycle shops have enjoyed a boon. I hope this renewed interest in cycling will survive, particularly if the Government puts its money where its mouth is and provides funding to expand cycle facilities in both town and country. That will need a strong regional body to implement cycle infrastructure working with local authorities and communities – a clear role for Transport for Lancashire.

People will still use their car to get out into the countryside and that needs to be managed and provided for. Car parks can be ugly, but so can cars parked alongside verges. The more alternatives there are available, the less likely we are to assume that the only way to enjoy the countryside is by that form of transport which does most to disfigure it.

Why not copy the example of some of the national parks in the United States, which prohibit car access to the most sensitive areas? If you get there by car, leave it in a ‘parking lot’ and either walk, get on a local bus or hire a bike. It could work in some of our national parks including the Lakes and popular visitor locations such as Rivington and the Pendle Forest. The exciting plans for a ‘South Pennines’ regional park could include sensitive measures to restrict visitors’ car access and promote use of public transport, cycling and walking.

Allen Clarke want to see a new ‘agricultural revolution’ in Lancashire, and that’s still relevant. Much of Lancashire, particularly in the north of the county, has a highly productive agricultural sector and we need to guard against precious agricultural land being lost to development. We need to do much more to feed our own people and not be dependent on imported foods.

The ‘incredible edible’ model, of small-scale food production within towns was invented here in Lancashire and needs to be rolled out in every town and village.

Beyond a boundary: a Red Rose Co-operative Commonwealth?

The future of England should be about county-regions co-operating with empowered, but geographically smaller, local councils. There should be strong encouragement to co-operate on issues when it makes sense, and to share resources and specialist staff. That co-operation should extend further, across the North. Why not a ‘Northern Federation’ of county-regions – Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cheshire, the North-East and Cumbria, collaborating on issues of joint concern, such as strategic transport links and academic co-operation?

Good, democratic governance must be about addressing inequality, jobs, the environment, health, education and having a thriving and diverse cultural sector. Allen Clarke’s vision in 1895, of locally-based and socially-owned units of production make sense in a modern digital age, co-operating as equals with partners across the globe.

His idea of a ‘co-operative commonwealth’ could certainly work at a Lancashire level; after all, it’s where co-operation began. Allen Clarke, with and his radical friends Solomon Partington, the co-operator and feminist Sarah Reddish and Samuel Compston looking over his shoulder, would have said “what are you waiting for?”

And we can’t wait. The coronavirus pandemic has focused people’s minds on the dysfunctional way we have lived our lives. An even bigger threat is climate change which requires re-thinking every aspect of how we live, travel, work and play. A democratic revolution is needed to create appropriate governance that can address those issues.

That revolution needs to go beyond Lancashire and the North. We need to build a Federal Britain which is no longer dominated by London: a federation of equals.

Now is the time to create that Allen Clarke’s vision of a ‘Lancashire Co-operative Commonwealth’ that can, in the words of Clarke’s heroine, Rose Hilton – get agate with the job ofwashing the smoky dust off the petals of the red rose” and create a county-region that is fit for the 21st century. A Lancashire re-united.


Lancashire United

What we stand for

  • The promotion of a strong, inclusive Lancashire identity that is welcoming to everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or age
  • The creation of a new Lancashire county-region which includes Greater Manchester and Merseyside
  • The formation of a democratically-elected Lancashire Assembly, using a fair voting system
  • The devolution of powers over transport, health, education, economic development, culture and tourism to the county-region, with democratic oversight
  • The encouragement of informal Lancashire-wide networks in the areas of higher education and research, culture and the arts, sport and other areas
  • The encouragement of democratic forms of social ownership – ‘a co-operative commonwealth’
  • The empowerment of local government and town/parish councils
  • Close and collaborative working with our neighbours in Cumbria, Yorkshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire and the formation of a Northern Confederation


Lancashire Day, November 27th 2020

See facebook group #LancashireUnited and


NEWS Uncategorized

Celebrating Lancashire’s Moorlands

Celebrating Lancashire’s Moorland Heritage

A hundred years ago Lancashire writer Allen Clarke published a forgotten masterpiece – Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. Clarke’s biographer, Professor Paul Salveson, has published a new book celebrating Clarke’s original and bringing the story of Lancashire’s moorland heritage up to date.

Maxine Peake, in her foreword to Paul’s book, says “Hill walking, cycling, literature, philosophy, protest and The North…. these are a few of my favourite things.” She adds “Paul Salveson’s new book on Allen Clarke is irresistible.”

Clarke’s book was conversational, philosophical, radical and lyrical. Paul’s celebration covers some of the ground that Allen Clarke wrote about – handloom weavers, dialect writers, the Winter Hill ‘mass trespass’, links to Walt Whitman and that fearsome Lancashire creature, the boggart. He discusses Clarke’s links with Tolstoy and his attempts to ‘get back to the land’ at a commune near Blackpool  and the great Barrow Bridge picnic in support of the locked-out Bethesda quarrymen in 1901. The book recalls one of Bolton’s first ‘refugees’ who lived on Halliwell Road.

Clarke was both a keen cyclist and walker. His original book includes rides and rambles through Rossendale and Pendle as well as around Rivington, Belmont and Edgworth, with associated tales. The Clarion Cycling Club and the Clarion ILP Tea Rooms at Roughlee features, as does ‘The Barlow’ in Edgworth and Darwen Tower. Paul adds in some stories from the last hundred years including ‘summer evenings with old railwaymen’ at the moorland station of Entwistle and Gandhi’s visit to Lancashire. The renaissance of the East Lancashire Railway is included in the story.

“I wanted to write more than a ‘then and now’ book, though I do explore many of the places that Clarke originally described and how they have changed,” said Paul. “Our moors remain a precious asset which we neglect at our peril. They are amongst the few places that haven’t been ‘locked down’ during Covid-19 and are there for everyone to enjoy. I hope that my book will add to their appreciation.”

How to buy it

The book is priced at £21 (plus £4 postage) and is now available. See ‘How to buy my books’ page or click on to:

Lancashire Loominary Order Form

It is available at selected shops including Wright Reads of Horwich, Bunbury’s real ale shop, Pendle Heritage Centre and more.  If you know of a shop that would like to take copies let me know. I generally avoid chain booksellers but happy to do sale or return from any local shop that’s interested.



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.


Lancashire Loominary Order Form