Darwen’s Jubilee Tower

View through wildflowers to Darwen tower
Darwen tower overlooks the town

HeyJude’s challenge ‘Look Up’ prompted me to share some pictures taken along the routes to Jubilee Tower and the story of how it came to be set on the moor above my home town of Darwen in Lancashire.

Steps to a wooden stile
Country stile

In the 1870s, the Lord of the Manor, who lived in Dorset, set out to block locals from using moorland paths that criss-crossed Darwen moor. The land was more valuable as a private place where game birds could be bred undisturbed, and fees charged to shoot them.

Stone marker points the way to Darwen Tower
Stone markers show the way to the tower

Until then, Darwen moor’s proximity to the town had allowed most townsfolk to escape their industrial surroundings within 30 minutes or so and be out in the wilds, overlooking a glorious expanse of countryside.

Though wild and windy, the moor had been a familiar presence. Its many routes connected people’s homes to work, churches, pubs, and family and friends. Closure of these ancient rights of way to enhance the wealth of an already rich landowner irked the people, who protested in hope of overturning the decision.

Stone steps on Darwen moor
Stone steps

The town had always been dissenting and, although the fight for freedom of the moors often faltered over the next few years and the cause would have seemed hopeless to many, a band of people stayed firm. In 1878, rebels physically overpowered the gamekeepers, provoking a High Court writ.

The financial power was all one way: John Oldham pawned his watch to raise funds to attend the court in London on behalf of the people. What a journey back home he must have had when the court granted the people rights to use all footpaths and tracks over 300 acres of moorland.

Steep, crumbly moorland path
Some paths are scrambles

Thousands climbed the moors in triumph. Funds to build a stone folly on a crest of the moor were quickly raised by public subscription. Darwen’s Jubilee tower would sit over the town as a dichotomy, both a symbol of the freedom of Darwen moor and of loyalty to the Crown.

The defeated Lord of the Manor donated the site for the tower and the fine-grained sandstone to build it that was cut from the nearby Red Delph quarry.

Jubilee Tower, Darwen
Jubilee Tower, Darwen

Would he be happy to know I saw several pheasants on my way to the tower to take some of these pictures, I wonder?

Path over moorland to Darwen Tower

Since it was built, the tower has survived various tribulations. It is now on its third top, having lost the others during storms. The local Rotary Club recently raised £88,000 in a refurbishment drive and this with extra support from the government should secure the tower’s future for many more years.

View of Darwen from the moor
View of Darwen from the moor

Visit Lancashire has mapped a Darwen tower walk for those who would like to exercise their roaming rights. And there’s no need to worry – though you can’t get up to the tower without some form of climb, the route sensibly avoids the steep paths featured earlier in this post.

48 Replies to “Darwen’s Jubilee Tower”

  1. Holy, cats, what a story! Actually made me feel a little weepy. And what an incredible view. Do you feel like bursting into song when you get to the top? Anyway, power to the people!

    1. I might not have much breath for singing after the climb, but luckily the birds sing for me. You can often see a falcon hovering in menace over something when you get to the top. There was one on this visit. I ought to be on the side of its prey, but I love to see them out there.

  2. This is a fabulous story, Susan. I had a look on Google maps and there’s actually a photo from the top of the tower, so I zoomed around from there and could see the countryside. 🙂

  3. Very informative Susan, I’ve often wondered how and why the tower came to be up there. The story reminds me of the Winter Hill Mass Trespass in 1896 when Bolton locals objected to a local rich landowner closing off part of the moor for grouse shooting. Climbing the tower is something I meant to do this year but I’m not sure if it may have been closed off because of the various Covid restrictions.

    1. There are stories about suffragettes nearby too. The tower is still open, or at least it was a few days ago. I didn’t climb it, but I could see people up there, looking out.

  4. What an inspirational story! I am so glad my challenge prompted you to post this. The wildflowers are fabulous as are the views, but yes, some of those ups look quite challenging! Glad to know that the common people can overthrow those rich folk – and seriously – who needs to shoot grouse!

    1. I used to drive up a lane that often had pheasants walking on it to get to work at one time. Unless you kept up enough momentum to really scare them, they’d gradually slow down to a stop in front of you. Many times I had to get out of the car and chase them out of the way. If you could get them airborne, they were extremely reluctant to fly far. I always used to marvel that people could consider it sport to shoot them.

  5. The people prevailed over money-grubbing greed and preserved their quality of life! HOORAY! So many parallels with today. May the people always prevail and never lose hope! ❤ Thank you for an inspiring story in a beautiful setting.

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