Blog: Mark Metcalf

One of the organisers of the Ellen Strange Memorial Walk on a centuries-old tribute to victims of domestic violence

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A special four-mile moorland walk will take place on Sunday 8 July to the oldest domestic violence commemoration site in the world. The event will start at Emmanuel Church of England Primary School, BL8 4PA at 10.30am. All walkers should wear boots and bring something to drink.

On arrival at the location on Holcombe Moor near Ramsbottom, a wreath will be laid and each walker will lay a stone in memory of murder victim Ellen Strange before the names and details of domestic violence victims over the last year are read out.

There will then be a series of speeches led by Unite member Martin McMulkin and Carole Marsden of the Endeavour Project in Bolton, which supports women and children experiencing domestic violence. This will be followed by a blessing by Mike Burton, reader at Emanuel Church, Holcombe, where on the walk’s return refreshments will be available for free.

This is the third annual event to recall Ellen Strange (Broadley). She was murdered by her husband, John Broadley, on Holcombe Moor in January 1761. Afterwards Ellen’s family and/or local people raised a pile of stones in her memory. This was called “Ellen Strange” on the first Ordnance Survey map in 1844-47.

However, over time the true story became clouded in mystery until, in 1989, local author John Simpson published the results of his exhaustive research into events on the desolate moor over 200 years earlier.

Since 1761 the practice of adding stones to the Ellen Strange cairn has continued

John and Ellen Broadley were a very poor couple who led an itinerant life. Prior to her wedding, Ellen lived at Ash Farm, Hawkshaw, with her parents. It’s likely that Ellen, hoping to take advantage of the full moon, was en route to the family home when Broadley murdered her shortly after midnight. The couple had been seen together at a local pub in the hours before Ellen died.

When Ellen’s strangled and badly disfigured body was discovered her husband was arrested and indicted for her murder. At his trial a number of witnesses were called but as it was not the practice to write down such evidence we don’t know what they said. What we can be sure of is that their evidence was insufficient to convict Broadley. Forensic evidence had not yet been identified and the charged man pleaded not guilty. It is almost certain there were no eye witnesses to the attack.

Since 1761 the practice of adding stones to the Ellen Strange cairn has continued. In 2015 a number of trade unionists and domestic violence campaigners visited the cairn as part of the annual domestic violence awareness events organised each November. A similar summertime event was held in 2017.

Almost £2,000 has been raised to reprint Simpson’s book, which can be downloaded for free.

For further details please see the Ellen Strange Facebook page or contact Mark Metcalf on 07392 852561, Martin McMulkin on 07918 839327 or Linda Charnock on 07706 294758

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