February 1915

The first few weeks of fear and suspicion having passed, resentment was now building up over the closure of the footpaths around the reservoirs.

Chorley Weekly News 27 February 1915

A public meeting was held in the Parish Room, Heath Charnock, last evening, to protest against the closing of footpaths in Anderton, Heath Charnock and Rivington.

Mr C. E. Middleton J. P., was voted to the chair. He was supported by Miss Ainsworth, Messrs W. Charnock,; C. F. Sixsmith. Others present were the Rev. W. Ritson, Messrs S. Derbyshire, J. H. Sixsmith; J. Houghton; G. Southworth; J. H. Blackburn and W. Archer.

The chairman said the inhabitants did not object to effective steps being taken to guard public works, such as the water supply, when the war broke out. It would have been easy to have put a German bomb into the Knowsley, Rivington or Horwich embankments. There might have been a jolly good flood, and thousands drowned in quite the way the Germans would have liked. Such things had happened. The public would put up with anything in the way of military restrictions, but they had now got the German spies pretty well under the thumb. When, however, they found roads stopped with hurdles and locked, it seemed to be intended to be perpetual. People had been stopped – his own family had been stopped at places he had used for 60 years. The Liverpool Corporation had not a leg to stand on as to the footpaths and roads. He moved the following: – “That this meeting, while not being desirous of impeding the military authorities in temporarily closing public highways in the vicinity of waterworks, unanimously protests against the action of the Liverpool Corporation in seeking permanently to close the ‘Street’ drive, Heath Charnock, and other public rights of way in the townships of Anderton, Anglezarke, Heath Charnock and Rivington, as evidenced by warning notices put up, and requests the Rural District Council of Chorley to take all requisite steps to protect the community against any encroachment upon public rights of way; and that it be a recommendation to the Rural District Council to arrange for the Liverpool Corporation to meet the representatives of the Chorley Rural District Council and other authorities interested, to go over the roadways in question, with a view to the removal of the obstructions, and that the communication be sent to the War Office and Chief Constable, calling attention to the great inconvenience to the public by the closure of footpaths for military reasons, and enquiring whether the time has not arrived when restrictions can be withdrawn.

Miss Ainsworth seconded.

Mr C. F. Sixsmith supported. He said in that matter they were not fighting an alien enemy, but one in their midst. To try to take valuable footpaths and roadways from them was mean and contemptible. The Liverpool Corporation had ridden roughshod over Rivington. People had been turned out of houses without the slightest consideration. Being powerful, they thought they could do that in little townships, but the worm had turned at last to stop it. There were five township allies, who would combine to fight the bully. The meeting had already had good results. The Corporation were apprised of the meeting, and Sir William Lever had written to him (the speaker) that he would have been glad to be present to help in any way. He went to see Mr Parry yesterday, with the result that the latter wrote, climbing down. There were two phases – the closing of footpaths in defence of the water, and the other an effort to take away the rights enjoyed by them and also by their ancestors for generations. Restrictions had been removed in some places, but in Rivington they remained. His complaint was that the Corporation did it in an exasperating manner. A few years ago they permanently closed a footpath above Dean Wood. He pulled up a notice at the top end, but the one at the bottom was too much for him, so he borrowed a paint can and obliterated it. Mr Parry now said he had not considered the question of footpath rights, but would do so when he came over. The footpaths approaching the reservoirs had been temporarily closed by the military authorities,  and Mr Parry now said he expected the friendly co-operation of of the residents in the district, regretting that Mr Sixsmith should have acted on imperfect information. Mr Sizsmith said the men seemed to be guarding the footpaths rather than the reservoirs.

Messrs W. Charnock, J. Hood, Mercer, Rev. W. Ritson, Wallace and A. Gerrard supported.

The resolution was passed unanimously.

The Clerk to the Rural District Council, in a letter, stated that there was reason for believing the rights for using one of the roads for vehicles could be substantiated.

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser  6 March 1915

On Saturday afternoon last in accordance with the statement made at the public protest meeting the previous evening in the Heath Charnock Parish Room, Mr Charles Sixsmith, rural councillor for Anderton,  proceeded to remove the obstructions on the Major Bottoms footpath, so that the public might enjoy the right of way over the road as it has done for generations.

On Saturday morning Mr Sixsmith sent a notice to the waterman to the effect that if the obstruction was not removed by 3.0 o’clock that day he would forcibly remove it.  Despite the inclement weather and the short notice given to the public of what was to take place, about 50 men, along with Mr Charles Sixsmith, carrying saws and hatchets, proceeded to the spot where an obstruction had been placed across the footpath.  On their arrival they found the obstruction guarded by about half a dozen constables under Inspector Oldfield, and there were also present ex-Inspector Taylor and a workman named Booth.

At this point it should be remembered that at the last meeting of the Chorley Rural District Council Mr Sixsmith said – “The Liverpool Corporation have closed a path generations old entering at Major Bottoms. That path does not even at any point enter on the Corporation’s watershed and no military notice is posted at the entrance.  Failing a satisfactory explanation I shall remove the obstruction to the Major Bottoms path.”

When the party arrived at the entrance on Saturday, there was a military notice posted up, signed by Major Macconachie, Commander of the Western Division, intimating that the path was closed until further notice.

One of the party said he was down Major Bottoms at 9.0 o’clock that morning and there was no military notice then at the entrance. In his opinion that notice had not been long put up.

Questioned by Mr Sixsmith, ex-Inspector Taylor said the notice had been erected by the military authorities, and he was obeying their orders in protecting the obstruction.  

Mr J. Hood: – Who put the notice up? – I was not present when it was placed there. I only know it is there now.

Was it put up last week? – I don’t know.

By whose authority has this notice been erected? – Look at the notice.

A voice:  It was not up at 9.0 o’clock this morning. The notice has not been up three hours.

Mr Sixsmith: If this military notice had not been up, could you have prevented us from removing the obstruction? – I don’t know. I am acting in support of that military order.

Yes, that is all right, but I want to know if an authorised person has erected that notice.  Has someone taken it from elsewhere and placed it there without proper authority? – I don’t know.

Mr Hood: It has been deliberately done to prevent us from removing the obstruction.

Mr Sixsmith said he had written to Mr Parry, the Chief Water Engineer for Liverpool, about the closing of the Major Bottoms footpath, and the reply was to the effect that he knew nothing about the footpath.  It seemed strange that although he knew nothing about the footpath he could close it.  The path had been opened for generations. Did Mr Parry order it to be closed?  
Ex-Inspector Taylor: I don’t know. Surely the Liverpool Corporation have a right on their own estate.

Mr Sixsmith: That right has never been questioned. The public have a better right to the use of their own roads. We shall fight the question and see if the public cannot enjoy the right of way over their own property.

Ex-Inspector Taylor: If the notice had not been there the circumstances would have been different.

Mr Sixsmith: It would be possible in that case to make any road lead to the watershed. The Corporation are too keen at trying to interfere with the rights of the inhabitants of the district. They seem more concerned in guarding footpaths than guarding the reservoir. Do you know of any other footpath belonging to the public that is closed without a notice? – No.

Do you mean to say that you live on the estate and don’t know? – I don’t know of a single footpath.

Are you sure? – Now that I come to think, there are closed footpaths without notices. But the Liverpool Corporation are not interfering with your rights.

Mr Sixsmith: Yes they are, and you know it.

Ex-Inspector Taylor: Allow me to tell you that a friend of yours has already been summoned for trespassing on the estate. He was at your meeting last night.

Mr Sixsmith asked Inspector Oldfield if the notice had been erected by him, and he replied in the negative.

Before leaving, Mr Sixsmith made a formal protest against the action of the Corporation in having the notice erected when the inhabitants were desirous of asserting their rights. He said he would make the fullest investigations and ascertain whether the notice had been erected by a recognised authority.

The party then dispersed

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 6 March 1915

At the Bolton County Police Court on Thursday a case of considerable local interest was heard, when Alfred Gerrard, of Knowsley Cottage, Knowsley-lane, Heath Charnock, was summoned for trespassing on a footpath on the Liverpool Corporation watershed at Anglezarke on January 24th, under the Defence of the Realm (Consolidations) Regulations 1914.

Mr H.W. Cleaver (Preston) of the Lancashire County Council, conducted the case for the prosecution, and Mr C.F. Entwistle (Bolton) appeared for the defendant. A plea of not guilty was entered.

The court was crowded, and there was a large number of magistrates on the Bench.

Mr Cleaver said defendant was employed at the Horwich Loco Works, and was summoned under the Defence of the Realm (Consolidations) Act, 1914, which was made by a competent military authority under the Western Command.  On the outbreak of war the military authorities considered it absolutely necessary that all footpaths in connection with Rivington reservoirs should be closed.  The order was made for the whole country, so as to prevent any interference with the water. The case was one of national importance as regards the carrying out of those Regulations.  With regard to that case, there was a feeling in the neighbourhood of Rivington, and especially at Heath Charnock, that the inhabitants had a grievance against the military authorities in closing the footpaths. They did not seem to realise that a state of war existed.  Were those people taken to France or Belgium they would see whether or not war existed.  The people of Heath Charnock had even gone so far as to hold a protest meeting against the closing of the footpaths: a little place like Heath Charnock protesting against what the military authorities were doing.  The military authorities must be assisted in the protection of the water.  They must make it known to the people of Heath Charnock that compliance with the Regulations was necessary.  Defendant used to be a gamekeeper on the estate before it was purchased by the Liverpool Corporation.  He knew everything about the district, and there was no doubt he knew about the military order prohibiting the general public to use the footpath in question.  The police notice was put up on August 20th 1914, and the military notice was posted up early in September.  Therefore, it was impossible to say that defendant was not aware of them, for they were placed at the entrance of each footpath.  He certainly knew about the notices, for when he was stopped and warned about trespassing he replied that the notices did not apply to him because he was a native.  On another occasion he said he had been told by a man that he could use the paths, but declined to give the man’s name.  Personally he did not believe the story.  He pressed the case strongly, and asked for a conviction, so that it might be a warning to the defendant and prove a deterrent to the people in the neighbourhood of Rivington.  The maximum penalty was six months’ imprisonment, or a fine not exceeding £100.

Ex-Inspector Taylor, park inspector in the employ of the Liverpool Corporation at Rivington, said he had general supervision of the waterworks, and particularly the footpaths from the boundary at Horwich to the boundary of Anglezarke.  On January 24th he was watching these footpaths when at five minutes to ten in the morning he saw defendant leave his house.  He saw him trespassing shortly afterwards and on pointing out to him the military notice he said, “That does not apply to natives.”  He went round the footpath in the direction of Haddock’s Fold, and his explanation was that he was out for a walk.

Cross-examined by Mr Entwistle, witness said that for a distance of three miles there were only two day watchmen and two night men guarding the watershed.  The footpath upon which defendant was trespassing was from 21 yards to 150 yards from the reservoir.  Defendant’s house was close to the reservoir.  He said people travelled over some of the paths when they had permits, but he did not know whether they had written or verbal permission. Witness admitted that Gerrard had told him that Mr Adamson, the engineer, had given him permission to use the footpath.  He asked the defendant if he had got the permission in writing, and he said “No”.

Replying to Mr Cleaver, witness said people who had permits used the Street Drive.  School children and workmen were allowed free access over those paths leading them, to their objective.

James Henry Lawson Booth, sanitary inspector in the employ of the Liverpool Corporation, said he was watching footpaths on January 24th, when he saw defendant on the path in question.  He was going to Haddock Fold, and he saw him on the footpath for about twenty minutes. Witness said he had seen Gerrard on the paths before.  When he questioned defendant the reply came. “I have always used these paths, and shall continue to do so.”

Cross examined by Mr Entwistle, witness said he could not quite say what were Mr Adamson’s powers as regards giving permission. The workmen and children who used the roads had no written permission, and he had never heard of anyone having a written permit.

William Thomas Hannaford, a waterman in the employ of the Liverpool Corporation, said he had known the defendant for a great number of years.  He had seen him on the footpaths since they were closed upon more than one occasion.  The first time was on December 8th, when he warned him.  He again saw him on the paths on January 21st and 22nd.

Questioned by Mr Entwistle, the witness said Gerrard had never mentioned anything to him about a permit.

Does he live next door to you? – Yes.

How long has he lived in the neighbourhood? – All his life.

Is there any danger of defendant being a German spy? – No.

Witness went on to say that defendant knew Berry, the man who farmed the land on the estate, but, so far as he knew, Gerrard had never assisted Berry with his cattle.

Have you ever seen him catching rabbits? – Yes.

Do you catch rabbits? – Yes, by request. (Laughter.)

Benjamin Crowther, of 88 Babylon-lane, an employee of the Liverpool Corporation, said he had seen Gerrard on the footpaths since they were closed.  Defendant told him that he had had permission from Mr Adamson before the war started to catch rabbits.  He also said he had permission to go over the roads.

George Peel, assistant water engineer at Rivington, said there were 17 men altogether guarding the reservoir.

In the course of cross-examination by Mr Entwistle, witness said a military notice had been posted up at Major Bottoms footpath since September 8th, but it had been constantly pulled down.  They were pulled down wilfully by someone.

Mr Entwistle, addressing the Bench, said they had been told it was a very serious case because of the danger to the water.  He did not know whether his learned friend knew, but at Bolton, Darwen, Blackburn and other places, the military notices had been removed and the paths opened to the public, because it was no longer considered necessary in those districts. The reason being, he presumed, that nearly all alien enemies were interned.  Defendant had lived in the neighbourhood for 40 years, and could desire no more information than he already knew, for he knew every inch of the place.  Referring to the question of permission, Mr Entwistle said the powers of the Regulations were left entirely to the discretion of the administration.  Of course, the administration would not object to people going over the land to their own house.  The administration in the present case was in the hands of the Liverpool Corporation.  There must be discretion in the administration with regard to the exercise of the powers they had.  There were no written permissions given. It was purely a technical matter, and the action of the administration had been absolutely unnecessary, officious and far beyond what the occasion demanded. Defendant had lived in the district for 40 years, and his own house was within a stone’s throw of the reservoir.  It was merely because the powers had been put in excessive use that the inhabitants had seen fit to complain of the rigid restrictions. It was within the discretion of the administration to permit a reasonable exercise of these paths, but owing to that discretion not being administered, that extraordinary summons was brought.  The question of Gerrard damaging the water was absolutely absurd, for he was well known in the neighbourhood, and had a son in the army. [This was John Gerrard, LNL]. If he wanted to damage the water he could do it without trespassing on the footpaths.  It was a case in which the administration must show that they had acted reasonably.  According to the Regulations, the ordinary avocations of life and the enjoyment of property must be interfered with as little as possible as may be permitted without endangering public safety.

Gerrard then went into the witness box, and said on January 24th he went to talk to Mr Berry, the farmer, on the estate.  He had met him before on the watershed. Mr Adamson also gave him permission to go over the roads.

At this stage the Bench expressed the wish that the case should close as there was a heavy list of cases and this was agreed upon.
The Magistrates, who were about ten minutes away arriving at a decision, imposed a fine of 5s. and costs