Mass trespass in Keswick opens up access for walkers

Keswick's Mass Trespass

Many walkers will be familiar with the 1932 mass trespass on Kinder Scout in the Peak District. 500 ramblers, protesting against blocked access to areas of countryside, rallied together to highlight the issue.

Yet 45 years earlier the Lake District had seen its own demonstration on Keswick's iconic Latrigg Fell. Here, on the anniversary, walk leader Roy Ellis recalls this historic event.

Trespass

Our Latrigg Summit guided walk follows in the footsteps of the rights of way campaigners who mass trespassed on this fell in 1887. But how many of the thousands of walkers experiencing this iconic fell today know this?

At the time, several landowners around Keswick closed footpaths which had been used for generations. A Miss Spedding, then owner of Latrigg, closed the only access paths to the fell and planted a number of trees. In protest, The Keswick Footpath Preservation Association called for a mass trespass.

Protest

On 1 October 1887, 2,000 people gathered in Keswick and marched to one of the footpaths where they found a chained gate and a "Private" sign. Spurred on by Keswick local and protest leader, Henry Irwin Jenkinson, the crowd removed the chains on the gate, took down the sign and walked up the footpath singing "Rule Britannia".

Miss Spedding's gamekeeper reportedly asked them to stop singing as it would disturb the birds! Ignoring this they proceeded to the summit for speeches and a rousing rendition of "God Save the Queen". The trespass appeared in all the national papers with The Manchester Guardian reporting that "the Latrigg case will affect the right of ascent to almost every mountain in Britain".

Court case

Miss Spedding issued writs for damages to the Footpath Preservation Society and the case was heard at Carlisle the following year. Witnesses described how they had used the paths for many years without hindrance. One of those, son of poet Robert Southey, said that he and friends had regularly used the footpaths as children.

After two days a compromise was reached. One footpath, Spooney Green Lane, would be opened to the public while the other would remain private. When a victorious Jenkinson and his supporters returned to Keswick they were escorted into town by a crowd and a brass band.

Rights of way

Following the court case other land owners in the Lake District who had closed footpaths opened them to the public again. Henry Irwin Jenkinson also led the fundraising to buy Fitz Park for the people of Keswick and his name appears over the main gate to the park. Our guided walk on Latrigg, one of our many popular guided walks,  uses Spooney Green Lane. When we use this and other footpaths in the Lake District we have much to thank these early campaigners for.