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