Molly’s Through to The Great Debate Final
Sixth Form Girls History

Molly Grimshaw, a Year 12 student at Bolton School Girls’ Division, has earned a place in the national final of The Great Debate! This public speaking competition is organised by the Historical Association (HA) and gives students in Years 10 to 13 five minutes to present a speech arguing their answer to a question.

The question for the 2023-24 academic year is: which historical person or place from your local community deserves greater recognition?

Molly chose to talk about the ‘Winter Hill trespass of 1896’. This is a largely forgotten ‘rights of way’ battle which took place some years before the (far more famous) Kinder Scout trespass in the Peak District in 1932.

The memory of 1896 was kept alive by Allen Clarke in his book ‘Moorlands and Memories’, published in 1920. He wrote that ‘on Sunday September 6th 1896, ten thousand Boltonians marched up Brian Hey to pull down a gate and protest against a footpath to Winter Hill bring claimed and closed by the landlord’. The main confrontation was at the gate that landowner Colonel Ainsworth had erected to stop people accessing the track from Coalpit Road to Winter Hill. A small party of police and gamekeepers were no match for the huge crowd of protesters, who broke down the barrier and continued on their way along the disputed stretch of road to the top of Winter Hill. They continued down to the moorland village of Belmont before heading home to Bolton.

At both the initial Bolton Heat in December, hosted by Bolton School, and at the second round of the competition in February, Molly described these events with great enthusiasm. She pointed out that the ramblers deserve greater recognition because their poor socio-economic status means that they have been forgotten in history for too long.

Molly is now eagerly awaiting the Grand Final, which takes place at The Vicars’ Hall, St George’s House, Windsor Castle on Saturday 23 March.

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