Clarion House at Nelson-on-Colne

Set amidst some spectacular countryside, the Clarion House at Nelson-on-Colne is a real gem that any trade union or labour movement visitor would enjoy. 


Clarion House is the only clubhouse remaining from what was once a large network of similar countryside buildings. 





In Victorian England, working conditions across East Lancashire were atrocious, especially for children. The atmosphere was putrid from the cotton in the air and the soot and smog created by mill chimneys. Nelson socialists set up societies, such as rambling, camping holidays and cycling clubs, aimed at improving the health and well-being of the working class. 

Andrew Smith was a Nelson Independent Labour Party (ILP) member who believed people should be able to engage their physical training in the open unpolluted countryside. Nelson ILP rented properties from 1899 onwards. As membership levels rose steadily form around fifty towards a thousand the ILP set up a land society and purchased in June 1912 land ‘near New Church in Pendle.’ Clarion House cost £350 to build and since when the day to day running and maintenance has been carried out by volunteers. 

Clarion House can be reached by easy or moderate walks from the surrounding towns of Nelson, Colne, Burnley & Clitheroe. It is open every Sunday from 10.30am to 4.00pm as well as some bank holidays. On other days, visitors are welcome to sit and relax outside. There is plenty of space for children to safely run around in. There is an outside toilet.  

All visitors get a warm welcome. 

“I moved near here with my partner five years ago. A neighbour mentioned Clarion House and its historical significance. We walked the four miles and still visit regularly. I like the Clarion House values in terms of community and a little bit of rebellion, doing things independently, which in a way sums up this whole area. 

“There are always people here. Most come of their own steam and you get many ramblers and cyclists. We enjoy sitting in the garden and the view is outstanding. I doubt there are many better anywhere in England,” said Sarah Jane Grey from Barrowford. 

The Clarion House building itself is basically one large room of benches and chairs, an attached porch, toilets and a large kitchen serving refreshments and a great cup of tea. Along with colourful banners, the walls are decorated with local and national historical figures associated with the clubhouse.

“We largely exist on the money we make from our sales. I enjoy helping as I see this as socialism in action. We work together co-operatively. Visitors get a cup of tea and can sit down and, if they want, chat and exchange ideas about how to improve things for working people. You can also just sit outside and relax. We’d be delighted to welcome Unite members,“ explained retried postal worker Sue Nike, who first volunteered at Clarion House around 35 years ago. 

ILP Clarion House, Jinney Lane, Newchurch-in-Pendle, Lancashire NN12 9LL  Donations from trade union branches would be welcomed. See also a recent released video on Clarion House:-



Ye Olde Hob Inn, Bamber Bridge, Lancs 


Ye Olde Hob Inn, Bamber Bridge, Lancs 

Ye Olde Hob Inn in Bamber Bridge is a 400-year-old Grade II listed former coach house with a thatched roof. It contains a grill, restaurant and a well stocked bar. The food our group was served was affordable good home cooked food. There was also plenty of it.  The Inn is ideal for some rest and relaxation.

It’s all a distant cry from Thursday June 24, 1943 when several American black soldiers, based at the nearby headquarters of the 1511th Quartermaster Truck regiment, objected to being informed that they she could not be served beyond the then legal closing time of 10pm.

Tension was high amongst the black servicemen, who as was the case throughout World War II were segregated from their white counterparts and frequently suffered great disparities in their treatment. This followed a riot in Detroit four days earlier that had left 25 black people dead, 17 shot dead by the police and following which riots spread to other cities. 

What happened next never appeared in any official war chronicles. But according to Anthony Burgess, author of Clockwork Orange, who was a lecturer at a nearby college after the war, “there was a Bamber Bridge, which was totally black in sentiment such that when the US military authorities had demanded that pubs impose a colour bar, the landlords had responded with Black Troops Only signs.”

A longer account of events appeared in a quarterly magazine After the Battle. It was written by military defence analyst and History Professor Dr Ken Werrell. His meticulous research included interviews with survivors. 

On hearing that there was an incident at the pub, two white military policemen (MPs) went to investigate. There was a deep mistrust between the segregated black troops and the MPs, whose appearance  was certain to be poorly received, especially when they attempted to arrest one of the black servicemen for having no pass. A crowd that included some local Britons surrounded and abused the MPs, one of whom drew his gun before they left to seek reinforcements. 

When further arrest attempts were later made the result was a black solider was shot before the black soldiers, on arriving back at their base, began taking arms to defend themselves. In the firefight that followed one black soldier, Private William Crossland, was shot dead. Two other black soldiers and one white were shot during what was termed a mutiny.

When calm was later restored over twenty men from the depot were later found guilty of charges that included resisting arrest and illegal possession of rifles. Sentences ranged from three months up to 15 years although in the event these were later reduced and only one served more than a year. 

Mark Ashton, Belfast


The education room at the Unite regional office on the Antrim Road, Belfast was renamed on 19 March 2016 in honour of Mark Ashton. This is the first time in Northern Ireland that a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has been acknowledged outside of the LGBT community. 

This article (from 11 September 2014) is reproduced with the kind permission of the Morning Star, Britain’s only socialist daily newspaper.


PETER FROST remembers one of The Sun’s most despicable headlines and how it was taken up as rallying call for working-class unity.

It has taken three decades for the BBC and the British film industry to tell the amazing story of Mark Ashton.

Thirty years is a long time, indeed a good few years longer than Ashton’s tragically short life — a life cut short by Aids at just 26 in 1987.

Mark, a mercurial young Irishman, was a gay rights activist and a founder member — some would say the founding member — of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) during the epic miners’ strike of the 1980s.

LGSM came together to support the British miners during the year-long strike of 1984-5.

There were 11 LGSM groups throughout the country. London was the largest.

Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, Kendal

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

LAKELAND HIDDEN GEM: Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, Kendal

Kendal’s hidden gem is the Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry (MOLLI), which recreates how rural people lived, worked and played in the past and by doing so challenges its visitors’ perceptions of what life was like in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK.
MOLLI is in Abbot Hall’s eighteen century coach house and stables. Seven hundred years earlier, commercial sheep farming by local monks helped create  a thriving wool industry. This is reflected in Kendal’s motto ‘Pannus mihi panis’ meaning ‘cloth is my bread.’
It was the Cumbrian climate that ensured that sheep — as well as cows — were locally more suited than the growing of arable crops. Meanwhile, with Cumbria being so remote from London, nobles were frequently absent from home and this encouraged them to sell their land.
The result was it became easier for some local farmers to swap from being tenant to land owning ‘Statesman’ farmers. The nineteenth century bedroom of a statesman farmer is amongst one of the permanent period rooms at MOLLI. Others include a chemists and printers as well as a farmhouse kitchen from a typical Cumbrian eighteenth century farm.
These are certainly worth viewing but what really brings the museum to life is its desire — which was so passionately expressed by Rachel Roberts, assistant curator on collections and access, during our visit — to preserve and tell the stories of the 99 per cent of ordinary working people who live and die without leaving anything behind.
Display boards tell the history of how Cumbria’s minerals — zinc, lead, copper included — were first plundered by the Romans. Then how later on local mines attracted workers from across Britain and Europe with the German mining engineer Daniel Hechstetter granted permission in 1565 by Elizabeth I to melt ‘all manner of mines and ores of gold, silver and copper’ around Keswick and Coniston.
Another important local industry was shoemaking and the Kendal Cordwainer’s Guild was established in the seventeenth century to ‘protect mutual interests.’ Leather sold in the town was officially marked and no one outside the guild was to sell similar products. This was an early form of trade unionism.
The Lake District’s woodlands have for many centuries been coppiced as a method of harvesting trees. Quick growing trees such as oak and ash can be cut down to their shoots and within 15-40 years they can be as tall as 6 metres high. Once harvested they were used in local industries and of which the most important was bobbin mills, totalling 64 in the mid nineteenth century.
Bobbins were in massive demand during the industrial revolution and it is estimated that in Burnley alone there was as many as 20 million bobbins turning on the cotton-weaving machines at any one time.
“Bobbin making was a huge employer of local labour,” explains Rachel “but as people moved into the towns during the industrial revolution there was also chemical and paint making.
“Because of Cumbria’s remoteness there was additionally, until the railways really took off, a greater self reliance. This meant that virtually every product you can think of was manufactured, with small workshops servicing the larger ones. There was also domestic work in people’s private homes and farms.”
John Ruskin‘s first publication was his originally entitled 1829 poem Lines written at the Lakes in Cumberland. In the mid-1850s he taught drawing classes at the Working Men’s College in London and following which he was drawn towards social issues. Ruskin College in Oxford was established to provide educational opportunities for working-class men in 1899, a year before his death.
Ruskin lived near Coniston from 1871 till 1890. During his time he inspired the founding of the Langdale Linen Industry and the Keswick School of Industrial Art, which was opened in 1884 to alleviate unemployment by teaching metalwork and wood carving. “The aim was improve people’s skills such that they would enjoy making quality products, some of which we on display here, that everyone could buy. Sadly the production costs meant the goods were only affordable by well off people. This left Ruskin disappointed,” says Rachel.
Arthur Ransome was first educated in Windermere. He is best known for writing the Swallows and Amazons children’s book series that are centred around the Lake District and Norfolk Broads. Years previously, Ransome covered the Bolshevik Revolution for a radical newspaper, the Daily News. He became close to a number to a number of Soviet leaders including Lenin and Trotsky, whose personal secretary became Ransome’s wife. There is a very interesting permanent display on Ransome within the museum.
Over the winter, MOLLI, which attracts around a thousand visitors a month,  held an exhibition of Joseph Hardman’s photographs.

This has been followed by Fun on the Fells: Walking and Climbing in the Lake District. This will run till 28 October and features early climbing pioneers through to the politics of right to roam in which one of Unite’s great heroes Benny Rothman will feature.
“We would be delighted to welcome trade unionists to the museum and would welcome the support of branches within Unite, particularly those in the North west,” said Rachel.

Working Class Movement Library (WCML), Salford

Working Class Movement Library (WCML), Salford

Landworker article 2018 

Tony Benn, the late radical Labour MP, called the Working Class Movement Library (WCML) in Salford: “One of the greatest educational institutions.” It is internationally recognised for containing one of Britain’s most important collections of working class history as embodied in the trade unions, the co-operative movement, organisations of the oppressed and the political parties and campaigns of the left.

The library was established by and built on the personal collection of Ruth and Eddie Frow, who coming from rural Lincolnshire was always delighted to find an item or book on agriculture at the numerous fairs and bookshops that he visited with his wife. 

Consequently, the WCML contains a great collection of materials relating to rural social conditions through the ages and particularly since the second half of the nineteenth century onwards. 

The official reports include the 1843 one by the Special Assistant Poor Law Commissioners on the Employment of Women and Children in Agriculture nationally and which examined wages, working and living conditions and revealed widespread poverty and abuse. The pamphlets include ones by the Socialist Countryside Group, established after a fringe meeting at the 1981 Labour Party conference, examining rural housing, countryside access, national parks and low pay in agriculture. 

Periodicals include Landworker magazines going back to the 1930s. The WCML shelves contain numerous academic books on farming, agriculture, rural industries and communities by University lecturers and professors.  There are also lots of biographies and autobiographies, often written by politicians who have represented rural communities, including Joseph Arch’s, written in 1898. Additionally there are poems and songbooks and posters. 

The collection demonstrates how British rural life and working conditions has economically, socially and culturally changed, often beyond recognition and not always for the best. 

The agricultural collection is a very small part of the huge archive held by the WCML, which includes many newspapers, photographs, artefacts, banners and the personal papers of past labour movement heroes such as Benny Rothman. 

Anyone wanting to study in the library should search through its online catalogue as you need to ring in advance so that staff can ensure all relevant materials are available when you visit. 

The WCML has library exhibition space which hosts public information displays. There are regular talks, lectures and guided tours. A range of pamphlets are published annually and there is a library e-newsletter.

WCML only receives a small sum of public money. As an independent charity it largely relies on donations from individuals and trade unions with occasional trust grants. Please get your branch to affiliate as the WCML urgently needs financial support.

Working Class Movement Library

51 The Crescent


U.K. M5 4WX

0161 7363601

William Wilberforce, Hull


There is a statue of William Wilberforce outside his former home, which is now a museum. This is located within part of Hull’s Museum Quarter incorporating the Nelson Mandela Garden. Close to the Museum is a pub named after Wilberforce. 

Wilberforce was a native of Kingston upon Hull. Born to a prosperous merchant family in 1759, Wilberforce was just 21 when he became MP for Hull, switching four years later to represent the larger county seat of Yorkshire. 

It was following a dramatic conversion to evangelical Christianity that, at the suggestion of the prime minister, William Pitt the Younger, in 1787 he became the parliamentary leader of the abolition movement. Wilberforce made his first Parliamentary speech on the issue in 1789.

The slave trade was enormous and British ships transported 2.6 million of the 12 million slaves that from the late fifteenth century were taken from Africa to the Americas. 

For British slave traders it was a three-legged journey – the ‘triangular trade’ – whereby guns and brandy were traded in Africa for slaves, who were then transported under horrendous conditions to be sold in the West Indies and North America and following which traders returned to England with cargoes of rum and sugar for sale. 

The slave trade was thus highly profitable. In 1700, a slave cost around £3 in traded goods and could be sold for £20. The trade partly helped finance Britain’s subsequent industrial revolution.  

There were many slave uprisings. In 1791 slave leader Toussaint l’Ouverture – one of the greatest military leaders ever – led a successful slave revolution in Haiti. This, in part, prevented the abolition bill of the same year being passed in Parliament. 

The following year a similar bill, which had popular support, was successful but only after the legislation was weakened by the inclusion of the word ‘gradual’, plus a requirement for more research into the trade. Slave traders exploited this and with Britain at war with France from 1792 to 1805 the abolitionist campaign floundered. 

Wilberforce reintroduced his bill into Parliament in 1804. Having sounded out public opinion he published an influential tract in 1806. In 1807 he gave one of the greatest Parliamentary speeches of all time. He was subsequently backed an overwhelming vote that outlawed the trade in slaves on British ships. 

Slavery though remained in British colonies. In 1812, Wilberforce worked on the slave registration bill that failed to obtain Government backing. In 1823, Wilberforce published another tract  attacking slavery. 

Two years later, Wilberforce left Parliament. Just three days before he died on 29 July 1833 the emancipation bill received its final reading and slavery would be abolished – although not without the traders being heavily compensated! 

In 2006, Tony Blair expressed on behalf of the British Government “deep sorrow and regret” for the slave trade. 

The William Wilberforce pub on Trinity House Lane in Hull city centre is a Wetherspoon pub that serves a range of refreshments, including real ale, and a variety of food.

Hull City Council has an extensive website on Wilberforce at

For more on Wilberforce see:-



Ralph Fox, Halifax

Remember Halifax’s Ralph Fox, killed in Spain on 28 December 1936 


One of those who fought and died fighting Franco’s forces in Spain was Halifax’s Ralph Fox.  A bench in his memorial sits at the Manor Heath Walled Garden, Halifax 

Fox was a well-known member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and wrote biographies of the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin as well as Genghis Khan. 

Fox studied modern languages at Oxford University, where he was drafted into an officers’ cadet regiment only for the First World War to end before he saw active service. On his return he became active in efforts to half the British blockade to overthrow (Lenin’s) Bolshevik government which had assumed power following the Russian Revolution of 1917. In 1920, Fox travelled to the Soviet Union and returned convinced of the need to overthrow capitalism. After successfully completing his studies he later began work for the CPGB and completed his first major book. He later worked for the Daily Worker as a columnist and wrote several books for the Communist press. 

In 1936, Fox joined the International Brigades in order to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War. These were military units composed of volunteers from different countries and who travelled to Spain to help defend the Second Spanish Republic between 1936 and 1939. The Brigades base was in Albacete and where Fox received training before being assigned to the XIV Brigade. He was sent to the front  during one of the first operations in which the Brigades were involved and died at the Battle of Lopera in the province of Jaen in late December 1936.


Jim Jump, chairman of IBMT at a Calderdale Trades Council commemoration event at the Ralph Fox bench in October 2018 


EMMELINE PANKHURST and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia


Pankhurst is the name most associated with the struggle for women’s right to vote and the first meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903 was held at the family home of 62 Nelson Street, Manchester and where a blue plaque was mounted by Manchester City Council on 1 January 1987. 


Emmeline was born in 1858 in Manchester. Her grandfather had been present at the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 and her grandmother had worked to repeal the Corn Laws. Both her parents backed the movement for women’s suffrage. She married Dr Richard Pankhurst, a radical barrister. They had five children and of which three girls survived.  Living in London from 1889 to 1893, Emmeline helped to form the radical Women’s Franchise League, which supported equal rights for women in areas of divorce and inheritance. 

Richard died in 1898, leaving his wife in considerable debt. In 1903 her daughter, Cristabel, frustrated by the peaceful tactics of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, founded 1897, persuaded Emmeline to join her in advocating more direct action. The first WSPU meeting was held and the motto ‘Deeds not words’ was adopted. Those involved became known as The SUFFRAGETTES and they increasingly used militant tactics to raise awareness of their demands. Emmeline was arrested on many occasions. There were attacks on Churches after the Church of England  had voiced its opposition to the concept of suffrage. MPs’  windows were smashed and politicians were harassed and their meetings disrupted. Winston Churchill and Sir Edward Grey were assaulted when speaking in Manchester. 

When many of those arrested refused to pay their fines they were imprisoned they continued their struggle by going on hunger strike and were force-fed.

Read the story of Julia Varley

Many suffragettes died following periods of incarceration, probably as a result of the horrific process of enforced nourishment that took place. In June 1913, Emily Wilding Davison, a WSPU activist, threw herself beneath the King’s horse as it took part in the Derby of that year. She was killed. The arson campaign continued to gain momentum but in August 1914, Britain was plunged into WWI.

The conflict resulted in Emmeline and Cristabel agreeing a truce with the government and WSPU militant suffrage activities were suspended for the following four years. Emmeline advocated for men to join the armed forces and encouraged employers to fill their vacant factory spaces by recruiting women to work in industry. She was a prominent figure in the white feather movement that was aimed at embarrassing men who had not already enlisted. 

As the war progressed the vital part that women were playing was grudgingly acknowledged. It became more and more obvious that arguments that women were not fit or clever enough to vote was a total misrepresentation.

Following the end of the carnage across Europe, the dissenters to suffrage were swept aside and the 1918 Representation of the People Act gave voting rights to women over 30. This was nine years older than rights for men. It was to be another decade before women were – under the Equal Franchise Act – granted equal voting rights at aged 21 with men. Emmeline, who died on 14 June 1928, lived just long enough to see a bill passed that achieved her lifetime ambition. 

Cristabel, who later spent many years in the USA, lived till 1958. As a young woman she obtained a law degree from the University of Manchester. Her sex meant she was unable to practise as a lawyer and she thus applied her legal expertise to highlight the inequalities and injustices experienced by women as well as organising large scale demonstrations. 

Sylvia Pankhurst was the second oldest daughter of the Pankhurst’s and proved to be the most militant. In 1906 she started working full-time for the WSPU. In the years leading up to WWI she was imprisoned on numerous occasions and when she moved to East London she came to see that the struggle for women to have the vote was part of a larger struggle for equality. This was not something the WSPU, including her mother and elder sister Cristabel, were prepared to agree with.  In 1914, Sylvia broke from the WSPU to form the socialist East London Federation of Suffragettes. (ELFS) As a pacifist, Sylvia opposed the war, during which she also organised several practical initiatives such as a baby milk distribution centre and a cost-price restaurant chain. 

She later joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) but quit when she was asked to give the party the paper she had established, the Workers Dreadnought. In the lead up to WWII she became involved in the fight against the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and where she died aged 78 in 1960. 

There was also Adela Pankhurst, who was also active within the WSPU. She was imprisoned on many occasions. Concerned that her daughter might criticise the WSPU during WWI, Emmeline provided Adela with a one-way boat ticket to Australia. They never saw each other again. In 1920 Adela and her husband, Tom Walsh, set up the Australian Communist Party but she later became disillusioned with communism and abandoned left-wing politics altogether. Adele expressed some sympathy for fascism during WWII and was imprisoned for a year. She died in 1961.


The plaque at Nelson Street, Manchester is located on the Pankhurst Centre, which serves as a women’s centre and community space. Manchester Women’s Aid, which provides essential support services to those suffering from domestic violence and abuse, joined forces in 2014 with the Pankhurst Trust, the body which oversees the Pankhurst Centre, to create a ‘unique space in which women can learn together, work on projects and socialise.’


The Nelson Street plaque is one of a large number of public monuments to Emmeline Pankhurst. In December 2018 a Emmeline Pankhurst statue was unveiled in Manchester

This is the second statue to honour Emmeline Pankhurst, the first, in bronze, was unveiled in Central London in 1930 and is the central feature of the Emmeline and Cristabel Pankhurst Memorial.

There is also an Emmeline and Cristabel plaque at 50 Clarendon Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 3AD and where they lived from 1916 to 1919. 

There is a plaque in Llanelli, where she spoke in 1912, to Emmeline Pankhurst. 

There is a blue plaque to Sylvia Pankhurst at Cheyne Walk, London

There is a second plaque bearing Sylvia’s name at 45 Norman Grove, London E3

… and a third is located at 3 Charteris Road, London , where she lived from 1933 to 1956

There is a plaque in Kingsway, London on what were the headquarters of the WSPU: 

Credit to Hayley Reed for the use of this image