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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, 1890. Material kindly loaned by Ron Hunt.

Friday, November 28, 1890.

   On Wednesday, the body of a young man named Alfred Metcalf, 25 years of age, was found in a clay pit at Messrs. Crompton and Shawcross's Colliery, Hindley. Deceased left home to go to his work at a quarter past six on the previous morning, and had to pass the pit of water. His jacket was afterwards found floating, and the body was recovered by grappling. An inquest will be held by the county coroner.

Friday, November 28, 1890.

   Catherine McClusky, of Hardybutts, was summoned for using a bottle bearing the trade mark and the property of Harriet Bibby. - Defendant pleaded that she did not know she was doing wrong. - Mr. J. S. Hopwood said he appeared to prosecute in that case really on behalf of the Wigan and District Mineral Water Association, but the summons had been taken out by Mrs. Bibby, the owner of the bottle and trade mark. It looked a very small matter, but the members of the association had not to look at it in that way. Those people who made herb beer in the town and country - and there were a large number - used the stock and capital of the makers in the district. The members of the association had lost thousands of bottles, and they only wanted the public and such people to know that they were doing wrong. - Thomas Woods, an inspector for the association, said he went to defendants shop on the 20th October and asked for a bottle of ginger-beer. She gave him the bottle produced, which was pulled out of a jar. Defendant admitted having received a letter from a solicitor about using the bottles, but she did not care either for the owner's solicitor or anybody else. - Defendant was fined 1s. and costs.

Friday, November 28, 1890.

   Thomas Roberts, of Taylor-street, was summoned to show cause why he should not contribute towards the support of his wife, Elizabeth Roberts. - The latter said she had been married to the defendant about six years, and she now charged him with desertion, which happened five weeks ago. She had five children, three of them going to school. - Mr. Lees (who appeared for the defendant): These are the children of a previous husband. - Complainant, continuing, said the night before he left her he was very comfortable, and the next morning he left as if he was going to his work as usual. He never returned, and she then found that he had taken some clothes with him. - Mr. Lees: Are you willing to reside with your husband? - Complainant: No. - Mr. Lees: We are willing to take her. - By Mr. Roocroft: When she married the defendant she had a house and furniture. - Cross-examination by Mr. Lees showed that there was ill-feeling between the complainant's eldest son and the defendant, and the magistrates eventually decided that they would leave the parties to settle the case themselves.

Friday, November 28, 1890.

   Thomas Hodson, landlord of the Woolpack Inn, Millgate, was charged with allowing his house to be the resort of disorderly women, on the 19th inst. - The Chief-constable prosecuted, and Mr. Wilson defended. - Evidence was given by Police-constables Hockin and Lyon, and this was rebutted by the landlord himself, who deposed that the women never stayed in the house more than five or ten minutes at a time. Further than that, he was not aware what class of women they were, and he was certain that their behaviour was orderly. - Mr. Roocroft said they considered the case was clearly proved, and the defendant would be fined £3 and costs, and have his licence endorsed.

Saturday, November 29, 1890.

   An inquest was held on Wednesday before the county coroner, Mr. S. Brighouse, at the Blue Bell Inn, Downall Green, Ashton, relative to the death of John Parr, 64 years of age, 22, Rectory-road, Downall Green. The evidence showed that the deceased was a colliery dataller. For some time past he had been subject to asthma and bronchitis. On Sunday last he had a share of two quarts of beer to his dinner, and soon after six o'clock in the evening he went to the Blue Bell Inn, where he was served with a glass of rum by the landlord; John Berry. Some time after the landlord offered, in response to a remark as to the quality of the spirits, to let him have a pull at the bottle for fourpence. This was agreed to, and the deceased drank twice from the bottle of neat spirits. The landlord left the room, and immediately after the deceased was served with another glass of rum by the servant, but he only drank part of this glass. He became very drunk, and had to be carried to his lodgings by three men who were in the house at the time. He was laid on the sofa in the kitchen, and about five o'clock next morning was found to be dead. The jury returned a verdict of "Death from natural causes, accelerated by the drink taken the previous evening," and they added a rider censuring the landlord for supplying drink to the deceased in the way described.

Wednesday, December 3, 1890.


   A middle-aged woman named Alice Jane Lowe, belonging to Wigan, was on Saturday admitted into Spalding Workhouse in a very weak state, having been found by the relieving officer sleeping out in the snow in the Lincolnshire Fens near Spalding. She was put to bed, and then stated that she had slept out for five weeks continuously, including within the last few days the severest weather of the year, when the snow covered the ground to the depth of nearly a foot. The poor woman's hair was in such a matted state that it had to be all cut off. She stated that she had tramped from Lancashire, where she had formerly been in domestic service, and at the time she was found in the snow she appeared to have lost her way. The workhouse officials consider it most remarkable that the woman did not come to her death through exposure and cold.

Wednesday, December 3, 1890.

   On Tuesday morning a mishap occurred near the park. A trap containing two ladies, one of whom had a baby in her arms, was proceeding at an ordinary pace along Mesnes-street, in the direction of Standishgate, when one of the shafts broke and the conveyance came to an abrupt standstill. The horse fell and the driver was pitched out, but the ladies were able to retain their position in the vehicle. The Rev. E. Franks and others rendered assistance and we are glad to say that the injury to the shaft was the only damage done. We were unable to ascertain the names of the occupants of the conveyance.

Wednesday, December 3, 1890.


   With the frost of last week end came the usual skating craze, and on almost every pool in the neighbourhood persons might have been seen indulging in the favourite, though hazardous, winter pastime. Fortunately no loss of life has occurred, although there have been several cases where a "ducking" has been received, and nothing worse than a cold sustained. There was considerable excitement at Lower Ince on Saturday afternoon, when a boy named James Latham, the son of William Latham, Stafford-street, Lower Ince, fell through the ice into a lodge of water in the fields between Warrington-road and the Fir Tree Collieries. The lodge, which is deep, is about 100 yards wide and 200 yards long, and there were a great number of skaters on the ice. Information was at once given to Police-constable Betts (425), who lives about 200 yards from the place, and he went on the ice to rescue the boy who was about 40 yards from the bank. When the officer had covered that distance with the exception of about ten yards the ice gave way, and he went overhead into the water. Coming to the surface he got in a standing position, and nothing daunted broke the ice for about ten yards with his hands and knees until he reached the boy. He hoisted him on his shoulders and prepared to make the return journey, but had not gone very far before he stepped into a hole, and both rescuer and rescued were once more submerged. The officer gallantly struggled to his feet again, never once having lost his hold upon the boy, and a rope was then thrown to him which he fastened round the boy's body, and by that means the spectators drew him along the top of the ice to the bank. For some reason or other the officer was unable to follow the lad, but he made his way to an old tree stump which projected out of the water, and remained there for three-quarters of an hour. By that time another rope was procured and was thrown to him. He fastened it round his body, and more dead than alive with cold and exhaustion he was hauled through the ice and water to terra firma. Betts has since been in bed, and attended by Dr. Brayton for cuts and bruises and shock to the system. The boy also required medical assistance, but is progressing favourably.

Friday, December 5, 1890.

   Maria Lynch, of Adelaide-street, was summoned for assaulting Bridget McMahon on the 30th ult. - Defendant: I gave her one clout. - Complainant said she was in the street when defendant came past her, and struck her three times in the face. Evidence was called on both sides, and defendant was fined 2s. 6d. and costs.

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