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Bedfordshire Mercury, 21 August 1869

Starving sheep

At a recent petty sessions, Charles Brown, a cattle dealer of Preston was charged by the RSPCA with cruelly mistreating some sheep. The police had their attention drawn to the fact that many of the sheep were in an emaciated state and that some of them had died in consequence. The whole flock appeared to be prostrated, the sheep being mere skeletons. No provision was made for feeding them, neither was there any convenience for supplying them with water and Mr Cherry, the veterinary surgeon, who examined them found them free from disease but in a condition caused by starving. They were enclosed in some neglected ground which had once been arable but at the time only produced rank weeds and couch grass.

The defendant being spoken to said that that was all he intended to give the sheep and that when at home they were taken to a pond once a day or so, but that when he was away they might go two or three days without. The defendant called witnesses on his behalf but with no avail as the magistrates fined him £5 and costs. (A more detailed account of the case follows)


Hertfordshire Express, 14 August 1869

Novel Charge of Cruelty to Animals

Charles Brown, a sheep and cattle dealer of Preston (and living at the Red Lion), was charged with having cruelly ill-treated certain sheep in July last. The case was preferred at the instance of the RSPCA. Opening the case, HP Andrews said it was no part of his case to attempt to account for the motives which might have actuated the defendant....and several metropolitan magistrates had convicted in cases of a similar nature, though others had been doubtful that starving animals was an offence under the Act...In giving an outline to his case, he said that the police had attention called to the fact that many of (Brown’s) sheep were in a weak and emaciated state and many had been known to have died in consequence. On 23 July, an officer had found one dead and another in a very exhausted state. The whole flock appeared to be wholly prostrated, the sheep being perfect skeletons and mere bags of bones. No provision was made for feeding them and there was no convenience for supplying them with water. A few days afterwards, more had died...On 26 July (an examination) found no disease to account for their wretched condition which was caused by starvation. They were enclosed, about 80 sheep, in 15 acres of neglected ground that had been arable some years ago but which had been allowed to go out of cultivation and grew nothing but rank weeds and couch grass (probably situated immediately to the west of Crunnells Green Lane). This was all the sheep had to eat, though the defendant had plenty of good grass in another meadow and plenty of hay in a rick, but said he wanted all that for other purposes and did not intend to give the sheep anything better than what they had. As for water, he said that that when he was at home, they were taken to a neighbouring pond once a day or so, but when he was away it was possible that they would go two or three days without water. His conduct was so wilful that the Society felt they had no alternative but to bring the case before the local magistrates.

PC Farr, ‘I am acquainted with the defendant. On the second week in July I heard that the defendant’s sheep were suffering from want of food and water, went into the field and found 70 to 80 sheep, very bad, some lying down under the hedge. I went on the 14 July and found three more sheep which appeared to be starved to death. I told Mr Brown who wished me to say nothing about it. The sheep had been under my notice for 7 or 8 weeks. During that time, I have seen them watered once or twice a week, never saw any food but what grew in the field, although I went there every day. I have noticed that the sheep have improved since these proceedings were taken. The sheep got much worse from the time the defendant first had them.

Arthur Cherry, veterinary surgeon, said, ‘I examined the sheep on 26 July....the field was growing nothing but weeds, the ground was exceedingly hard and no provision of water was there. The sheep appeared to be mixed: some being stronger than others; about half were in a worse condition and about 20 were the worst. There was a sheep and a lamb struck with the fly. The sheep on the near quarter had a piece of cloth sown on the wool over the wound. The lamb had also been struck with the fly on the tail. There were 14 or 15 with small pla*** and had been dressed with tar. I examined them carefully to see if I could find any disease. The 20 were so weak that they could not move. I went to the residence of the defendant and he said he had sold some and had put some in. He treated the matter very lightly and said there was plenty of food to last them to Christmas. I informed him they were starving, but he said there was plenty of food. I asked him if they had been watered and he said he took them to the pond in the village nearly every day. The people grumbled because they dirtied the water and he had bought a tub for them which he was going to fill at the pond. He said they were watered on the previous day and said they were watered pretty regularly, but if he was away they did not have any water for two or sometimes three days. Asked why he didn’t bring them into the orchard where there was plenty of grass, he said he wanted that. Asked why he didn’t give them hay from the stack, he said he wanted to keep that. He said he couldn’t give them any more, it wanted rain. It was very dry weather when I was there: it had been dry for a month. The sheep were in a state of emaciation – mere skeletons with the skin drawn over them. He lifted one up, but it couldn’t stand. The two with fly might have been under treatment for three or four days. My positive opinion is that they were suffering from Starvation and nothing else. I saw one in a ditch which had been dead some days and the vermin had got at it. What little vegetation was in the field was harsh and dry and not fit for the food for young animals – they were too weak to eat it.

Brown said that on 15 June he had hired 15 acres from Mr Toke of (Temple Farm) Preston for £5 5/- and there was a tremendous lot of keep on it. He was bid £10 for it few days afterwards. He then narrated how he purchased the sheep and put them into that field where they improved so that he was able to make more money of them by £20. He called Thomas Brightman, a cattle dealer, who said he sold 26 ewes with the wool on to Brown six weeks ago for 18/- each. He saw the ewes last Tuesday and remarked they had very much improved – they were worth 18/- each without the wool. If sheep were badly treated they would of course look bad, but he would be a great fool to starve his own sheep.

Mr Toke confirmed there was plenty of keep in the 15 acre field when he let it to Brown. He considered that if he turned 80 sheep into the field they would eat nearly all the feed in three weeks, but it would keep growing if the sheep were turned about. The sheep were very poor when he bought them, but had very much improved. Saw them last Tuesday and the defendant had put them into market. Some of the lambs were very bad when Brown bought them and he thought they would not be of any use. One lamb died of water on the heart to his knowledge for he had the carcass and saw it opened. Don’t think that ten days would be sufficient to fill the sheep out.

William Sleigh of Preston said he had crossed the field where Brown’s sheep were four or five times a week since the beginning of July. The quality of the food was not good, but there was plenty of it but it began to get dry. The food was not so good at the latter end of July as at the beginning. Have seen sheep lying about in a weak state, but that was from the heat. Have seen Brown’s sheep going down to the village for water.

Mr Crawley, farmer, said defendant bought eight lambs six weeks ago for 17/- each. They had improved and were now worth some shillings more than when he had sold them. Had since bought one of the sheep from the defendant for 25/- as a fat lamb to kill.

Daniel Smith of Preston (grocer at Preston Green Post Office) said he saw the lambs Brown bought and told him they would not live. There was plenty of feed when they entered the field and he was sure they could not have died from starvation. There were three or four lambs in a bad state when he bought them. Saw sheep in the field about a month ago. Was sure the defendant did not starve the lambs as they were starved when he had them.

Mrs Sarah Sharp said she had seen Brown’s sheep go to the pond once a day and had complained about it. Have sometimes seen them twice a day. Was not aware there was a tub in the field. The sheep had been to the pond all the dry weather and she complained about their coming to drink there because that was the only water the cottagers had to use.

Brown denied Inspector Young’s statement that the sheep had not been treated for the fly and said they had been dressed every day.

Sleigh added that in a place surrounded with wood like that field it would take one man all his time to keep the flies off.

Brown said there were gaps in the hedge and the sheep would go through and go to the pond on their own accord for water if there was no-one to drive them. They were not confined to Toke’s field.

After consulting for twenty minutes, the Chairman of the magistrates said they could not get over the fact that some of these lambs really did die and the evidence of the condition the animals were in. They concluded that the food was certainly not proper for the lambs. They had no alternative but to convict the defendant who was liable to a fine of £5 per head for those who died and those who did not die. Their chief object was to prevent the defendant and other people from doing the same again. Of course he did not want his lambs to die, but he ill-treated them by neglect. He would be convicted in one penalty of £5 including costs. An allowance of one guinea was made for the veterinary surgeon and Mr Andrews requested that the residue of the penalty after deducting costs should be given as a donation to the Hitchin Infirmary. Brown paid the money protesting that it was a very hard case.


Bedfordshire Mercury, 9 November 1839

James Day was charged by William Groom with stealing a bundle containing various items from a beer shop at Preston in the parish of Hitchin. The prisoner confessed that he was drunk and did take the bundle but insisted that as soon as he found he had a bundle which did not belong to him, he was going to take it back again to Preston, but before he could do so, the constable came and took him into custody. He gave bail to answer the charge at the Hertford Sessions.


Bedfordshire Mercury, 9 November 1839

Death: On 12 inst, Mr Samuel Wright, son of Mr John Wright of Preston Castle Farm, near Hitchin.


Bedfordshire Mercury, 4 November 1837

William and Jonathan Brinkley, two gypsies were brought before the Bench for assaulting George Cranfield and Robert Thrussell. It appeared that the 25 inst was Preston Fair and on the evening of that day, the complainant met the defendants at the Chequers at Preston and there in consequence of an old dispute, the defendant challenged the complainant to fight and stripped for that purpose. The challenge was refused, Cranfield’s master having forbidden him to mix in quarrels of that nature. Brinkley then struck him on the face by way of provocation whereupon Cranfield sent for the constable who came bringing with him the complainant, Robert Thrussell, to assist him; there was great disturbance between the constable and defendant and his brother Jonathan and others, ‘F.juadem generis’ in the course of which Jonathan struck Thrussell over the mouth. The riot appearing to have arisen from the conduct of the defendants, they were both convicted – William for the assault upon Cranfield for which he was fined £5, which he paid and Jonathan for the assault on Thrussell for which he was sentenced to pay 50/-, but not being able to raise the wind, he was committed to the House of Correction at Hertford for one calendar month.


Bedfordshire Express 22 July 1871

To Deep Well Sinkers and Builders

Persons willing to tender for sinking a well about 230 feet deep and erecting a shed over same at Preston (Green) near Hitchin may see the drawings and specifications at my office between 17 and 22 July. James Shilcock, Architect, MarketPlace, Hitchin.


Bedfordshire Express 1 July 1871

Hitchin Board of Guardians

More liquid poison

Mr Vincent produced a sample of foul water from a pond by the roadside at Preston from which many of the villagers get their only supply. It abounded with organic matter, embryo tadpoles and living animalculae and was pronounced very bad. It was further stated that the water would become much worse if the weather got warmer.

In reply to Mr Bartlett the Chairman repeated the circumstances under which the Guardians last summer thought proper to refuse to entertain Mr Weeks offer to provide a well on Preston Green with the permission of the Lord of the Manor. He said the Board did not consider it their duty to take to the well when complete. No order was made.


Bedfordshire Express 22 May 1871


William Lawson of Preston was fined 5/6d for allowing his horse and cart to stray at Preston on 13 inst. PC Farr proved the case.


Bedfordshire Express 22 May 1871

Charge of Game Trespass

Daniel Winch, labourer of Preston, was charged with setting snares for the purposes of taking game on land in the occupation of Mr Darton on 5 inst.

Edward Walker said he was gamekeeper to Mr Darton and on the 5th inst at nine o’clock in the evening he was in Hernsfield Wood when he saw the defendant set some snares in the hedge and on Mr Darton’s land. He lay against a tree watching for an hour and a half. When he saw him and PC Farr, he ran away. They found six snares. The defendant said they were not on Mr Darton’s land. He admitted setting them on Mr Partridge’s land which adjoins. PC Farr said he watched the defendant. The snares were set on the bank and in the ditch on Mr Darton’s land. Defendant said he had permission to snare rabbits on Stagenhoe farm in the occupation of Mr Partridge. He did not set one snare on Mr Darton’s land. Mr Partridge handed a letter to the Bench authorising the defendant to catch rabbits on the land in his occupation. He had seen the peg holes where the snares were set and not one was on Mr Darton’s land. There was one within a foot of Mr Darton’s boundary. The Chairman told the constable that the police had no business whatever with poaching cases. The Bench thought the case was not proved and dismissed it.


Hertfordshire Express, 25 February 1871 reported a second meeting in Hitchin Town Hall to discuss the local implications of the Elementary Education Act, 1870. The pros and cons of compulsory education and its expense (around £150 pa) on ratepayers were debated. Some parishioners would be too poor to pay the school fees, and while local school buildings were adequate, they needed to be adapted to the wants of the parish. At present they were all private property or in the hands of trustees. It was suggested that the schools at Walsworth, St Andrews, Preston and Langley should be made Board Schools.


Re: Education Act, 1870

Reporting on the state of schools in the Hitchin area, doubts were reported about a handful of schools (including Preston) which were not National or British Schools. How able were their managers? Did they have certified teachers and the proper number of pupil teachers? Were teaching methods and quality of instruction satisfactory? Was there upward pressure from younger children so that nine and ten-year-olds had to leave school?

....Langley Church is used as a plaiting school for about a score of children which, as the hamlet is very small, is perhaps as many as could be expected to attend.

Preston Church now accommodates a day school which has just been re-opened after an interval. A new mistress has been appointed and I am informed that no plaiting is to be done (although it was not described as a ‘plaiting school’ as some other schools were). A school answering the required purpose will very likely be formed here before long....it would appear that the schools of.....Langley and Preston do not at present exhibit the required efficiency (of educational condition).


Hertfordshire Express, 10 December 1870

Appointment for Way Warden for Preston.

Stephen Marriott was appointed as Waywarden for the hamlet.



John Farr, labourer of Preston, was brought up under a warrant charged with ferreting on 12 and 24 October. PC Farr said on the 12 October he saw the defendant ferreting in a wood belonging to FP Delme-Radcliffe. The defendant on seeing him ran away. Defendant denied the charge. Mr John Cook, farmer proved catching the defendant ferreting on land in his occupation on 24 October. He admitted this offence. For both offences, defendant was fined 40/- in default two months.


Hertfordshire Express, 22 October 1870

Serious accident

A wheelwright named Daniel Wren (married, 30) of Breachwood Green met with a sad accident at Preston between five and six o’clock last Saturday. He was driving a trap in which were a young woman and child besides himself from Hitchin intending to go to Whitwell but somehow he got out of his road and got upset just outside the gates of Temple Dinsley. All three were thrown out and the cart was much broken. The woman and child escaped with a shaking and some bruises but a deep gash was cut into Wren’s forehead and he was very badly hurt. PC Farr, who lives near, gave prompt assistance and having got Wren into the cart, drove him, home. The poor fellow is attended by Dr Phillips but his condition is still dangerous. (Happily, he was still alive and noted in the 1871 census)


Hertfordshire Express, 15 October 1870

Threatening Language

John Sharpe who has been in the employ of Mr Weeks of Preston was brought up for using threatening language towards his employer. Mr Weeks deposed that on the 4 October he and a carpenter were on top of a building; he called out to the defendant several times to bring him some mortar when at last he turned upon him and said, ‘You had better come down and fetch it yourself, you old b------!’. The defendant afterwards abused Mr Weeks and said he would like to twist his head. The complainant asked that he might find surety to keep the peace. The Bench thought Mr Weeks need not fear any violence from the defendant and dismissed him on his promise to beg Mr Weeks pardon and not to offend in like manner again.


Hertfordshire Express, 1 October 1870

Riding Asleep

Alfred Cain in the employ of Mr Franklin of Stagenhoe Bottom was fined five shillings for riding asleep in a wagon drawn by two horses on the road leading from Pauls Walden to Preston on 21 September. PC Farr proved the case.

In Search of Conies

John Ward, an old man, was charged with being in search of conies on land in occupation of FP Delme Radcliffe on 19 September. PC Farr said that at about half-past twelve o’clock on 19 September he was in Wain Wood when he saw the defendant on his hands and knees poking a small stick in a rabbit’s hole. The stick broke and he then got another one and again dug at the hole. He asked him what he was after and he said he was after a few nuts and asked the witness to say nothing about it. Westwood the keeper stated that he had turned the defendant out of the wood the day before. Defendant denied putting the stick into the rabbit’s hole and said he intended to go into the Workhouse. Fined 10/-, in default seven days.


Hertfordshire Express, 24 September 1870

A letter sent by Mr Weeks has already been noted on the Preston History website. On 20 September he sent a second missive to the Hertfordshire Express along similar lines appealing to the well-to-do in the neighbourhood of Hitchin for contributions. He suggested the formation of a committee to receive donations and offered a first subscription of £10.


Hertfordshire Express, 27 August 1870

Very Suspicious

James Jenkins of Preston was charged under the Poaching Prevention Act. PC Farr said on Sunday morning, 14 August, at about ten minutes to one, he saw a man under a hedge in a lane in the parish of Preston; he noticed him pull off his coat; he went to the man who turned out to be Jenkins and asked him what he did there? He had concealed a gun, taken to pieces and had in different pockets, powder and shot; he said he borrowed the gun from a man called Jeeves; he denied at first that he was going poaching but afterwards admitted that he was, and begged the constable to say nothing about it. Defendant in answer to the charge said he borrowed the gun to go rat hunting and was then going to take the gun home. As the defendant bore a good character and was not a regular poacher, they would withdraw the charge on his paying half the coats, rather than send him to gaol. Defendant paid 10/- - half the costs.


Hertfordshire Express, 30 July 1870

On Monday morning a fire occurred at Preston consuming some buildings occupied by Mr Westwood in the service of Mr Delme Radcliffe. The occupier saw a weasel on top of a shed which was roofed with faggots; he fetched out his gun and shot at the weasel but the paper wad from the gun went blazing among the wood and set it on fire. There being plenty of wind but no water, the fire spread rapidly and burnt all the buildings related to the dwelling house which was saved with difficulty after the furniture had been got out. PC Farr and some neighbours rendered every possible assistance. There being no water, it was considered useless to send for the engine. A quantity of implements, tools and other articles were destroyed with the buildings, but no live stock. The property was insured with Mr Shillcock in the Sun Fire Office.


Hertfordshire Express, 23 July 1870

Stealing Manure

Alfred Fairey of Preston for whom a warrant was issued last week, was brought up charged with stealing manure, the property of Mr Wm Brown, farmer, Preston. From the evidence it appeared that Mr Brown’s son was walking over a field belonging to his father when he saw the defendant collecting manure which was lying about the field; he had nearly two bushels of manure. Defendant said he only took about half a bushel and that was to make up two bushels to get him a loaf. As the defendant is a well-known character, he was sent to the House of Correction for 14 days.


Hertfordshire Express, 2 July 1870

Garden Party at Temple Dinsley

A brilliant and highly-successful garden party took place on Thursday on the lawn and in the beautiful grounds of Temple Dinsley which had been put at the disposal of a committee of gentlemen by Mr John Weeks, the present occupier. That gentleman and Mrs Weeks, assisted by other friends, had made elaborate preparations for the entertainment of the party which numbered about 150. The afternoon was spent in croquet; archery, skittles, quoits and other amusements with occasional dances on the velvet lawn. Later on, a ball took place in a magnificent tent which Mr Weeks had caused to be erected for the occasion in front of the house and which was replete with every accommodation; here tea and supper were served, the supply of provisions being extremely bountiful and all excellent. The tent and grounds besides being tastefully decorated with flowers and shrubs were lighted up at night with many hundreds of variegated lamps and Chinese lanterns imparting a fairy-like aspect to the animated scene. After supper, the health of Mr and Mrs Weeks was enthusiastically drunk on the proposition of Mr Whitbread Roberts and everyone appeared delighted with the party, the pleasures of which were prolonged without flagging until long after the day had dawned yesterday morning


Shocking death of a child

On Wednesday evening at the Chequers Inn, Preston, an inquest was held by R R Shillitoe, deputy county coroner on the body of Nicholas Frederick Darvell, child under two years old. Fanny Harradine deposed: ‘I am nursemaid to MrToke, Temple Farm, Preston and on Monday evening last, about seven o’clock, I took the deceased upstairs to bath him according to custom; set him on the floor with the tube of his feeding bottle in his hand; drew a pint of boiling water from the boiler into a tin pot which I took up with me and set it on the washing stand; I went to the crib to get his night gown, heard him move and on looking round saw his hand on the tin pot which he pulled over before I could get to him; he screamed and I called and began to pull off his clothes; he ran into the next room where several people came and helped undress him and saw he was scalded on the face and chest. Medical help was sent for; he seemed in great pain all night and died about nine o’clock on Tuesday morning’. Elizabeth Beech, kitchen maid, deposed that on hearing the child scream she ran to his assistance and helped provide the remedies provided. Mr Phillips, surgeon, of Whitwell, who attended the case in the place of Mr Shillitoe proved that every possible remedy was promptly applied but the child died from the effects of the scolds. A verdict of accidental death was returned. It should be explained that Mrs Toke was only just recovering from a recent confinement when the distressing accident occurred which has excited much sympathy.


Hertfordshire Express, 18 June 1870

The Hitchin Poor Law Board met and... suggested that the hamlets of Walsworth, Preston and Langley should have one each. Thereupon it was mentioned that last year a guardian for Preston and Langley was appointed but seldom attended the meetings. However, a resolution for new guardians was defeated 9 to 2.


Hertfordshire Express, 14 May 1870

Stealing Turnip Tops

Alfred Fairey, labourer of Preston, was brought up under warrant, charged with stealing some turnip tops, the property of Mr B Hill, farmer of Preston on 23 instant. Mr Hill stated that he caught the defendant in one of his fields between seven and eight o’clock on the night of Saturday 23 April. He had a sack in which he had about a bushel of turnip tops which were worth about sixpence. Defendant said other people got them and he didn’t know he was doing wrong. As several previous convictions were proved against the prisoner, he was sent to gaol for three weeks with hard labour.


Hertfordshire Express, 16 April 1870

Last Saturday a fire broke out on the farm of Mr B Hill at Preston about four miles from Hitchin and a large amount of damage was done. Nearby is the farm occupied by Mr Kirkby where a fire took place recently.... The first man Mr Hill saw was Alfred Fairey who acted in a strange manner and who is now in custody under suspicion of having caused the fire....several members of the volunteer brigade (at Hitchin) were ready and they started off and reached the place by half-past twelve but the chief mischief was then done. There was a strong wind blowing and the fire raged with great fury. Some cows were got out but two horses, a pony a calf and poultry were burned to death. About 20 ducks were in the granary and were saved. The buildings were thatched; there was great danger that lumps of burning thatch would set alight the adjacent cottages and portions of the burned straw were found next morning in Ippollitts churchyard, four miles away. The homestead had a narrow escape for the flames were wafted  within three yards of the walls and the windows and doors were blistered and scorched by the heat. Before the engine arrived numerous persons arrived and some of them with more zeal than discretion began to throw the furniture out of Mr Hill’s house. Considerable damage was thus done and one man was badly hurt under a chest-with-drawers. The fire engine was kept at work for about seven hours and emptied two ponds of water but it was chiefly of use in saving the surrounding property from destruction as the whole range of buildings was a blazing ruin before it could arrive. A large quantity of oats, peas, meal and other stock were consumed and all together the loss probably amounts to £500. The farm belongs to Mr Hill who was insured with the Sun Office....the opinion is very strongly held that the fire was not accidental.


Hertfordshire Express, 23 April 1870

The Fire at Preston

Alfred Fairey of Preston, who was remanded last week on the charge of setting fire to the premises belonging to Mr B Hill, farmer of Preston on 9 inst was again brought up. Mr Hill who was still very unwell and was allowed to sit during the time he gave his evidence said that on Saturday night, the 9th inst, he had been to bed about three hours when his wife awoke and discovered the barns were on fire. He hastily dressed and ran to his barn to let the horses out. He could not do that and left the yard and shouted, ‘Fire’ but nobody answered. He returned and then he saw the defendant who took hold of him and pulled him about and said, ‘You b****y fool, you’ll get burnt’. Prisoner had worked for the prosecutor some time ago, prosecuted him about two years ago for breaking into my hen house; he then told him not to come on my premises again. (The prisoner’s friends had given different accounts about him as to time.)This was all the evidence and as it was insufficient for a conviction, defendant was discharged and told that he was liable to be brought up at any time on the charge.


Hertfordshire Express, 20 November 1869

John Jeeves, a carrier of Preston, was sued by Mr WH Darton nominally for 15/- rent but really to regain possession of a cottage which has been inhabited by the defendant’s family for 50 years. Mr GC Wade appeared for the defendant who owns the property and who deposed that he inherited it at the death of his mother. He produced a tenancy agreement signed by the defendant who had paid rent up to 29 September this year and who received notice at Midsummer to quit. (Jeeves was represented by John Carter, an innkeeper of Ley Green who irritated the judge and amused the court) The judge on examining the agreement said by its terms the tenancy might be put an end to any quarter day. Mr Darton was entitled to all the privileges of a landlord but as a gentleman would no doubt exercise his powers with due consideration. Ultimately, Mr Darton consented that the time for quitting should be enlarged to 30 days.


Hertfordshire Express, 23 October 1869

Stealing Wheat at Preston

William Andrews and Richard Crawley, labourers of Preston, were charged with stealing on 1 October six pecks of wheat the property of their master, Samuel Kirkby, Eastwick Hall, Preston. Crawley pleaded guilty and was ordered to stand down.

James Kirkby, ‘I am the son of the prosecutor living at Eastwick. On Friday 1 October, I saw (Elijah) Peters bring an empty sack and take it across the yard. I followed him into the stable and found an empty sack. I turned the sack inside-out and found a few grains of white wheat and some chaff. I can swear that it was the same sort of wheat as that laying in our barns – I knew it by the chaff. One bar of the threshing machine was wide and allowed some chaff to go through with the wheat. I then went and told PC Pearse and went with him to Crawley’s cottage and there found a quantity of wheat in his bedroom like that I found in the sack.’

William Harrington, ‘I am a labourer in the employ of Mr Kirkby. On 30 September, Crawley came to me and said, ‘What say you, mate, to have half a bushel of wheat each to mix with our old woman’s gleaning corn?’ I said, ‘No, mate – and I should advise you not to. There are too many eyes about’. After I got home on 1 October, I saw Andrews going by with a sack and Crawley with him. They went into Crawley’s house which is next door. Next morning I told the master.

Elijah Peters, ‘I work at Mr Kirkby’s and lodge with Andrews and Crawley. On 1 October, Andrews told me to take a sack back to the farm and put it in the stable. I do not know if the sack produced is the one.

Richard Crawley was called for the defence and stated that he went home with Andrews on the night of 30 September and did not see him take anything but two old besoms. He was positive he did not take any wheat.

The jury after a few minutes deliberation acquitted the prisoner. Crawley was then called up to receive his sentence and was committed to two month’s hard labour.


Hertfordshire Express, 25 September 1869

Preston Baptist Chapel

The anniversary services in connection with the Baptist Chapel at Preston took place on Thursday 16 inst. At three o’clock in the afternoon, a sermon was preached in Bunyan’s Dell in Wain Wood (which was kindly lent for the occasion by Mr FPD Radcliffe) by Rev J Aldis of Hitchin....A tea was enjoyed in the Chapel of which 150 persons partook and in the evening a meeting was held at which the village preachers spoke.



News reports featuring Preston are an invaluable source for understanding village life in the nineteenth century. This latest collection provides insight into the quality of education in Preston before 1870; the appearance of the gardens of Temple Dinsley and the quality of water that the local folk drank before the well on Preston Green was sunk.  There is also the sad tale of a tot who was scalded to death and other snippets of local and family history.