Sheffield Clarion Ramblers
and GHB Ward
George Herbert Bridges Ward, known as G. H. B. Ward or Bert Ward
(1876 - 14 October 1957) was an activist for walkers' rights and a Labour Party politician.
Born in central Sheffield, Ward worked as an engineer in a local steelworks. In 1900, he founded the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers recognised as the first working class rambling club with a walk around Kinder Scout. The club was named for The Clarion socialist newspaper.
The Clarion Rambling Club became the chief organisation campaigning for public access to the moorland areas of the Dark Peak. As early as 1907, Ward participated in an illegal mass trespass of Bleaklow, a forerunner of the 1932 Mass trespass of Kinder Scout.
The Club also affiliated with the Labour Representation Committee, forerunner of the Labour Party. Ward became the first Secretary of the Sheffield Labour Representation Committee, on which he represented the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, later becoming Chair. A major political interest was his campaign against infant mortality, calling for increased supervision of midwives and the milk supply and for education of mothers.
In 1910, Ward became the founding editor of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers Club Handbook, which he used to describe the history and lore of the Peak District and South Yorkshire. He also successfully campaigned for the Ordnance Survey to amend some place names, and was involved in founding the Hunter Archaeological Society He also revised John Derry's Across the Derbyshire Moors.
In 1912, Ward formed the Hallamshire Footpath Preservation Society,and in 1926 he founded the Sheffield and District Federation of the Ramblers Association. An area of Lose Hill, in the Peak District, was given to him by the Ramblers Association in 1945 and named "Ward's Piece"; he subsequently presented this to the National Trust. Ward also worked on the purchase of the Longshaw Estate, and was a founder member of the local Youth Hostel Association.
As a civil servant Ward was subject to a 10 year injunction that banned him from trespassing and probably only referred to James Watts' land in the parish of Hayfield but he still went ahead and did it. There is a photo of Ward trespassing on the Hope Parish side of Kinder, in 1924, in the book 'Days of Sunshine and Rain' by Ann Beedham, which is about the journals of Mass Trespass participant George Willis Marshall.
Whilst other rambling groups actively condemned and opposed the Mass Trespass in 1932, Ward remained silent. The Trespass is briefly mentioned in the Clarion handbook of 1933/34 but Ward never talked about it. Some people believe that Ward knew or was involved in the Sheffield side of the trespass, but as a civil servant he could not admit this.
But the 1943-44 Clarion handbook (p.123) when talking about the Access to Mountains Act 1939 and the proposed "Pennine Way" states: 'We always opposed the insertion of any trespass clause (a sly reversion of "trespass law"), in the Act, and £2 fine (if slightly modified, after our deputation to the Ministry and protest) for being on the land during any closed period; and the assumption that any rambler who is upon a moor one hour after sunset, and one hour before sunrise, is a potential poacher'.
Late in life, Ward began working at the Ministry of Labour, and retired in 1941 to his house at Owler Bar. In 1957, the University of Sheffield gave Ward an honorary degree of Master of Arts. Ward chaired the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers until his death later in the year.
The National Park's Castleton Visitor Centre has a dedicate G.H.B Ward display
The GHB Ward archives and Sheffield Clarion handbooks are kept in Sheffield Local Studies Library.
There is also a book by David Sissons 'The Best of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers' Handbooks' contains a detailed chapter with a lot more information about Ward and the Clarion ramblers as well as information from the annual handbooks.
Copies of Sheffield Clarion handbooks can be purchased in Bird's Yard in Chapel Walk Sheffield for £5.