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. That particular way up is a little eeky in places, but there are easier options. From experience, the more you climb it, the easier it gets (as it is with so many things).

  1. I note a couple comments above giving words to my thoughts. This is absolutely a story for our time, but perhaps for all times. The vastness in your photos is lovely and very therapeutic; it’s calming to think myself there with those flowers. What are the purple and red flowers in the top photo? The tower is inspiring, as is the story. Thanks!

    1. The red flowers are field poppies; the purple are a form of vetch that has been very long flowering this year. Some plants are still going strong.The flowers are a bit blurry because it was a windy day, but I had to try.

      1. I just looked up vetch, about which I know exactly nothing. What a color! So poppies for the red. I don’t think the photo is blurry; I think I just don’t recognize a lot of things. Thanks!

  2. What a story! A triumph of perseverance and a worthy memorial to those people who didn’t give up. Beautiful photos.

      1. It was worth the fight – looks like a wonderful area for walking in and must make a big contribution to the wellbeing of the folk who do spend time there.

  3. Love that story! I live in Clitheroe yet have never walked up to the tower. In fact my other half works in Darwen and can see the tower from his work. Will get there one day 😃

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