The Last Clarion House

One of my objectives during my wander around Pendle was to visit the Clarion House on Jinny Lane, between Newchurch and Roughlee. It’s only open on a Sunday between 10.30 am and 4.00 pm., and as I’d never been over this way on that day before, I was determined not to miss my opportunity, so planned the route so I could visit.

The Clarion, was a socialist weekly, established by Robert Blatchford in Manchester in 1890. It quickly built a loyal readership selling around 30,000 copies a week. A movement started to crystallise around the paper, with Clarion Vans, initiated by Julia Dawson, touring towns and villages throughout England and Scotland between1896 and1929 to spread the Socialist message.

Perhaps influenced by Continental Socialist movements such as the German Social Democratic Party (at that time a Marxist organisation), readers groups formed clubs dedicated to leisure and educational pursuits. Today we’re used to having the weekend off plus Bank Holidays and several weeks annual leave, and there are plenty of things to keep us occupied when we have leisure time. But it wasn’t the same back then. Workers had struggled to gain Sundays and Saturday afternoons off work and activities such as walking and cycling gained in popularity, particularly as workers wanted to escape the smoke and grime of the industrial towns and cities. So, not surprisingly there were rambling and cycling societies affiliated to the Clarion Movement. Clarion Houses were set up in rural areas, initially manly by the Clarion Cycling Club, to provide refreshments, and often accommodation, for cyclists and others enjoying the countryside. Socialist organisations such as the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) and Independent Labour Party (ILP) started to follow their example. These also became known as “Clarion Houses“.

The Clarion House on Jinny Lane was founded by the Nelson ILP in 1912, funded by a loan of £350 from the Nelson Weavers Association. They’d originally rented a house on Barley New Road, a short distance away, in 1899 (I passed it later in my walk on the way back to Barley) but it became so popular that larger premises were needed.

The first Clarion House in Pendle

My arrival was well timed as there were a few hours before it was due to close

On the outside of the building was plaque commemorating ILP and Clarion Cycling Club member who had fought for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. This chimed with me as a relative (a Great Uncle), who was a miner and member of the Communist Party in South Wales, was involved in the recruitment of men to fight for the International Brigades.

Inside the walls were decorated with banners, posters and photographs relating to the Socialist and Clarion movements and above the coal fire there was a stained glass window from the former ILP building in Nelson

I bought myself a pint of tea for the very reasonable price of 70 pence, and chatted with the volunteers manning the counter. I sat down on one of the long benches to drink my brew and at my sandwiches, and soon started a conversation with an elderly couple sitting opposite who had walked down from a nearby town and were regular visitors. There were plenty of others in the building enjoying refreshments and a good chat, including groups of Clarion Cyclists (the club is still in existence, but, sadly, severed its historic link to socialism in 2021.

The House sits in it’s own grounds where it organises activities and where, on a fine day, visitors can enjoy sitting in the fresh air looking over very pleasant countryside

There’s a website devoted to the Clarion House with downloadable resources including a book.

Documentary about the Last Clarion House, Pendle, Lancashire. DOP Nick Gordon-Smith Editor Cliff West Music by Vini Reilly, Durutti Column Director Charlotte Bill Clapham Film Unit and Clarion House Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund

This is the very last of the Clarion Houses, cared for and maintained by volunteers. In some ways it’s a relic of other, more innocent times. For me, it represents a reminder of a sadly forgotten past but also, perhaps, a small beacon of hope and inspiration for the future.

24 thoughts on “The Last Clarion House

  1. Can’t find a Like button to click ( I think I must somehow have buggered up my WordPress settings with no idea how to unbugger it) so I’ll have to just say how much I liked reading that. Rougher days, but days when we set out to make things better for people, not worse.

    • Thanks for your very positive comment Martin.
      As for the like button, WordPress plays some weird tricks. I find I can “like” but can’t post comments sometimes.

  2. An interesting post and one which dragged up a few memories for me. During my teenage years at a local grammar school my history teacher was Denis Pye, I remember he and his wife Wendy were members of the Clarion Cycling Club and as they lived not far from me I often saw them out and about on their tandem. Out of interest I followed your Clarion Cycling Club link and just a couple of lines down on that page is Denis’s name – now that really is a coincidence 🙂

    I like your next-to-last photo, it’s a great shot of a great view 🙂

  3. Never come across this movement before, or indeed the Clarion House when I lived up that way. Completely agree that the idea is still so very relevant in todays troubled times

  4. Pingback: Pendle & Clarion House Walk . 🏠 | sunshine and celandines

    • Good to see you made it when it was open!
      I’ve not explored the area south of Roughlee and reading your post makes me think I should. We once went to the Pendle Heritage Centre – quite a long time ago – but it was closed for renovation. I think I will add the walk from Rouglee to Barrowford to my list (but maybe when it’s not so muddy!!)
      P.S. thanks for the mention 🙂

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