2007 marked the 75th anniversary of the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in the Derbyshire Peak District. Like most of the moorlands, although previously common land , Kinder was now private property reserved for the shooting classes only. On 24 April 1932, around 400 hikers gathered at Hayfield to listen to speakers and then proceed up to Kinder Scout. After protests from the Hayfield Parish Council, the hikers regrouped at Bowden Bridge Quarry where they were addressed by Benny Rothman whose inspiring speech set the crowd on the way.
The trespass proceeded via William Clough to the plateau of Kinder Scout, where there were violent scuffles with gamekeepers with one of the keepers injuring his ankle. The ramblers were able to reach their destination and meet with another group from Edale. On the return, five ramblers were arrested, with another detained earlier who had actually gone to the help of the fallen keeper. The 5 which included Benny Rothman were eventually sent for trial at Derby and handed out custodial sentences of up to 6 months.
A commemorative plaque now marks the start of the trespass at Bowden Bridge quarry near Hayfield. It was unveiled in April 1982 by an aged Benny Rothman during a rally to mark the 50th anniversary. He died 3 months before the 70th anniversary but not before realising what a huge impact the tresspass had on public access to vast swathes of wild land for forthcoming generations secured in a large part by the opening up of of National Parks and the passing of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000. At a gathering for the 70 anniversary, the late Duke of Devonshire made a dignified speech where he stated ' The tresspass was a great shaming on my family and the sentances handed out were harsh. But out of great evil can come great good. The trespass was the first event in the movement of access to the countryside and the creation of our National Park'. However many of our woodland and costal areas are still without public access so the fight for freedom to roam continues.
Newspaper article dated Monday April 25, 1932 on the Mass trespass on Kinder Scout
'Four or five hundred ramblers, mostly from Manchester, trespassed in mass on Kinder Scout to-day. They fought a brief but vigorous hand-to-hand struggle with a number of keepers specially enrolled for the occasion. This they won with ease, and then marched to Ashop Head, where they held a meeting before returning in triumph to Hayfield. Their triumph was short-lived, for there the police met them, halted them, combed their ranks for suspects, and detained five men. Another man had been detained earlier in the day.
For a week past Hayfield has been looking forward with anxiety to to-day's events. Last Sunday members of the British Workers Sports Federation, which has no connection at all with the Ramblers' Federation, distributed handbills among Hayfield's usual Sunday population of ramblers urging them to "take action to open up the fine country at present denied us."
County Police Called In.
This morning chalked notices on the roads, and leaflets distributed at the station, urged ramblers to meet on the Recreation Ground at two o'clock for a meeting before the much advertised mass trespass. Forewarned is forearmed, and the Hayfield Parish Council at its meeting on Tuesday had taken steps to stop this meeting. Numbers of Derbyshire county police had been called in, and special new copies of the by-laws, one of which prohibits meetings there, had lavishly been posted in the Recreation Ground. The Deputy Chief Constable of Derbyshire and Superintendents McDonald and Else came to see that this regulation was observed, and Mr. Herbert Bradshaw, the clerk of the Parish Council, was there to read the by-law publicly if the ramblers attempted to make speeches.
They thought better of it, and punctually at two o'clock the four hundred or more ramblers who had gathered there set off for Kinder reservoir and Kinder scout. As they marched they sang. They sang the "Red Flag" and the "International."
By the time we got to Nab Brow we saw our first gamekeepers dotted about on the slopes below Sandy Heys on the other side of William Clough. In a few moments the advance guard-men only, the women were kept behind -dropped down to the stream and started to climb the other side. I followed. As soon as we came to the top of the first steep bit we met the keepers. There followed a very brief parley, after which a fight started-nobody quite knew how. It was not an even struggle. There were only eight keepers, while from first to last forty or more ramblers took part in the scuffle. The keepers had sticks, while the ramblers fought mainly with their hands, though two keepers were disarmed and their sticks turned against them.
Other ramblers took belts off and used them, while one spectator at least was hit by a stone. There will be plenty of bruises carefully nursed in Gorton and other parts of Manchester to-night, but no-one was at all seriously hurt except one keeper, Mr. E Beaver, who was knocked unconscious and damaged his ankle. He was helped back to the road and taken by car to Hayfield and to Stockport Infirmary. He was able to return home to-night after receiving treatment. After the fight the police chiefs, who had accompanied the mass trespassers, left them alone to their great though premature relief. The fight over, we continued up-hill, passing on the way a police inspector bringing down one rambler, who was subsequently detained at Hayfield Police Station.
Soon we turned to the left and continued along the hillside towards Ashop Head, the summit of the public footpath from Hayfield to the Snake Inn on the Glossop-Sheffield road. Before we regained the footpath a halt was made for tea, and the Manchester contingent was joined by a party of about 30 from Sheffield, who had marched from Hope over Jacob's Ladder, from the top of which they had watched the battle with the keepers. The trespassers were urged not to leave any litter about, and to their credit it must be said they were particularly neat in this matter. On Ashop Head itself a victory meeting was held, and the leader who at an earlier stage had asked us to trespass in spite of all danger now congratulated us on having trespassed so successfully. We were warned that some ramblers might be unfortunate enough to be fined, and for their future benefit the hat was passed around.
This done we made our way back to Hayfield, keeping religiously to the footpath this time. Near the Stockport Corporation Water Works we met the police once more. One policeman made a move as if to detain one of the leaders, but he immediately took to his heels and was closely followed by a large number of ramblers, who so crowded the way that the policeman could not have got near him if that had indeed been his intention.
At the first beginnings of the village the ramblers were met by a police inspector in a "baby" car. At his suggestion the ramblers formed up into column and marched into Hayfield, still over 200 strong, singing triumphantly, the police car leading the procession. It was their last happy moment. When they got properly into the village they were halted by the police. Still they suspected no ill, and it was not until police officers, accompanied by a keeper, began to walk through their ranks that they realised they had been caught. Five men were taken to the police station and detained. The rest of the now doleful procession was carefully shepherded through Hayfield while, as the church bells rang for Evensong, the jubilant villagers crowded every door and window to watch the police triumph.'
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