The Latrigg Fell Mass Trespass of 1887
Updated: Aug 28
THE LATRIGG FELL MASS TRESPASS OF 1887
Latrigg Fell from the base of Spooney Green Lane.
Stick firmly to my gate, jolly tar, jolly tar!
Stick firmly to my gate, jolly tar!
Yes, bedaub, besmirch and smear
All who try to pass through here.
Though the right of way be clear,
Keep them far.
Am I wise to seek your aid, doubtful tar, doubtful tar!
Am I wise to seek your aid, doubtful tar!
We are warned 'gainst touching pitch
and this time I scarce know which
Will be sullied; poor or rich.
Will it mar.
Stick to them and not to me, faithful tar, faithful tar!
Stick to them and not to me, faithful tar!
For I do not care a fig
if the public rights I prig
and the pathway up Latrigg
I will bar.
Printed in the West Cumberland Times 1st Oct 1887
On the 1st October 1887 an estimated 2500 people walked to the top of Latrigg Fell as an act of mass trespass. This 1207 feet high fell overlooks the town of Keswick in the Lake District and from the summit panoramic views across Derwentwater and the surrounding mountains can be enjoyed. The court case that followed resulted in a ruling that acknowledged the right of the generality to access this uncultivated mountain top in perpetuity. A significant win for the defenders of the right to roam movement and an event that needs to be more widely recognised. The Kinder Scout trespass in the Peak District in 1932 is quite rightly often referenced, and Winter Hill Bolton in 1896 also, but we mustn't forget those who went before and paved the way.
As a proud descendant of one of the main protagonists of the Keswick trespasses, my motivation for writing this blog is the hope that after reading this account, more of us will come together to call for greater recognition of this noteworthy episode in our history and, in doing so promote the ongoing importance of remaining vigilant in defending our right to wander the open countryside.
In the century following the Enclosure Act of 1750 a large percentage of common land across the country shifted to private ownership which led to some long standing public rights of way becoming increasingly inaccessible. Also, the mid 19th century saw the expansion of the railways and the birth of the tourist industry. People were starting to see the countryside as a means of escape from city and town life following the industrial revolution.
The beautiful Lake District soon became a very popular tourist destination and the opening of the Cockermouth, Keswick & Penrith railway to passengers in 1865 brought more visitors to the area. Various walking guide books were produced and there was a raised awareness of rights of way that were being denied. It was only a matter of time before there was a clash between landowners and those wishing to have access across the tops of the fells.
As a means of challenging these closures the National Footpaths Preservation Society was created in 1884 and it wasn't long before local groups began to emerge. In the Lake District it was the Reverend Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley who in 1886 set up the Keswick and District Footpaths Preservation Society (KFPS) with Henry Irwin Jenkinson as secretary and treasurer, and two vice presidents; Rev William Colville and William Routh-Fitzpatrick. The society's slogan was 'arbitration, not war’ so with this in mind local land owners were invited on to the committee, all of whom declined.
Notice from the KFPS
The KFPS put their energy into two disputes in particular; the right of way through Fawe Park owned by Mrs Spencer Bell which connects public boat landings on Derwentwater, and the access to the top of Latrigg Fell owned by Miss Spedding. Both disputes were significant, so although this article focuses on the Latrigg fell mass trespass it is necessary to also refer to the Fawe Park dispute as the KFPS were contesting this at the same time. The trespasses through Fawe Park contributed to the build up for the larger trespass onto Latrigg on the 1st October 1887.
Latrigg fell became part of the Greta Bank estate when the Brundholme Enclosure of 1815 was awarded to the then owner Mr Calvert. Mr Calvert had built a bridge across the river Greta in 1807, owned jointly by his neighbour Mr Banks. When Mr Calvert built the bridge he created the Terrace Road which went past his house and linked higher up Spooney Green lane and then to the zigzag road to the summit of Latrigg. Mr Calvert stopped up the base of Spooney Green Lane at this time as he thought it preferable the public used Calvert Bridge to go to the top of Latrigg, Previously Spooney Green Lane had been the main route. Mr Calvert had been “exceedingly willing that everybody enjoy the various beauties of the scenery”
This is a sketch of the area (not to scale) showing the disputed paths as it would have been in 1887. Windebrowe was previously known as Greta Bank and was the home of the Speddings. The railway was closed in 1972 and the A66 now cuts across horizontally just north of Greta Bank farm.
In 1833 The Spedding family bought the Greta Bank estate and at the same time complete ownership of Calvert Bridge. The Speddings kept up the tradition of allowing public access until 1855 when Miss Spedding took up residence. She made the Calvert Bridge access private and cleared the base of Spooney Green Lane so that would be used to access Latrigg and beyond. Mr JJ Spedding her cousin who lived in Greta Hall and who acted on her behalf started trying to discourage people from using the Terrace road and when the dispute started private signs began to appear. In 1865 railway passengers began to arrive in Keswick and at that time a notice was put up on Spooney Green Lane marking it as the 'Road to Skiddaw'. Over the next twenty years visitors had increased considerably and Mr Spedding on behalf of his cousin complained of litter and damage.
Matters came to a head in 1887 when Mr. Spedding, who was a local magistrate, when prosecuting some boys for damage, withdrew the case and stated openly in court that he would like “some responsible persons to bring the question of right of way up Latigg to an issue”. The gauntlet had been thrown down and the KFPS obliged.
The KFPS committee had hoped to come to amicable agreements with the Speddings, and also with Miss Spencer-Bell of Fawe Park but discussions were fruitless. Through their solicitors the KFPS made an arrangement when a few members of the KFPS would walk the contested route in order to force legal action. As the KFPS committee would become personally liable for any damages and court costs the society set up a footpath guarantee defence fund in July 1887 managed by their secretary Henry Jenkinson. As this was seen as a national issue articles and adverts requesting donations appeared in publications not only locally but also across the country.
At a meeting of the KFPS held on Monday 29th August 1887 the decision was made to trespass Fawe Park and Latrigg Fell on 30th August 1887. An account of the event was published in the Manchester Times Saturday 3rd September;
ASSERTION OF PUBLIC RIGHTS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT... the Keswick and District Footpaths Preservation Society.... at a meeting of the committee of the society on Monday evening a sub-committee was instructed to make arrangements for asserting the public rights to the paths in question in such a manner as the solicitors to the society should recommend, the society holding themselves responsible for the result. After this resolution had been come to, notice was given to Mr. Spedding and Mrs. Bell, through their solicitors, that the society would assert the public rights on the following day at ten o'clock in the morning in the case of Fawe Park, and at three o'clock in the afternoon in the case of Latrigg.
In accordance a number of members of the society, headed by Mr. Fitzpatrick, acting as president in the absence of the Rev. H. D. Rawnsley, and by Mr. H. I. Jenkinson, secretary of the association, proceeded to Fawe Park on Tuesday at 10 o'clock, and were loudly cheered by the inhabitants as they drove through the town. The first obstruction met with was a gate interlaced with thorns and barbed wire, and backed by a number of oak trees. Some of Mrs. Bell's servants were there, and announced that their mistress would meet the party in a few minutes. Shortly afterwards the lady arrived, and protested against trespassing upon her private property. She expressed regret that among the trespassers were many whom she had before thought were her friendly neighbours, but who were now taking part in the oppression of a widow by asserting an imaginary right which would not give a quarter of an hour's enjoyment to anybody, while it would destroy her happiness and cause her to give up her home. Such proceedings would cause not only her but the resident gentry to leave the neighbourhood, and when they were gone no visitors or tourists of any account would come to the place. This would ruin the railway and the hotel keepers, and Keswick would be left in poverty and desolation. She looked upon them as her enemies, and thought it was nothing less than robbery to take people's private property in this way. No people of any value to the district would come to live where there were such hungry sharks.
Mr. Fitzpatrick, on behalf of the association, said they had a painful duty to perform, but it should be done with as little annoyance to Mrs. Bell as possible. They were sorry to resort to this course, but had no alternative; and if they were wrong, Mrs. Bell would have her remedy in a court of law. Mr. FitzPatrick then gave orders for the barriers to be removed, which was quickly done by a blacksmith who had been taken for the purpose, and the way having been cleared a charabanc was driven through with about ten occupants, other members of the association following on foot. Several smaller obstructions were removed as the party proceeded, and after the asserters of the public right had reached the other side of the hill, where the public road from Newlands to Borrowdale is reached, they returned by the same way they came. By this time the barriers had been replaced, and they had to be cleared away again.
In the afternoon similar means were taken to assert the right of way to the top of Latrigg by way of Mr. Spedding's garden to what is known as the Terrace Walk.
The KFPS met again two weeks later and further trespasses were proposed and agreed upon unanimously. The following account of the trespasses was published in the West Cumberland Times 1st Oct 1887:
THE DISPUTED KESWICK FOOTPATHS. DEMONSTRATION AT FAWE PARK. PULLING DOWN GATES, FENCES, AND BARRIERS. On Wednesday week at a largely attended meeting of the members of the Keswick and District Footpaths Preservation Association a resolution was carried unanimously that the sub-committee should be empowered to arrange as they might think best for the removal of the barriers which had again been placed on Latrigg and at Fawe Park.
It was agreed there would be a public demonstration for the removal of the Fawe Park barriers on Wednesday, September 28th, leaving the Keswick Market Place at 2.30pm and another to Latrigg on Saturday, October 1st, at the same hour.
Mr W. Routh Fitzpatrick, one of the vice-presidents (acting for the Rev H. D. Rawnsley, vicar of Crosthwaite, the president. who is away from home), the Rev A. R. Goddard and Mr Henry I. Jenkinson. the hon. secretary and treasurer directed the afternoon's operations. Charabancs and several private conveyances were driven to Fawe Park, while there were enthusiasts on horseback. A great many people rowed across the lake in boats, and a still greater number walked from Keswick and the surrounding villages... before three o'clock the conveyances reached Nichol Ending on the opposite side of the lake from Keswick. Here a large crowd had already congregated, and before the proceedings had been in progress ten minutes there must have been fully 500 people present. A pleasing feature, in this connection, was the large muster of ladies, who seemed to take quite as great an interest in the attack as did their more muscular relatives and friends.
It was previously known that Mrs Spencer-Bell, being away from home, would not meet the party. On the last occasion when Fawe Park was visited, Tuesday. August 30th, it will be remembered that Mrs Spencer-Bell made a series of speeches.... did more to increase the determination of the members of the Association and the towns people to assert their rights than all the efforts of the leaders of the movement could have accomplished in a very long time.
The party on coming to the obstruction, at Nichol Ending, observed that Mr Graham, solicitor. Carlisle, Mr Joseph Broatch, solicitor, Keswick, and a good many of Mrs Spencer-Bell's workmen and servants were congregated inside the gateway, and on the slopes of the surrounding wood. Mr Jenkinson and those accompanying him went to the barrier immediately they alighted from the vehicles. Mr Graham advanced to the blocked gate, and addressing Mr Jenkinson and those assembled round him said: On behalf of Mrs Bell I have to protest against you, or any of you removing this or any other fence on Fawe Park Estate, and give you warning that you, and each of you, will be held liable for any acts you may commit in removing these fences. (In answer to a question from Mr Jenkinson he added:) I am Mr Graham from Messrs Saul's Carlisle, Mrs Bell's solicitors. Mr Jenkinson replied: We are going to have the obstructions cleared away and the road opened. (loud cheering)
There being indications that further parleying might be anticipated unless some check was put on by those in authority, an appeal was made to Mr Fitzpatrick who was still on the 'Enterprise', for instructions. Mr Fitzpatrick; We are not going to have any speech-making today. Everything necessary was said when we were here last time The obstruction must be removed and the conveyance pass through. (Renewed cheers).
Mr Jenkinson; The gentleman represents Mrs Bell on this occasion, and you have heard what he has said to the sub-committee who came here. The committee think it is not necessary now that we should come here to talk. We think this is a public road; we are positive about it, and do you think it would be right of us to forego this public right because you come here objecting? You do not tell us why you object. Mr Graham; I say it is a private road.
Mr Jenkinson: And we say it is not. Whatever you may say we are going to take these obstructions away and go over this road as a public right. I, as secretary of the Association take upon myself the responsibility that these men must at once remove the obstructions (Great cheering)
Four or five men carrying huge crowbars another whose implement was a pick axe, and an experienced blacksmith, had been engaged by the Association in order to carry out the work which required to be done in a skillful and proper manner,. This was agreed upon that the Association could be satisfied as to there being no unnecessary damage done.
The gate had been secured by locks and bolts; barbed wire was stretched across from fence which borders the wood right down to the fence on the boat-landing side. Thorn branches and various other means of obstruction were woven into the gate and adjoining railings. The blacksmith quickly severed the wires, and removed the bolts, while it was only two or three minutes work getting the gate off its hinges. This accomplished the trunks of eight oak trees had to removed. The timber had been laid across the road behind the gate and as the hill rises immediately the gate is passed, the position is a somewhat awkward one. A few minutes longer sufficed to place these obstructions at the sides of the road.
Those who were not helping in the work with their hands cheered on those who were hauling the logs about or pulling down the gate. Others made merry at the pains and penalties which were promised on a board facing the gate, the wording being:- Notice.- Any persons found damaging gates fences, trees, shrubs, or taking away ferns, or otherwise trespassing upon this estate will be prosecuted.
Some doubt seemed to exist is the minds of one or two present as to whether the men were pulling down the proper fence and Mr Jenkinson said: We know exactly about all those things-these gateposts and everything. We have asked our solicitors about every point, and if you will trust us we shall do what is right. (Cheers.) Shortly before a clear passage had been made Mr Jenkinson said: You don't do a single thing to injure any part of Mrs Bell's property. (Hear Hear). We have workmen specially to do this work. I ask you, as I asked you on Latrigg, will you pledge yourselves that you will do no damage? Those who will pledge themselves hold up your hands. (Nearly every one present lilted their hands in response, and a hearty cheer followed.) Mr Jenkinson then asked that the "Enterprise" should be allowed to go first, after the guides, the other vehicles and the people following orderly after.
Whilst this was going on Mrs Bell's solicitor made note of the three main protagonists and despite there being a number of Mrs Bells servants and workers present no one attempted to stop the proceedings.
And so the charabanc and its entourage made its way through Fawe Park to to great cheers. There were many other obstructions placed along the road however with the 'crow bar brigade' close to hand these were all easily removed. On reaching Grange Road end the group then retraced their steps and returned unhindered. When once again at Nicol Ending a final post and fence was removed in order to reopen a smaller public footpath. Several of those present walked along this path in order to reclaim it. Henry announced to loud cheers that a new sign would be erected declaring it to be a public footpath and the road a public right of way.
Before the crowd dispersed Mr Jenkinson thanked all those present for undertaking the trespass in a peaceful and orderly manner. He then went on to talk of the importance of joining the climb to the top of Latrigg Fell which was to take place the following Saturday fearing that if people neglected their duty that “you may possibly help to sacrifice the public right to go to every mountain top in Great Britain. There are thousands of people all over the British Isles helping you, who are expecting you to do your duty on that day”
By now news had spread of the proposed mass trespass to the top of Latrigg Fell on the 1st Oct 1887, the matter having gained national interest. Samuel Plimsoll (former MP for Derby and 'The Sailor's Friend') had sent a telegram saying he would attend with two friends.
This is a report of the event taken from the West Cumberland Times Wednesday 5th October 1887
RIGHT OF WAY ON LATRIGG. DEMONSTRATION AT KESWICK REMARKABLE SCENES THE PROTEST OF 2500 PEOPLE. STIRRING SPEECH BY MR SAMUEL PLIMSOLL...
Nothing of the kind has ever been known in the Lake District before, and if there are parallel cases anywhere in Great Britain the officers of the Keswick Footpaths Preservation Association know not of them. Remarkable indeed were the scenes which were witnessed on Saturday at Greta Bank and on the slopes of Latrigg, and not the least feature worthy of note was the immense concourse of people who assembled to assert the public right of way to the summit of "Skiddaw's Cub." There were several attractions. The first was the splendid autumn day on which it would have been little less than a sin on the part of anyone to have remained indoors if they were free to take a walk in the open air.
Again it was known that Mr Samuel Plimsoll, who when member of Parliament for Derby earned a worthy and world-wide renown as the sailors' friend. The third reason why there was such a large gathering was the chance of "fun" in the removal of the barriers; while the last, and certainly not the least was the opportunity minded of a pleasant walk to the top of Latrigg by the now famous Terrace Walk and Calvert Road. The morning trains brought many people from western towns—Cockermouth Workington, Aspatria, Maryport, and Whitehaven-to join the popular protest. At half past two there was a fine muster in the Keswick Market Place. Hundreds of persons had for nearly an hour previously been walking towards Greta Bank, and the conveyances which had been engaged by the association were followed by hundreds more.
The first of the charabanc was occupied by Mr Routh Fitzpatrick, one of the vice-presidents, Mr Henry Irwin Jenkinson (the hard working hon. secretary), the Rev A. R. Goddard, Dr Black, and other members of the committee, besides seven or eight newspaper representatives. The second charabanc comprised: the guides, a blacksmith and " the crow-bar brigade" This body, which was composed of a dozen stalwart young fellows in their working costume, attracted a great deal of attention. Each man had either a formidable crowbar, a pick axe, a shovel, or some other implement which would be of service in the removal of any kind of obstruction from a tarred stone wall to the contents of a marine store such as was exhibited five weeks ago at the entrance to the Terrace Road. A hearty cheer was heard when the vehicles drove off, shortly before three o'clock, Several estimates were made during the afternoon of the numbers present. Nobody calculated on less than 2000 where another estimate was nearer 3,000; probably a figure somewhere between the two would be nearest the mark at the time Mr Plimsoll was speaking.
When a halt was made it was seen that Mr Joseph Broatch (Messrs Broatch and Gandy, Mr John James Spedding's solicitors) was waiting within the gate, and near to the silo were eight or nine of Mr Spedding's men servants. The gate was secured by a chain, and on the front of the gate was painted an indication that the rood was private. At the back? wall was the pile of timber, old iron, and heaps of rubbish which, when a few gallons of tar had been poured over it, served as a barricade on the occasion when the Association had paid a visit to the place. No attempt was made to defend the road by the men who were at the hall. The great crowd in the road was a very orderly one, and the work of Superintendent Taylor, Cockermouth; Inspector Richardson, Keswick, and the officers who were with them, was very light. A rousing cheer was given when the conveyances were bought to a stand. Hats were also waved and the cheers renewed when the officers rose to speak.
Mr Fitzpatrick said: Ladies and gentlemen, my duty is a very brief one, and I do not intend to inflict upon you a lengthy speech. I am today representing our president, the Rev H D Rawnsley, who has been, so to speak, the factor of this movement for the upholding of the public rights, but who, by absence is prevented from discharging his duty as leader of the association today. I need not tell you a twice-told tale. All you present know the history of the Latrigg dispute, and we are here today, as we were before, on the 30th August, to assert the public right of way by the Terrace Road and Calvert Road. (Hear, Hear) We have taken no steps without due deliberation and consideration, without obtaining evidence, and without submitting our case for counsel's opinion. We have also tried every way to bring about an amicable arrangement with Mr Spedding, without result. Are we to wait till it suits Mr Spedding's convenience to address legal proceedings, and is he in the meanwhile to be allowed to barricade a road which we must be forgiven for claiming as a public road till the matter be decided one way or another in a public court of law?
The society have decided that the barricades shall not be allowed to remain up, and it will be my duty, as soon as a few other gentlemen have addressed the meeting, to order them to be removed (Hear. Hear.) One thing let me beseech you, let none of us exhibit any personal feeling towards Mr Spedding of a hostile character. He very likely thinks he is in the right, and until the case is investigated in a court of law we cannot positively say that he is not. When you proceed up Latrigg, I request you will kindly follow the leaders of the society, keeping to the paths, and doing as little damage as possible. I also request that you will kindly not trample on the trees that have been spread on the path way.
The Rev. A R Goddard was then asked to speak. He said: …..I am very glad that so many of the ministry of the town of Keswick have stood side by side in this matter. I think, therefore, these two points are the only ones I have to make remarks upon. It is very unpleasant, and we would be glad to see Mr Spedding come and open his gates, and say, "Come in, friends; if you will respect my property I will respect your rights" but as he has not done so this was the only course that was left to us. (Applause).
Mr Jenkinson who was greeted with sustained. applause, was the next speaker. He said: "in the position of honorary secretary to the Footpath Association it is my duty to thank you for having come in such numbers to protest against the closing of these old public paths. (Hear hear) Mr Spedding and others have said you were not in earnest, but today you are showing to the world a spirit which will kindle such a fire as will light up all the British Isles. (Hear hear) Latrigg must be the watchword and the question of access to our mountain tops having been disputed we must not rest satisfied until the ancient rights have been conceded (applause) or the question is discussed and settled on the broadest principles (Hear Hear). If we have no right of access to the summit of Latrigg we have no right to ascend other similar mountains in Great Britain. Proud ought all to be that we have so advanced in education. in taste, and in patriotism, that the people can rise.... to demand to be allowed to enjoy the natural beauties of this lovely district. We are not asking for money or for political power; but for a continuation of one of the simple rights of our forefathers to enjoy one of the natural rights of man, a communion occasionally in the midst of our toil with the spirit of nature and all that is great and beautiful. Who, possessed of these things by birth or accident can be so mean or selfish as to damp such noble aspirations. If such there be, they are unworthy of any high position amongst their fellow men. (Applause.) The day has come when birth and station, riches and power, have duties, and if they are possessed by those who are unworthy, and who misuse them, the people will demand that such persons be brought down to the post they are best able to fulfill. (Applause.) We are all fellow-travellers in the Journey of life, and is it right that one should misuse his high position and privileges to add to the misery instead of the happiness of the rest? I maintain that these miserable, selfish people, with dispositions naturally so perverse, should be looked upon as the pests of our race, (hear hear)—and some steps ought to be taken by law to prevent, or counteract, their evil tendencies. (Applause) How much better for themselves, how much better for everyone, if they would practice a little of the truest and highest selfishness, by adding to their own happiness, in adding to the happiness of their fellow men? (Applause.)
During the late Jubilee you had this spirit brought prominently forward in almost every town and village of Great Britain. Here, in Keswick, we had our Jubilee bonfires and the formal opening of the Fitz Park, and almost every one subscribing his mite towards the extinction of the Park debt. Why not, on so fitting an occasion, have helped to knit the people together, and gained their affection and esteem by settling this vexed question of access to Latrigg? No, this was too high an ideal for those who would have had to do the work. Rather, in a mean, selfish spirit would they alienate the whole town and country in the endeavour to satisfy their childish natures. (Hear, hear.) This being so, it is our duty to protest in an earnest, orderly spirit, before all England, that, come what may, we will not acknowledge defeat, or give up the contest, until success has crowned our efforts. (Applause.)
In this spirit I have guaranteed in the name of everyone of you, that we will walk to the top of Latrigg and back without doing any unnecessary damage and I must ask you all here to pledge your word, by holding up your hands, that you will support me in this endeavour, and show yourselves worthy of such confidence. (Applause.) I must ask you, and especially the children, not to touch even the black berries, or what are better know to most of you as brumlikites (Laughter and applause.) Those of you who will pledge yourselves hold up your hands. There was a hearty response, nearly every hand been lifted.
This was followed by " three cheers for Jenkinson " on the call of a person in the crowd. Mr Jenkinson then added: I believe you are all aware that a gentleman came from London the day before yesterday specially to assist us in gaining this path and other paths His name Samuel Plimsoll. (Great cheering.) I believe, although I do not see him, that I am justified in saying he will come forward and say a few words. (Applause.) Mr Plimsoll occupied a seat on the second charabanc, and on Mr Jenkinson's invitation he rose to speak. On being requested, he, although with some difficulty. got through the crush and was accommodated with a place on the first vehicle. Before he climbed up, however, he suggested, amid some laughter, to Mr Jenkinson, that "it would be well to pull the gate down now." The committee would not assent to such a course.
Mr Plimsoll was received with renewed cheering, then took his place on the charabanc, and spoke with much flourish and some length. In essence he reiterated the point that the right of access to Latrigg was not just a matter for the people of Keswick today but for the people of England to be able to access all mountain tops and to secure this for future generations.
He made fun of both the landowners in question to the joy of the crowd and vilified landowners. He talked of the legal aspects of the case and went onto say that what was needed so as to prevent a lot of expensive law suits popping up over the country was that a short Act needed to be passed in Parliament and a “commission formed to deal with the subject of closed footpaths on the application of three or more private people, and administer summary justice upon those who attempt to close them. (Applause.)”
“I advise this gentleman to take his defeat which he is going to receive this afternoon (laughter) here, and not venture to re-close that gate. I would recommend him not merely to remove all obstructions, but to cut down and remove all the trees he has planted to obstruct the view, and to put seats (Laughter, which was succeeded by applause) for the accommodation of the people who want to go and enjoy the landscape.”
He cited many of the aristocracy and big landowners who have set an example by allowing people onto their land for pleasure. Mr Spedding should follow the example of better men. He spoke of the 'insolence of wealth' that a small minority of landowners have in believing that the general public do not have the means to make a legal challenge and claim all or themselves. Mr Plimsoll finished by saying
“Well I think I have said pretty well all I had to say, but will say one last word to you. Some of the petty tyrants are not content with 97 per cent of everything that's going, but want to take the other 3 from the poor working people who produced them. (Great applause). I want to say to those, "Be wise in time, if you wont be guided by the easy snaffle of public opinion you shall be restrained and controlled with the bit and curb of Parliamentary restraint! (Loud and continued applause.)”
Once the speeches had concluded the order was given by Mr Fitzpatrick to remove the obstructions. Addressing Mr Broatch, he said: Will you kindly have these obstructions moved so as to prevent us having the necessity of removing them? Mr Broatch: There are no obstructions. Mr Fitzpatrick: The gate is fastened; it must be removed. Mr Broatch: I have a simple duty to perform. It is but one duty, and it is to protest on behalf of Miss Spedding against anyone coming over these roads because it is private property, and anybody who goes over will be liable for trespass. If any damage is done they will be held responsible. Mr Fitzpatrick: Force the gate!
The men were proceeding to carry out the order when Mr Jenkinson interposed and again appealed to them to respect the property, and to do no harm. The gate by this time had been opened by the blacksmith and the people streamed through. A procession was soon formed ….the people went 4 or 6 abreast singing 'Rule Britannia' ….Mr Jenkinson stopped the procession and asked that the singing should be stopped, so as to give no annoyance to Mr Spedding or his servants. It is a well-known fact that Keswickians will do almost anything for Mr Jenkinson, yet this was too much to ask and after being momentarily stopped the singing was commenced again, this time louder than ever.
As the glorious landscape came into view the spirits of "the attackers" rose higher, and more joyously they asserted that " Britons never shall be slaves." The gates on the road were hasped, and it was not till the junction with the Spooney Green Road that any real obstruction was met with. Two hurdles had been driven into the ground here. Some of the "crowbar brigade" had the hurdles propped against a neighbouring tree in a few seconds, and the people passed on. There could not have been fewer than 2,500 persons climbing to the top, and not a single disorderly one amongst them. It was evident that everyone enjoyed the walk, and scores who had never been on the Terrace Road before were loud in their praises of the fine landscape. At two other places on the route hurdles had been placed across the paths, but these were speedily removed, and the vast concourse of people pressed on to the summit. Spooney Green Lane
On reaching the top of Latrigg, a halt was made; and on the call of Mr Jenkinson, three hearty cheers were given for Mr Plimsoll, and the members of the Press. Cheers were also given for Mr Jenkinson, who, in acknowledging the compliment, said the people of Keswick had again done their duty in upholding these ancient rights of way, and it now rested upon the people of England to support them in what had been done.
A walk was then made to the north end of the summit and after three more cheers had been given for the sympathisers who had been unable to attend, the proceedings terminated.
The ascent of Latrigg by way of the Terrace Road was made by several parties on Sunday, the gates being unlocked. However, towards evening the gates were again closed, and remain so.
View from the summit of Latrigg July 2023
It is worth noting that following on from the above account there was a report in the West Cumberland Times also on Wednesday 5th Oct 1887 stating that the obstructions on the disputed road at Fawe Park which had been removed the previous week by the KFPS trespass had been re-erected;
“immediately after the supporters of the society had left the scene, (the barriers were) re-erected and considerably strengthened. The action of Mrs Spencer-Bell in so persistently blocking the road, appears to have roused the ire of many of the young men of Keswick to such an extent as to result in a forcible expression of their opinion, at a remarkable demonstration held on Sunday afternoon, when upwards of a hundred of them met at Fawe Park. Without giving any notice beforehand of their intentions, they proceeded to demolish and remove the several barricades, and so effectually did they accomplish their work that the road was quite cleared of obstructions. On Monday morning our Keswick reporter paid a visit the place. He found the two large stone gateposts at the road end at Nichol Ending had been pulled up and each broken into two pieces, rendering them unfit for further use. A large quantity of brushwood which had been placed at the first obstruction after Wednesday's proceedings, and the wooden gate, had been thrown to the other side of the undisputed road. The eight heavy trunks of trees had been put aside, and the wire netting had also been removed. At the far end of the road an attempt bad been made to pull up the iron gate pillars, but without success, for one of the posts taken up last Wednesday had been put in again and more strongly secured than it was before. The iron gate had, however, been twisted off its hinges, and in its present state it cannot do duty again. The entire road in dispute was quite clear of obstructions, and several people visited the place on Monday. The affair much commented upon in the town Generally the action of the youths meets with approval, yet, at the same time, regret is expressed that Sunday should have been chosen as day for the demonstration.
Yesterday (Tuesday) we were informed that the barriers at Fawe Park had been re-erected, and that there is to be another demonstration at Fawe Park this (Wednesday) afternoon.
The president of the KFPS Rev HD Rawnsley had not been present at the organised trespasses however news had got to him as to the proceedings which prompted him to write the following letter which was published in the Pall Mall Gazette “Absence from England has prevented me from seeing till today the correspondence in your columns about the Keswick rights of way. I hasten to assure your readers how entirely the committee of the Keswick and District Footpaths Association deprecate personalities of any kind in this matter. Those who have attended its meetings will know how the officers and members of the society have insisted again and again that the matter is one which neither the public or the landowners can allow to fall to the level of personal abuse-and one. too, which is so intricate in its bearings and far-reaching in its results that since the 'give and take' and friendly overture as suggested by the society in each case has been refused, it could only well obtain peaceable and just solution by appeal to a higher court. It is because the matter in its ultimate issue must affect a larger England than our little Keswick vale that the committee are the more anxious to steer clear of petty little local squabbles and to claim for all they do in a national cause the dignity of principles and an honourable dealing between the private and public rights that are now so unhappily opposed."
Mr Rawnsley's letter, Mr Jenkinson's speeches and the conduct of the committee of the KFPS make it clear that they saw a bigger issue with regards to the rights of access to the countryside by the general public and did not want to make this a local issue focusing on personal grievances.
A letter Jenkinson sent to the English Lakes Visitor later the same month illustrates this. The Fawe Park and Derwent water disputes were considered as local issues, whereas the right of access to the summit of Latrigg had national implications. Here is a snippet of his letter printed 22nd Oct 1887: “but that other disputed road—the one leading to the top of Latrigg—is closely connected with the question of the right of access to almost every mountain top in Great Britain. It is the knowledge of this fact which makes me, as a guide writer and a lover of mountain climbing, determine that, Come what may, the question must not be allowed to rest until, by reason of ancient usage, by moral right, or by Act of Parliament, all are allowed to visit our mountain summits, and gaze on some of the most magnificent and beautiful scenes that this land affords”.—Yours faithfully, Henry Irwin Jenkinson. Keswick, October 19th, 1887.
Not everyone approved of the events in Keswick. In an anonymous article titled 'The Rights and Wrongs of Way,' printed in the Globe on the 30th Sept 1887, referring to the actions of the trespassers “amounts to nothing less than substitution of mob law for the legal procedure of a civilised society, the supremacy of “'The People'', as any crowd of loafers and gobmouches is nowadays grandiosely styled, in place of that of the law of the land.”
Mr Jenkinson's response, put in a letter to the Leeds Mercury 6th Oct 1887 demonstrates his outrage at these remarks. “The public generally believe that the roads at Fawe Park and Latrigg which have been closed are ancient public ways and of great value, not only to the Keswick people, but to the visitors who come here from all parts. Therefore. it would be a dereliction of duty if, through supineness or cowardice, these roads were allowed to be appropriated to private use.”
With reference to the trespasses. Mr Jenkinson continues; " At the solicitor's request the time arranged by the committee had been deferred. How was their courtesy received? Advantage was taken of the delay conceded to build a barrier of rubbish, and saturate it with coal-tar. This was done with a full knowledge that the committee had not made public announcement of their intention to go over the path, and of their desire to avoid anything like a demonstration. The secret leaked out and it was well a that it did, otherwise it is possible the society would have been unable to have accepted Mr. Spedding's challenge to the test of a formal trespass. The result was that all know, that when the gentlemen arrived they had to force their way through a formidable barrier covered all over with tar. An ungentlemanly proceeding on the part of Mr. Spedding, which called forth universal execration. “
“Both Mr Bell and Miss Spedding having replaced the barriers, and having stated that the public were not interested, and that the stir was only the work of three or four agitators, it was decided to ask the townspeople to show their opinion by making a general demonstration under the leadership of the officers of the association. The result was that on Wednesday 28th September four or five hundred people went to Fawe Park and on October 1st, about two thousand people walked to the top of Latrigg. These have been disrespectfully called 'a mob of loafers' whereas they are as respectable, as orderly, as well dressed, and as fine a body of people as could be brought together in any part of Her Majesty's dominions. Amongst these so called loafers were to be found ministers of religion doctors of long established reputation, solicitors, a Member of the House of Commons, ladies and gentlemen (landowners themselves) and finally a body of trades men and hotels keepers as respectable as any to be found in the kingdom and tourists from all the principal hotels. Surely these deserve a somewhat more respectful word than " loafers." :Further, the conduct of the workmen present would have done honour to any community in the world. Policemen who were there said they never saw proceedings more orderly and peaceful. Not an ill word was spoken, not a blade of grass was stolen, and not a foot of ground was trespassed over away from the public road. Never did a crowed of people meet more as a family, and more exemplify that there is a groundwork of goodness at the bottom of all human nature. It is a libel to speak of such people so disrespectfully as has been done.”
“The people of Keswick, who were present at Fawe Park and Larrigg, are fighting the battle of all lovers of this beautiful district, this garden and playground of England. Instead of being slighted and sneered at, they ought to have the respect, the thanks, and the help of every one, for the Latrigg case will affect the right of ascent to almost every mountain in Great Britain.”
Interest in the Latrigg case was countrywide and the following poem was published in Punch Volume 93, 8th Oct 1887.
THE BATTLE OF THE WAY.
A Lay of Lake-land.
"Now, Lake-men, claim your right of way, and see the business done,
Come with your crowbar, spade, and pick;—and sure the battle's won,
For bolts and bars show Spedding'a race that you don't care a fig,
And prove that right's no match for might when rallied round Latrigg."
So shouted Routh-Fltzpatrick, and Lake.men with a cheer,
To Fawe Park Gates from Keswick's peaceful slopes were drawing near,
When high upon the topmost wall, as if to break the spell,
There uprose the solicitor of Mrs. Spencer Bell.
He spoke, and as his voice he raised his arms he waved around,
“Beware," he cried, "what you're about, for this is private ground.
With sundry pains and penalties you'll surely be repaid,
Who dare to-day set hand to move this lawful barricade!"
But Routh.Fitzpatrick heeded not his protest, nor replied
So Mrs. Bell's Solicitor, he promptly stood aside,
And watched the next proceedings with a disapproving frown,
For up went crowbar, pick, and axe, and gate and bar went down.
Yea, 'neath the sturdy Lake-men's blows the barriers gave way,
And lo! in rushed the joyous thronging crowd without delay;
And some on foot, and some in drags, and some in waggons stowed,
Held on their way triumphantly down the disputed road.
So onwards towards Silver Hill advanced the active host.
And cleared each wire fence away, and levelled every post;
And when with crowbar, pick, and axe, they'd made their purpose plain,
To Nichol Ending they returned in triumph once again.
Then Secretary Jenkinson uprose and spoke a word,
And said how by the sights that day his manly breast was stirred,
And how that, if on Saturday as they had now begun
They held their own, they might regard the fight already won.
And then a telegram from Mr. Plimsoll he read out,
The which the Lake-men greeted with a hearty answering shout.
And Mrs. Bell's solicitor retired from the field,
But with an ugly look that seemed to say, " We'll never yield
And so commenced the fray that day, and though we know, of course,
As everybody tells us, there's no remedy in force,
Still, if the Lake-men's pick and axe this matter sets at rest,
We must admit how ills to cure at Keswick they know best
But which side wins or loses in the still impending fight,
Whether force of public freedom, or trick of legal right,
The eager world on-looking may have watched a deadlier fray,
But none more keen in contest than the Battle of the Way!
Views from Latrigg 2023
THE COURT CASE
The ensuing court case wasn't heard until the following year in July 1888 at the Carlisle assizes. The appeal for funds to cover the costs of the case which had begun in July 1887 when the Footpath Guarantee Defence Fund was established, continued right up until the case was heard with letters in publications across the country.
English Lakes Visitor 9th June 1888: from a KFPS meeting: I am informed that £2,000 will be necessary to meet an adverse decision. Shame that justice should be so dear! but so it is, and the Society must be prepared for the worst, though the worst is not anticipated. The following resolution was passed with only two dissenting at a crowded meeting of the members of the Footpath Society: " That this meeting empowers the sub-committee to make arrangement, for asserting the public rights to the paths on Latrigg and on the Fawe Park estate in such manner as the solicitor of the society shall recommend, and that the society holds itself responsible for the result." The Society authorised the committee to assert the claims of the public, and the members are morally bound to take their share of the responsibilities incurred in the carrying out of their behest.
This is a brief outline of what happened when their day in court finally arrived. This report is taken from an article in the Lakes Chronicle and Reporter Friday 13th July 1888.
“THE PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY TO SKIDDAW. SPEDDING V. FITZPATRICK AND OTHERS was held at the Carlisle Assizes presided over by Mr Justice Grantham on Friday and Saturday 6/7 July 1888, the plaintiff was Miss Jane Spedding, and the defendants were: William Routh Fitzpatrick, Henry Irwin Jenkinson, Rev AR Goddard, Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley clerk in Holy Orders and others.”
“The KFPS set up a claim of going to Latrigg hill from 'the road known as " Spooney Green Lane," and so wandering about and over the said hill'. The defendants had also set up a right of using a private occupation road on the plaintiff's estate known as the Lower or Terrace Road, which runs at the foot of Latrigg.”
The case for the plaintiff was that the defendants had committed various acts of trespass and damage had been done. The defendants alleged that what they did was of right and that they had paid into Court £1 to cover any damage done in the assertion of that right.
The case for the defendants consisted of calling witnesses mainly Keswick residents who were 65 years old and over, who could give evidence of using the contested paths.Many testimonials were heard as to the long standing rights of access to Latrigg and the importance of the route. One of them was Mr Calvert's daughter who testified her father intended Terrace road to be public and that he had no objections to people using bridge and path.
“Mr Jenkinson, the author of the " Practical Guide to the Lakes," was then called and cross-examined as to the description given in his guide dated 1872 and 1875 of the best way to the top of Latrigg. “In that book he advised the tourist to "follow Spooney Green road until the shoulder of Blencathra came in view." Asked why he put that in his guide in preference to Terrace Road, he said that some ladies had complained of finding the hill side so steep that they had slipped down, therefore he selected Spooney Green road as the easier. He said that in his opinion as good a view was be had at the gate on the Zigzag-road as if they went to the actual top of Latrigg, which was only a few feet higher; but on the day of the public demonstration they went to the actual summit of the hill by the path running eastward about 237 yards from the gate. Examined by Mr Bigham: That path was really an old fence, and in order that no mistake might be made in the assertion of the right, one guide went on each side of the fence, which is really a raised mound which some people think had been connected with some Roman camp. It had never had a hedge upon it. When they came to the end of that ridge they could go 88 yards further to the highest point. They went there because he claimed the view from the top of Latrigg.” This concluded the case for the defendants.
The Judge suggested that a consultation might lead to an amicable settlement of the case and so the counsel had an interview with the Judge in private. An hour later they returned to court. The plaintiff's solicitor offered to give up Spooney Green lane and permit people to go to the top of Latrigg along the zig-zag road. It was acknowledged that the Terrace road was not necessary to the public to secure them access Latrigg and the view from the top because they could now go by way of Spooney Green Lane.
Therefore Judgement was entered for the plaintiff as regards the Terrace-road, and for the defendants as regards the Zigzag or Latrigg road, accessed via Spooney Green Lane, subject to the terms agreed; the landowners property must be respected, the road from Calvert bridge end to the Brundholme Road is to be widened to 20 feet and each party are to pay their own costs. The Judge said he felt that the settlement was equitable and honourable, and he commended the good feeling which had been exhibited on both sides.
By the time Mr Jenkinson got back to Keswick early evening, news of their success had already reached the town and a large number of people had assembled at the Station. “The Keswick Brass Band was present, The Rev. H. D. Rawnsley, Mr. Fitzpatrick, and some others did not arrive until later. When the 6.30 train drew up at the platform and Mr. Jenkinson made his appearance a loud cheer was given by those the platform, and was quickly repeated by the crowd waiting outside. Mr. Jeukinson tried to say a few words to the crowd at the station, but the enthusiasm was so great that it was almost impossible for him to be heard. The procession then continued its way into the town, where the celebrations went on into the evening.” People were seen on the top of Latrigg that evening and the following Sunday the fell was reported to be continually enjoyed.
The Speddings' though did not accept the court ruling with the good spirit that was hoped for and the issue did not immediately go away as an article: West Cumberland Times 29thSept 1888 reports “The way to the top of Latrigg has been reopened as the result of the action at the Carlisle Assizes; but barbed wire fencing has been set up on each side of the way, and the rights of the people are thus restricted to the narrowest possible limits. The cruel fences prevent them wandering at will, as formerly, about the crown of the mountain, and enjoying the several views.”
Also a large number of young fir trees had been planted which, when fully grown, would block out the views from the top of the hill. However, as time went on the landowners must have relented as these either did not survive or were removed and the other obstructions taken away.
What of Fawe Park? Mrs Spencer-Bell took no legal action with regards to the reclaiming of the path through Fawe Park most probably as she would have lost her case and was counselled against it. However this didn't stop her from making the road impassable to carriages and erecting a fence with the sign-age saying 'Private Road'. As a local newspaper article printed September 1888 commented that this most probably wouldn't deter local people who knew of the dispute, but may well put off visitors.
TO SUM UP
So a compromise was reached. The KFPS on behalf of the people had gained what they desired; undisputed right of access to the summit of Latrigg and wandering about over the hill. Some argued that this could have happened without an expensive court case. However it is because the committee of the KFPS were willing to take up the challenge and that the people got behind them by either participating in the trespasses and/or contributing to the defence fund the right to free access to the summit of Latrigg fell was won. We have a lot to thank those people for and in particular those who led from the front on the day; Henry Irwin Jenkinson, a writer of guide books and commissioning agent, William Routh-Fitzpatrick a teacher and the Reverend AR Goddard. All of whom believed passionately about the cause. The chairman of the KFPS the Reverend HD Rawnsley went on to be one of the three founders of the National Trust and campaigned tirelessly for free access to the countryside.
In July 2023 I visited Keswick and walked in the footsteps of the trespassers to the summit of Latrigg to see for myself the spectacular view across Derwentwater and the surrounding Lakeland scenery. Apart from a display in the local museum, I was disappointed that there was no reference in the town, or on route to the fell top, of this mass trespass which was such a significant part of the Lake District's history.
This event really needs more recognition, perhaps by an annual trek up Latrigg on the Saturday nearest to October 1st and maybe some signage in town for example. Perhaps a stone marker on the summit of Latrigg or at the base on Spooney Green Lane could be arranged? I know others in the past have also called for this, maybe now is the time for a fresh drive to get this mass trespass more widely acknowledged in our social history.
Two beech trees along Spooney Green Lane
which the trespassers would have passed.
Written by Sheila Wiggins who you can contact at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contemporary newspaper articles from:
-English Lakes Visitor and Keswick Guardian
-Lakes Chronicle and Reporter
-West Cumberland Times
-The Leeds Mercury
-Pall Mall Gazette
There are many people out there who have done and are still doing some great work campaigning on a local and national level for open access to our countryside. Here's a handful that I've particularly engaged with:
-The excellent book "The Compleat Trespasser" (2013) by John Bainbridge, who also writes a regular blog; https://countryways569333284.wordpress.com
-An account of the Winter Hill Trespass can be found at: https://lancashirepast.com/2022/12/03/the-winter-hill-trespass-1896/
-Gary Shrubsole 'Who Owns England?: How We Lost Our Green and Pleasant Land, and How to Take It Back' 2019
-Nick Hayes' 'The Book of Trespass' 2020
-This website: http://historyofpublicspace.uk/tag/enclosure/
-The Open Spaces Society that has been “protecting open spaces since 1865.”https://www.oss.org.uk/
-The Ramblers Association with their 'Find Map Save' footpaths campaign www.ramblers.org.uk
-The Slow Ways, a project 'creating a network of walking routes that connect all of Great Britain’s towns and cities” hollowware
-The #RightToRoam movement which in recent years is gaining a new momentum.
& if in Keswick do visit the Keswick Museum to find out more of the history of the town. keswickmuseum.org.uk