Once common along hiking and nature trails of the British countryside, Clarion Houses were popular meeting spots for the sweet intersection of nature-lovers and socialists. The clubhouses grew out of the Clarion Movement, a loosely socialist organization based around a Manchester newspaper of the same name. This one in particular, in Newchurch-in-Pendle, is the last one in existence.
The Clarion House wears many hats. It’s home to a cycling club, originally the distributors of the aforementioned newspapers. It also hosts walking clubs, handicraft groups, and even a choir. Throughout its history, the Clarion House has provided essential facilities to these visitors and patrons while encouraging socialist ideals through not only political discussion and pamphlets, but also by running on a cooperative basis. The Independent Labor Party, an established political entity whose ethos jibed with Clarion’s, even opened up their own clubhouses under the Clarion House name.
The final Clarion House, resting in the hills of Lancashire, was built in 1912 by the Nelson branch of the Independent Labour Party. The ILP no longer operates independently, having rejoined the Labour Party in 1975, but the land-holding body it set up to help manage the Clarion House still runs the facility. It sits in the Pennines, prime walking country in the shadow of Pendle Hill, the site of Britain’s most infamous witch trials.
The house still attracts a largely left-of-center clientele, many of whom are members of the still-operational cycling club.
While the house serves tea, coffee, and a small range of snacks, they do encourage cyclists and hikers to bring their own food, providing in effect an indoor picnic area where like-minded socialists can enter into political discussions with fantastic views across the valley.
This is the last remnant of an organization that, through a number of iterations, contributed to the development of the Labour movement in Britain by providing a safe space for unconventional political ideals.
Know Before You Go
Right-of-center political views are of course welcomed, and challenged, respectfully. The road past the house is very narrow. If driving you may find parking nearby very difficult, so be prepared for a walk.The building itself is only open on Sundays, but at other times visitors are welcome to use the outside facilities such as the benches.