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Old news detailing sports, crime, violence and suffering in Victorian Wigan. All stories taken from The Wigan Observer And District Advertiser, 1860. Material kindly loaned by Paul Byrne.


Friday, March 2, 1860.

FOUND DEAD IN A DITCH.
   An inquest was held at the Grapes Inn, Wallgate, on Monday last, before the borough coroner, on the body of William Winstanley, a man upwards of sixty years of age, who was found dead in a ditch on the Saturday previous. It appeared that deceased had for some time past led an idle and irregular life, and had been in the habit of sleeping in colliery cabins and outhouses when he had the opportunity. On Thursday last he was at Mr. Barton's coke ovens, near the workhouse, in an almost exhausted state, and asked permission to stay there all night. This was granted on condition that he would make his appearance before the Board of Guardians on Friday, and at ten o'clock on that day he was roused from where he was sleeping to go there.He does not seem, however, to have made any appearance before the Guardians, for he was rambling about on Friday night, and went to a cabin by a coal wharf on the canal bank, and near the workhouse, to ask if there was a boat into which he could go. Not receiving a satisfactory answer he went away, and nothing was seen or heard of him till noon on Saturday, when a boy named Rueben Duncan, who belongs to a boat running between Wigan and Liverpool, discovered his body lying face downwards in a ditch near the coal wharf he visited the night previous. The boy Duncan went and touched the body, and found it was cold; he then informed two men who were near, and they got the body out and conveyed it to the Pottery. - The jury returned a verdict of "Found dead."



Friday, March 2, 1860.

EFFECTS OF THE GALE.
   The heavy gale which prevailed on Tuesday has left traces of its fury in many parts of the town, and one had not to travel far before meeting with ready evidence of the violence of the storm, for slates, chimney pots, bricks, and the like lay scattered about the streets in all directions. The most serious damage which seems to have been done was at the shop of Mr. Entwistle, draper, Market-place. When the gale was at its height, about noon, a sudden gust of wind lifted up from the ground, in one piece, a stall which stood in front of his shop, and drove it with great force against the large plate glass window, shivering it to atoms, and startling those in the shop by the noise and violence of the concussion. The damage is said to amount to nearly 20.



Friday, March 2, 1860.

SUPPOSED CHILD MURDER.
   Some excitement was created in the town on Tuesday last, by the report that a box containing the dead body of a child had been dug up in the garden behind the premises of Mr. Peter Sergeant, shopkeeper, &c., Standishgate. Mr. Sergeant has lately taken possession of the shop at the corner of the road between St. Mary's Chapel and the Royal Oak Inn, Standishgate, which road leads to the River Douglas. To this shop a large garden is attached, enclosed by a wall, about four yards high, running from the gates of Mr. Sergeant's backyard in the extremity of the garden, a distance of nearly twenty yards. At the end of the garden there is a cross wall, about two feet high, and on Tuesday morning last, between eight and nine o'clock, a man named James Worsley, who is in the employ of Mr. Sergeant, was delving near this low wall, in the right hand corner of the garden, when his spade struck upon some hard substance, about eight or nine inches in the ground. Worsley dug this substance up, when it proved to be a box about a foot long, having a lid nailed on. He forced the lid off, and discovered the remains of a child, in a much decomposed state. Taking charge of the box, he sent to the police office, and on the arrival of an officer the box and its contents were removed to the police, to await the coroner's inquiry.
   This was held on Wednesday morning, at the house of Mr. James Silcock, the Woolpack Inn, Millgate, before Thomas Grimshaw, Esq., the borough coroner, and a most respectable jury, of which Mr. Matthew Barton was foreman. Worsley was sworn, and deposed to the facts we have given above. - Mr. T. J. Heaton was also called, and deposed that he was sent for to the police office on Tuesday, where he saw a box containing the dead body of a female child. The child was newly-born, was full grown, and had it lived would have been a fine healthy one. From the appearance of the remains, and allowing for the decomposed state in which they were, he was strongly of opinion that the child had been born alive. He was unable to apply the usual test to prove this, because the lungs were too much decomposed. He did not see any marks of violence, but the umbilical cord was torn, and from this fact he inferred that the mother must have been delivered without the assistance of either surgeon or midwife. If on the birth of a child the umbilical cord was cut and not tied, death would result from loss of blood; but if it was torn, the laceration might prevent bleeding and the child might live. There were many instances on record where such a result had followed. - A juryman here asked Mr. Heaton if it was not probable that the mother, in her ignorance, might have torn the umbilical cord, and Mr. Heaton replied that might possibly be so, and the child remain alive; for as he said before, the laceration might prevent bleeding. - In reply to another juryman, Mr. Heaton stated that it was impossible for him to say what was the cause of death, the remains were so much decomposed. He should think the body had been in the ground about a month. He had no doubt, however, but that the child was born alive. - This being the whole of the evidence, the Coroner recapitulated the facts of the case, and told the jury he thought, from the evidence, their verdict ought to be "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown." If, however, they doubted whether the child had been born alive, a simple verdict of "Concealment of birth" would still leave it open for the magistrates to take any proceedings they might hereafter think necessary. - The jury were then left alone about ten minutes, when they returned a verdict of "Concealment of birth."



Friday, March 2, 1860.

BREACHES OF THE HIGHWAY ACT.
   Matthew Halton, a carter, was summoned for leaving his cart unprotected in the streets for upwards of an hour, thereby obstructing the highway. - Defendant did not appear, and he was fined 2s. 6d. and costs. - Mr. Elias Ditchfield was summoned for careless driving in Wallgate on Friday night last. - A witness stated that on the night in question, as he was passing near the "Blackamoor," Wallgate, he saw defendant coming along at a rapid rate in his gig. The mill hands were leaving work at the time, and the streets were much crowded, and in consequence of defendant's conduct two girls were knocked down and one of them injured. - Defendant denied that he was driving furiously; the horse was a young and spirited one, and seeing a crowd it started, and he did all he could to check it. - The bench imposed a fine of 5s. and costs.



Saturday, March 3, 1860.

CHARGE OF STEALING FOUR SOVEREIGNS AT HINDLEY.
   A middle-aged married woman, named Aspinall, was brought before R. Bevan and G. Daglish, Esqs., at the County Police Court, on Monday, on the charge of stealing four sovereigns from the person of Joseph Blackledge. - The prosecutor stated that he was at Hindley on Saturday last, and saw the prisoner at the Nelson Inn. He paid for her a glass of ale, and from there they proceeded to the Bear's Paw, where they both had some drink. He then had five sovereigns in his possession. From the Bear's Paw they proceeded to the Bird-i'-th'-Hand, where they were in a room alone for nearly an hour and a half, drinking. Prisoner then said she had to go to Coppull, and asked him for some money. He gave her a sovereign, and a shilling to pay her railway fare. She afterwards asked him to go a part of the way with her, and he accompanied her a quarter of a mile, then leaving her. Shortly after he left her he felt in his trowsers pocket, and dicovered that the four sovereigns he had at the Bird-i'-th'-Hand had been taken from him. He turned back after the woman, and charged her with having robbed him, but she denied it. He then held her hands, and endeavoured to make her give up the money, but she would not till Policeman Wilson, of the county constabulary, came up, and she was given into his custody, when she gave up four sovereigns and some silver. - On cross-examination by Mr. Mayhew, prosecutor said he had previously known the prisoner, and also her husband, when they lived in Hindley, and he at timed borrowed money from the husband. The husband left the wife some time ago, and the latter had frequently come to him (prosecutor) and asked him for money. He owed the prisoner 22s., and she said on Saturday that she had come for it. He denied that he had taken improper liberties or made indecent proposals to her at the Bird-i'-th'-Hand; and it was not because of his conduct that the prisoner went away from him. - The magistrates eventually dismissed the case.



Friday, March 9, 1860.

TREAT TO WORKPEOPLE.
   The annual gathering of the workpeople belonging to the Haigh Brewery took place on Saturday last, when upwards of sixty of the hands, together with their wives and friends (numbering altogether nearly a hundred), sat down to a most sumptuous dinner, to which ample justice was done. Great credit is due to Mrs. Sumner, the worthy hostess of the Balcarres Arms, for the manner in which she displayed her good taste in catering to the hungry appetites of the company, plenty of good roast beef and plum pudding being supplied in the real old English style. After the cloth was drawn, and the usual preliminaries gone through, dancing commenced, and was kept up with unusual spirit and glee, being interrupted now and then by a song; but the principal enjoyment seemed to be in tripping the light fantastic toe, which would have continued until a late or rather early hour the following morning, had it not been Sunday. As it was the company broke up at midnight, highly delighted with their evening's amusement. The Blackrod Band was in attendance, as was also Mr. Whittaker with his violin.



Friday, March 9, 1860.

ASSAULT.
   Joseph Halliwell was charged with assaulting James Yates. - Complainant stated that he was going home about twelve o'clock on the night of Saturday, the 25th ult., and on reaching the end of Platt-lane the defendant and two or three others were standing there. Complainant, being called by his name, went up to these persons, when defendant said, "I once did some work for thee, and thon never paid me, and naw I'll pay thee," at the same time raising his fist and striking complainant a violent blow on the head. Fined 10s. and costs, or in default twenty-one days.



Friday, March 9, 1860.

RIOTOUS AND DISORDERLY.
   Margaret Taylor (who appeared in the dock with a child in her arms) was charged with disorderly conduct in Scholes, and ordered to find sureties to keep the peace, or twenty-one days in default. - Michael Fairhurst and Thos. Pender, for disorderly conduct in Wigan-lane, on Sunday night, were ordered to find sureties. - Richard Crook, for disorderly conduct in Millgate, on Saturday night, was discharged on payment of costs. - Thos. Haslam and William Benson, for being riotous and disorderly, and challenging to fight, in Scholes, on Monday, were ordered to find sureties to keep the peace, in default to go to prison for twenty-one days.



Friday, March 9, 1860.

LEAVING WORK WITHOUT NOTICE.
   Jane Whittle, a girl about 18 years of age, was charged with leaving her work without giving the requisite notice. - Defendant entered the service of Messrs. Woods and Co., Sovereign Mills, in December last, as a weaver, the agreement being that a fortnight's notice on either side should break the contract. It was alleged that defendant had not worked a full week since she entered upon her service, but stayed away for half a day or a day at a time, as she took it into her head, under pretence of illness. She absented herself from the mill yesterday afternoon, and the present proceedings were taken. - Messrs. Woods were willing that the defendant should be discharged if she would pay costs; this arrangement the magistrates consented to, and the girl was discharged.


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