Banner Culture – All Saints’ Church Walking Day Banner

The oldest banner in the recent Banner Culture exhibition came from All Saints’ Church in Habergham, Burnley.  It was a very popular banner with visitors and we thought you would like to know more about it.  Clive Spencer, who organised its loan for the exhibition and Rachel Pollitt, from Gawthorpe Hall, tell us more about this beautiful banner…

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The All Saints Church banner in the Banner Culture exhibition represented one of Lancashire’s dying traditions – ‘Walking Day’.  On a certain day of the year the church congregation would put on their Sunday best and parade from the church around the parish, holding aloft at least one banner from the church whilst huge crowds lined the streets to watch.  In the Manchester area walks were held on Whit Friday, in Padiham on Whit Monday and in Habergham on Whit Sunday, plus there were occasions when all of the churches in the locality held joint processions.  Today declining congregations and increasing traffic on the roads have meant that this has almost vanished from our streets, and the banners, often huge in size, now lie unused in many local churches.

Dating back to the late Victorian period, the banner from All Saints Church Habergham was probably made by Manchester based banner makers Thomas Brown & Son, who also made Mrs Pankhurst’s famous suffragette banners among many others.  It has an image of Christ as the Good Shepherd in the centre, flowers on the outside with the church name above and below. At over two metres tall it must have been an impressive site as it led the parade.

Habergham’s Walking Day, also known as the Whit Walk or by its official title The Procession of Witness, was one of the highlights of the church year.  There was a festival atmosphere in the town with the main road closed to traffic as huge crowds lined the streets to watch. Each church congregation followed their own banner, two of the strongest men of the parish would carry the wooden poles supporting the banner which was of course, held as high as possible. Ropes were also attached, four usually being held again by men of the parish as a sudden gust of wind could cause mayhem. For added visual effect a number of young children would hold guide ropes, whilst being ‘marshalled’ by their Sunday School teachers.

All Saints Banner 1908The All Saints Church banner being carried in procession on Padiham Road near the church, circa 1908. Image courtesy of Clive Spencer.

Local photographers produced postcards of the church processions and the day’s events were always covered in the newspapers. The Burnley Express from 30 May 1885 describes:

 …a procession of over 300 left the church after a short service, and headed by the Padiham Brass Band and a banner…they proceeded down Padiham Road to Lowerhouse and thence to Ivy Bank, the residence of Col. Dugdale, J.P.  In the afternoon buns and coffee were served in a field near Habergham Pit, where several pleasant hours were spent in play. The Park Hill Wesleyans, who preceded the Church procession, were equally numerous.

In the 1950s all the Anglican churches of Burnley including All Saints held joint processions through the town centre.  In 1951 it was reported that crowds were up to six deep on the pavement whilst in 1953 nearly 4,000 men, women and children took part in the actual procession alone.

No longer used for Walking Day the Banner Culture exhibition was a welcome opportunity to get the All Saints’ Church banner out for the first time in many years. However after being used in all weathers and serving the parish and church so well for over 100 years it is now in great need of conservation to preserve it for the future, although it is unlikely that it would ever be paraded in the same way again.

Walking Day at All Saints' Church, Burnley small

All Saints congregation members on the Whit Walk with the banner, passing the old Lane Ends pub circa 1923. Image courtesy of  Lancashire County Council Red Rose Collections.All Saints Habergham banner (3)
All Saints Banner as part of Banner Culture exhibition. Image courtesy of Clive Spencer.

Banner Culture was created, as part of Mid Pennine Arts’ Pendle Radicals project, for the British Textile Biennial in partnership with Super Slow Way. Pendle Radicals is part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership, supported by National Lottery players through the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Links in a Chain

Anne Cochrane, a member of the volunteer Radical Research Team, shares some fascinating connections discovered during her work as a volunteer researcher and archivist…

I now have three volunteering hats, one is for Burnley Library and the Lancashire Archive, one is for the Pendle Radicals project, and the third is as unofficial keeper of the archive for Lowerhouse Cricket Club, (1862 – and counting). I can prove that all three projects are actually connected, albeit the cricket club link is a bit tenuous, so I can wear all three hats at once, I am thinking flat caps here rather than top hats.

For the Lancashire Archive, I scan photos from the Burnley Library collection, add relevant information and they end up here. Of course, I only pick images/subjects I am interested in, so I did a series covering all the Members of Parliament for the parliamentary constituency of Burnley up to 1945, plus some unsuccessful candidates. They all proved at the very least interesting, some were absolutely fascinating, at least, one, Jabez Balfour, was an unmitigated scoundrel.

The first  and main link in my chain therefore is David Daniel Irving, Burnley’s first socialist/Labour M.P., from 1918 to 1923.

David Dan Irving, first Burnley Labour M.P

A very brief outline of Irving’s life is that he was born in Birmingham in 1854, went to sea from age 13 to 20, settled in Bristol, married Clara Beadsman and in his twenties lost a leg in an accident whilst working as a railway shunter. He became involved in trade unionism and socialism which eventually led to a job as branch secretary of the Socialist Democratic Federation in Burnley, and from 1894 to his death in 1924, he dedicated himself  to the  working people of Burnley, culminating in his election as M.P. in 1918.  After being  re-elected  for the third time in December 1923, he was made a Freeman of the Borough in January 1924, (see link to photo) went back to Westminster, became ill with pneumonia and died of a heart attack.

Want to learn more about this remarkable man, use this link!

The Pendle Radicals project provides the next links in my chain – Ethel Carnie Holdsworth and Katharine Bruce Glasier.17079461_116652049421

One of the first things we learnt about Ethel was that her father was involved with the SDF, and she attended meetings at a young age. She must have come into contact with Dan who was the driving force behind the SDF in this area, standing for parliament in Accrington in 1906 for the SDF, and surely had him in mind when she made her character of Bill Cherry in The Taming of Nan (1919)  a double leg amputee, as a result of an accident working as a railway porter. The next link is a bit more substantial…

Katharine Conway, later Bruce Glasier, daughter of a Congregationalist minister and committed Christian, was working as a High School teacher in Bristol when she became a socialist, and took a job teaching poor children. Upon research I have also found that she moved into the Irving family home to help look after Clara who is described as an invalid. Certainly the 1891 census records her at the Irving’s’ but describes her as a visitor, and a High School Classical Mistress. The household also comprised Irving’s two young daughters and his slightly older brother William. Irving is described as a weighbridge clerk and his brother as a Grocer’s warehouseman.

In 1892 a group of Bristol socialists, including the Irving’s, Katharine Conway, and Edith Stacey  gave up everything and moved to the Lake District to help run the Reverend Mills’ Starnthwaite Colony, a socialist Utopian experiment in land settlement for the urban unemployed. They didn’t last long and were soon expelled, being unable to work with the autocratic Mills. In 1893, Katharine Conway married John Bruce Glasier and together they helped to found the Independent Labour Party.220px-Katharine_Glasier_0001

Irving, now “entirely adrift ” scraped a living as an SDF speaker, until in 1894 he was made the first full time secretary for the SDF in Burnley.

Irving’s unexpected death in 1924 caused an outpouring of sorrow from friend and political foe alike and the town held a massive public funeral.

Amongst  the hundreds following the coffin was Selina Cooper.  There is no evidence that Katharine or Ethel were there, but with poetic licence, I am placing them behind Clara side by side with Selina. Clara Beadsman Irving, J.P., subsequently erected a monument  at the grave, and his socialist and Labour friends added stones with tributes to his life as Member of the School Board, Board of Guardians, Town Council and House of Commons. Clara died in 1944 and is also commemorated on the stone which still stands proud, if slightly wonky in Burnley Cemetery.

Clara wrote to Katharine in 1943,  wishing her a happy 80th birthday, the letter is part of the Bruce Glasier archive at Liverpool University. Katharine died in Earby in 1950.

And the Lowerhouse CC link… Dan Irving was one of the first socialists elected to the Town Council in 1902, for Gannow Ward. He probably knew my Grandad who was a union organiser.  I was brought up on Gannow Lane. I’m the link. (Told you it was tenuous.)

Burnley's Dan Irving, and H. M