Residents to celebrate famous industrial battle

Frances Wilcock, from Leigh, and her grandaughter Emily Clarke with her great-grandfather's 1881 Chowbent Battle medal for his role in helping miners in the 'Battle of Howe Bridge'

Frances Wilcock, from Leigh, and her grandaughter Emily Clarke with her great-grandfather's 1881 Chowbent Battle medal for his role in helping miners in the 'Battle of Howe Bridge'

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A SPECIAL anniversary event will see the re-enactment of one of the borough’s most famous industrial battles.

The Battle of Howe Bridge, which took place in 1881, saw a mass protest of local miners following a strike to protect the rights of workers injured in the pit.

Striking miners from other areas marched to Atherton to join the protest against those who crossed the picket line.

Fletcher Burrows workers, who decided not to join the strike, had to be protected by troops and magistrates close to the bridge over Colliers Brook, in Leigh Road.

It was one of the most significant moments in the North West’s mining history.

Now residents and local schoolchildren are planning to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the battle on January 28 with pupils playing the parts of the marching miners in the re-enactment.

A spokesman for Atherton-based The Bridgers Residents’ Group, which is organising the event, said: “Hopefully St Michael’s Primary School will get involved with the pupils playing the parts of the main characters and the marching miners.”

A rare medal awarded to a heroic miner during the Battle of Howe Bridge was unveiled in August.

Frances Wilcock kept two medals given to her great grandfather John Unsworth for his role in the famous industrial dispute.

Mrs Wilcock, of Manor Grove, Leigh, revealed her great grandfather was awarded a medal by his fellow miners after he helped to prevent the authorities from catching them.

She said: “My great grandfather was one of the first miners to reach long meadow that day, when he was hotly pursued by the military.

“He held the field gate open to allow the miners to pass, and then closed it on the military thus allowing the miners to get away. For this action he was later presented with a medal.”

Last summer, the Bridgers created a floral display close to Howe Bridge Sports Centre to commemorate the site of the battle.

Coun Sue Loudon helped to develop the display.

She said: “I have always thought the hill near the sports centre needed a feature. The site looks really good and the community paid for the project through funds raised through their annual plant sale.”