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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, April 27, 1860.

THEFT FROM A STALL.
   Elizabeth Rose (22), charwoman, was charged with stealing a pair of boots from the stall of James O'Brien, in the Market-place, on the 10th February last. The prisoner pleaded not guilty; Mr. Dawson prosecuted, and Mr. Leresche defended. - The prisoner went to prosecutor's stall and bargained for a pair of boots, for which she paid 6s. 6d., and when she was going away the stall-keeper observed that a second pair of boots was missing, and which were on the stall when the prisoner went to make her purchase. Prisoner was followed and charged with felony, and on her return to the stall, a distance of four or five yards, a pair of boots was found at her feet, as if she had dropped them from her arm. - The defence was that the prisoner did not steal the boots, and that if they had been carried away from the stall it was purely the result of accident. - Several witnesses as to character were called, who spoke of the prisoner's previous good conduct. - The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and the Recorder sentenced her to three months' imprisonment.



Friday, April 27, 1860.

HOUSEBREAKING.
   George Finch (19) was charged with feloniously breaking into the house of John Finch, Chapel-lane, and stealing therefrom 7s. - Mr. Leresche prosecuted; the prisoner was undefended. The facts were that on the 16th February last the prosecutor's family retired to rest about eleven o'clock, after having fastened up the premises. On the morning of the 17th, about seven o'clock, prosecutor's wife, on getting down stairs, found that the door which divides the kitchen and the shop had been forced open, and on examining the shop till she discovered that the sum of seven shillings, which was there the previous evening, had been stolen. The house appeared to have been entered by the forcing open of a cellar shutter, and footmarks were found which cast suspicion upon the prisoner, and he was accordingly apprehended, and on examination the soles of his clogs were found to correspond exactly with the impressions left in the cellar. - The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and the Recorder sentenced the prisoner to twelve months' hard labour.



Saturday, April 28, 1860.

FIRE AT HINDLEY.
   A fire, resulting in the destruction of two cottages, took place at Castle Hill, Hindley, on Tuesday last. At the before-named place there were two thatched cottages belonging to Mr. Henry Bleasdale, and about two o'clock on the day in question great clouds of smoke were seen rising from the roof of one of them, Information was sent to the police station, and Inspector Peters was immediately on the spot, with assistance, and procured a number of buckets and other utensils from the neighbours around. There was, however, a great scarcity of water, and what could be obtained had to be carried from a pit a distance of 200 yards. Owing to this circumstance the fire was not extinguished till eight o'clock in the evening, after burning upwards of five hours. The cottages were completely gutted, but the tenants were able to remove their goods in safety. Great complaints have been made respecting the apathy displayed by the persons who witnessed the fire; for although they were repeatedly pressed by Inspector Peters to render assistance, very few did so, and then only with the greatest reluctance. The strangest conduct, however, was displayed by the owner of the cottages, who looked upon the destruction of his property with something like Neroic indifference, and positively refused to allow a water engine there was in the village to be fetched and brought into use. It is supposed that a spark from one of the chimneys fell upon the thatch, which was very old, and set fire to it. The damage done amounts to 50.



Saturday, April 28, 1860.

FEARFUL AND FATEFUL ACCIDENT FROM MACHINERY.
   A terrible accident occurred on Monday last, at the mill of Mr. A. Pennington, Hindley. In the afternoon of the day in question, the manager sent a girl, 11 years of age, named Bridget Bond, into the top room of the mill, for the purpose of sweeping it. The room is used only as a lumber room, but there is an upright shaft in it, which runs into the warping room, which is on the same floor, and separated by a wall. The poor girl had only just got into the room when a fearful scream was heard, and on some of the hands rushing in they found that Bond had been caught by the shaft, and literally torn to pieces. Her remains were scattered about the room, and they were gathered together in a basket and taken home. - An inquest was held on Wednesday, before C. E. Driffield, Esq., and the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death," with a strong recommendation that the proprietor of the mill fence off the shafting.



Friday, May 4, 1890.

FIRE AT A COTTON MILL.
   On Tuesday morning, at an early hour, a fire broke out in the scutching or blowing room of Messrs. Eckersley's cotton mill. The police officer on duty in that part of the town perceived the flames from his beat, and accordingly went to the mill yard to gain admission to the premises. He was, however, refused an entrance, and told he would be sent for when required. We cannot say what was the nature of the fire or the extent of damage done, but that it was no trifling matter is evident from the fact that the hands have not been at work since.



Friday, May 4, 1890.

FATAL COLLIERY ACCIDENT.
   On Monday last an inquest was held, before the borough coroner, on the body of Henry Twitter, of Lower Morris-street, a young man 19 years of age, who died from the effects of injuries he sustained on the Tuesday previous. Deceased worked at the Lindsay pit of Earl Crawford, and on the day in question, while removing some rubbish from his place, a portion of the roof fell in, crushing him very severely. He lingered until Sunday last, when he died. - A verdict in accordance with the facts was returned.



Friday, May 4, 1890.

FIRE AT THE NEWTOWN CHEMICAL WORKS.
   On Thursday morning, shortly before seven o'clock, a fire broke out at the chemical works of Mr. John Peak, Newtown, Pemberton. It appears to have been caused by one of the men incautiously turning on some hot liquid from a pipe into a pit of resin, which caused the whole to blaze up in a most alarming manner, threatening destruction to the whole building. A messenger was immediately despatched on horseback to the police-office, for the assistance of the water engines, and in a few minutes, horses having been obtained at the Royal Hotel, the "Waterwitch" was on its way to the scene of the conflagration. It had not proceeded farther, however, than the railway bridge, when it was stopped, intelligence being brought that the exertions of the men employed at the works had been successful in extinguishing the flames, and dispelling all further cause of alarm.



Friday, May 4, 1890.

A MAN BURIED ALIVE.
   The generally quiet village of Standish and its neighbourhood was thrown into a state of great excitement on Wednesday morning last, by the report that a farmer living near Hunter's Hill, Wrightington, had been found murdered in a field near his own home, under circumstances of the greatest cruelty and barbarity. The rumour found its way to Wigan, and spread rapidly, and after making due inquiries we ascertained that there was some foundation for the statements made, and although it turns out that actual murder was not the intention of the parties implicated in the disgraceful affair, yet the effect of their brutal conduct is such as to place them in a most dangerous position, and will, no doubt, end in a long period of penal servitude, if not expatriation for life.
   The facts, so far as they have already transpired, are as follow :- A farmer named Hugh Ainscough, 63 years of age, occupying a farm about half a mile from Bispham School, left his home on Tuesday last for the purpose of paying his rent. After transacting this business, he went down to the Chapel House, Bispham, in order to enjoy his dinner, and left in the evening to go home. Instead of going direct home, however, he called at the Farmers' Arms Inn, kept by Mr. John Thomas, where he stayed till near midnight. Amongst the company were a woman named Ellen Fisher, who had been rendering assistance during the holding of the dinner, and to whom it is said the deceased (who was a widower, but has a family grown up) was to have been married in the course of a few weeks; and four young men, named John Prescott, Richard Benson, Charles Hart, and Edward Cubbin. When Ainscough left to go home, the woman Fisher accompanied him, and they had not proceeded far on their way before they discovered that the young men mentioned above were following them; and when they had got into a field, known as "Blackburn's Field," situate about midway between Bispham School and his house, deceased felt himself hit by a large "sod," which was thrown by one of the young men. He got irritated at this conduct, and remonstrated with them, but he was only answered by a general volley of sods, lumps of clay, soil, &c. This very much increased his irritation, and he challenged any of his assailants to fight him. Fisher and the man Prescott here left the party, and proceeded in the direction of their own homes, from which period they neither saw nor heard anything of the others. What transpired afterwards between the deceased and Benson, Hart, and Cubbin is at present only a matter of conjecture, but there is no doubt that he was subjected to a species of barbarity and cruelty, almost, we should say, unparalleled in the annals of a civilized community, and, were it not that the truth is only too palpable, beyond the reach of credibility. Be that as it may, however, the following morning (Wednesday), about half-past four, a miner named James Clarke was proceeding in the direction of the colliery where he was employed, when he perceived, a few yards from the footpath along which he was going, a large mound of earth, which bore strong evidence of having been recently formed. Going up to it he was horrified to see a man's head and face, very much disfigured, protruding from the heap. The other portion of the body was completely buried under the earth, which consisted of large clods of clay, about two feet long and eight or nine inches wide. Clarke immediately raised an alarm, and assistance being procured, deceased's body was extricated from the heap, and conveyed to his own home, a distance, as we have said, of a quarter of a mile. It was then discovered that the inhuman assailants of the old man had not been content with heaping the mound of earth upon him, but had actually, in addition, filled his mouth, nostrils, and ears with human excrement, to such an extent, in fact, that death must have immediately resulted from suffocation, if from no other cause. The police having by this time been made acquainted with the circumstances, measures were at once taken for the apprehension of the parties who were known to have been in the deceased's company, and the three principals - Benson, Hart, and Cubbin - were soon lodged in gaol, to await the coroner's inquiry, which is to be held this afternoon, at three o'clock.


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