The Wonder Women Walk

Contributors to Pendle Radicals are developing a series of themed Radicals walks.  After the Two Toms, celebrating two pioneers of the countryside movement, comes this homage to two inspirational campaigning women.  Bob Sproule gives a preview of this urban/rural trek linking historic locations in Nelson and Earby.

Barbara, Ruth and I left Nelson bus station and headed up Railway Street under the railway bridge and crossing.  Passing a number of streets we came shortly to Vernon Street. Here we arrived at Unity Hall, formerly the Nelson Independent Labour Party’s Socialist Institute. The foundation stones for the Institute were laid by our two subjects, Selina Cooper and Katharine Bruce Glasier, in 1907.  This was pre-lockdown, and the Revive Café was open, so we could go inside, marvel at the ILP (Independent Labour Party) mosaic in the entrance hall as well as photos of Selina, Katharine and the people in whose honour the stones were laid. 

Watch for latest news of post-Covid opening and Nelson Town Council’s exciting Selina Cooper project on their website.

We left Vernon Street and made our way through Nelson’s terraced streets to St Mary Street, where at number 59 we found the plaque on Selina’s former home. The plaque told of some of the campaigns Selina was involved in, but obviously could not give all the detail of an extraordinary life, that included being the first woman to represent the ILP when in 1901 she was elected as a poor law guardian. Despite being a full time worker from age 13 and with scant formal education, she became one of the  four women selected to present the case for women’s suffrage to then Prime Minister Asquith in 1910  because of her skills at oratory and debate.

Leaving St Mary Street, we soon arrived at the Leeds Liverpool Canal which then provided a delightful 1:8 mile walk to Barrowford Locks.  The Reverend Thomas Leonard officiated at Selina’s marriage, and here we cross the Two Toms Walk, as our emerging network of Radicals’ walks seems to mirror the network connections made by some of our Pendle Radicals!

A further 1:4 miles of glorious canal walking took us to the mouth of that wonder of engineering, the Foulridge Tunnel. Here we walked past Slipper Hill Reservoir, complete with hunting heron, past Sand Hall uphill in a tunnel of trees providing shade on a hot day and arrived at the road from Standing Stone Lane down to Foulridge.

Footpaths and lanes took us through Hey, Hey Fold and to a mill which is on a way marked Historic Waterways Circular Walk. We crossed the canal at Mill Hill Bridge and headed off across fields to Kelbrook. In Kelbrook we admired the village hall, a former old National School, as we walked up to Heads Lane to meet the Pendle Way.

 A wonderful walk along a section of the Pendle Way with great views north meant we eventually arrived at Birch Hall Lane where Katharine lived from 1922 until her death in 1950.

A full information board tells you that in 1893, upon the birth of the ILP, Katharine was the only woman on its administrative council. She led campaigns for pit head baths, nursery education and school meals and in 1919 was involved in the founding of the Save the Children Fund.

Following her death, discussion took place on how Katharine’s life could be commemorated. It was decided the house would be converted into a Youth Hostel and among the many organisations donating were the National Union of Miners.  The Earby Youth Hostel opened in 1958.  It is worth remembering that on the first board of the Youth Hostel Association was that other Pendle Radical, the Rev Thomas Arthur Leonard.

A night’s stay at the now independent Earby Hostel is highly recommended. Please note that after lockdown, the Hostel has been temporarily converted to offer single occupancy for summer 2020.

Then the following day, particularly if you have tried out the Two Toms Trail, you might be inspired to walk the half mile or so up to the Pennine Way, first mooted back in 1935 in Tom Criddle Stephenson’s article in the Daily Herald, and follow the acorn-marked route, all the way to Scotland.

Bob Sproule’s detailed route directions are available on request.  The Radicals research team will continue to develop this emerging series of Walks with Radicals, which we hope to make available as downloads from the forthcoming Pendle Radicals website.

One thought on “The Wonder Women Walk

  1. Pingback: The Wonder Women Walk (via the Rebel Pen Club) | Mid Pennine Arts

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