Daniel Winch (aged 48, a labourer living at Preston) was placed before the Bench charged on suspicion of setting fire to a wheat stack at Stagenhoe Bottom farm on Saturday night last. No evidence was offered and Winch was told to attend at the Stevenage Bench on Thursday the 12th instant which he promised to do. (April 1860) FIRE AT PRESTON. About a quarter to twelve on Saturday night, some of the inhabitants of Hitchin were aroused from their beds by hearing the cries of, “Fire!” in the streets and by seeing the illumination of what appeared to be a large conflagration but a short distance from town. Men who had just turned out of the public houses and a few of the more respectable people were hurrying with excitement towards the engine house. Two or three of the firemen in uniform were calling their comrades when a mounted messenger arrived bearing the news that Mr Benjamin Hill’s farm buildings (at Pond Farm) were on fire. Four horses were attached to one of the engines and the whole brigade mounted and they were soon upon the scene of the calamity, but the homestead which consisted of wood and thatched buildings had fallen to the devouring flames. As the wind was blowing towards the house and the granary at its side, the water was applied to what remained of the building and so all danger as to the house catching fire was prevented. The rest of the time, till seven o’clock, was employed pulling down burning ricks and playing on the embers. A quantity of oats and straw was consumed, two valuable cart horses and a pony were burnt, some fowls and ducks were rescued from underneath the granary after the arrival of the engine. A lot of the furniture from the house was damaged by hasty removal and nearly all the farm implements were destroyed. A man named Robert Farr was apprehended on suspicion of having caused the fire and was brought before the Hitchin Bench last Tuesday and was remanded a week for further evidence. (April 1870) ARSON. A young man named Robert Farr was charged on his own confession with having on 23rd of October set fire to some ricks belonging to Mr Hill of Hitchin. Inspector Young said, he heard that the prisoner had made a confession and on Tuesday morning last, he went to Luton and received the prisoner from the police there. He charged him with the offence and he did not deny it. He said, “he saw the ricks and thought he would set fire to them”. The Inspector applied that the prisoner might be remanded for a week. The Magistrates granted the request. (January 1872) At a later hearing, His Lordship in sentencing the prisoner said: “You are one of those incorrigible persons who will not take a warning. You have already been convicted of the offences and sentences of various terms of imprisonment have been passed upon you. It becomes therefore my painful duty to pass upon you a still more severe sentence than any you have yet had and I must change the character of the punishment, since it cannot be imprisonment except for a shorter term. I sentence you to seven years’ penal servitude. (March 1872) John Jeeves (aged 49 of Church Road, Preston) and Joshua Palmer (aged 37), both of Preston, were charged with doing wilful damage to some thatching, the property of Mr Pryor, of Preston, on the 3rd inst. Police-constable Day proved the case. Fined 5s each. (December 1872) SETTING FIRE TO A STACK AT PRESTON February 9, 1901 William Andrews (45) labourer, pleaded guilty to an indictment for setting fire to a stack of wheat, the property of Alfred George Piggott at Preston on 31 January. Mr Earle, who prosecuted said that the prisoner had set fire to and destroyed a stack worth £75. (The prisoner was seen near to the stack a little while before the fire broke out. Being charged, he said “I did set fire to it. Don’t know what made me do it”. The prisoner, it seemed, had worked a few days for Mr Piggott a few months ago.) It was only fair to say that had not the prisoner admitted his guilt, there would have been some difficult in tracing the culprit. The police in reply to his Lordship said they knew nothing against the prisoner except that he was discharged from the Army 20 years ago for committing a felony. The learned judge, in passing sentence of 12 months hard labour said he had been guilty of one of the most wicked things he could do. Mr Earle said that it had just come to his knowledge that the prisoner had an accident some two years ago and had been queer in his head ever since. Supt. Reynolds having verified this statement, his Lordship said he must take it into consideration and he should reduce the sentence to one of six months hard labour. PENAL SERVITUDE FOR ARSON AT KINGS WALDEN. William Andrews (48) labourer, pleaded guilty to an indictment for maliciously setting fire to four stacks of corn and straw the property of Agnes Titmuss, and there was a similar charge against him in relation to four other stacks of corn belonging to William Taylor – the total value of the property destroyed being £950 – at Kings Walden on April 30th. Mr F. Fulton who appeared for the prosecution drew the attention of the judge to the serious nature of the prisoner’s offence. His Lordship asked if anything was known about his previous convictions for a similar offence? Supt. J Reynolds stated that the prisoner was sentenced to 12 months’ hard labour for his previous offence but that it was afterwards reduced to six months on account of an injury to his head. (4 July 1903) His Lordship: What was the value of the property destroyed in that case? Sup Reynolds: £70. His Lordship, addressing the prisoner, said he always sent a man to penal servitude in cases of this kind when there was a previous conviction for a similar offence. The prisoner must go to penal servitude for five years. The prisoner stood motionless in the dock, apparently not realising the sentence passed upon him. His Lordship at once ordered his dismissal. Hertfordshire Mercury 24 June 1871 Alfred Fairey (born 1849, son of Samuel and Elizabeth), a labourer of Preston was charged on the evidence of Police constable Farr with wilfully damaging some growing trees at Kings Walden, the property of CC Hale Esq. Defendant did not appear and was fined in his absence with 17/6 including costs. Hertfordshire Mercury 23 April 1870 Alfred Fairey a labourer of Preston was brought up on a remand charge of setting fire to the farm buildings of Mr Benjamin Hill of Preston on the night of 9 April. The evidence not being conclusive, prisoner was discharged. Luton Times 24 November 1899 Charge of Arson At Hitchin Petty Sessions last Tuesday, George Rowley, a Luton labourer was charged with maliciously setting fire to a stack at Preston, the property of Alfred George Pigott, farmer, doing damage to the extent of £80. Police constable Warboys said that on Tuesday 7 November the prisoner came to him at the police station at Hitchin and made a statement after being cautioned. He said, ‘I was at Preston last night and went into the public house on the Green at 8 o’clock. I stopped there til 9 then went out. I then went along the road into a field and down by the side of some stacks. I lay down beside a wheat stack. After a while I struck a match and lit my pipe. I threw the match down and soon after I saw the stack was on fire. I tried to put it out, but could not, so I went away. I did not do it on purpose; it was an accident’. On being searched, four matches, two pipes and some tobacco were found in his possession. Mr Pigott said that on 6 November, he had four stacks – two of wheat and two of oats – standing in an 8-acre field adjoining the road from Preston to Hitchin. About half past three on the morning of 7 November he was called out of bed by Police constable Noble and found one of the wheat stacks well alight. It seemed to have been burning about three-quarters of an hour. The wind was blowing away from the other stacks and they did not catch fire. The stack he found on fire was completely destroyed. It was insured. He did not see the prisoner who was a stranger. The stack was very wet, there having been a lot of rain. The prisoner was discharged being insufficient evidence to charge him. 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. Alleged damage to thatch John Jeeves and Joshua Palmer were charged with wilfully damaging thatch, the property of Major Henry Pryor at Preston on 3 February. PC Day stated that he had watched the thatched roof in question owing to the damage that had been done to it. He saw the defendant Jeeves pulling the thatch off; and took some from each of them. Palmer only had a handful. Palmer now said the wind had blown the thatch off the roof and he had picked up a bit. There was not much thatch on the roof for anyone. Jeeves also excused his possession of the few handfuls of thatch produced. The Chairman said it appeared that the defendants had not done the prosecutor much injury but as a awarning they must both pay 5s each including costs. 17 February 1877 WILLFUL DAMAGE AT SOOTFIELD GREEN Frank Tomlin, Stanley Tomlin and George Taylor, young men of Hitchin, were charged with wilful damage to windows at Preston to the value of £2 on 10 April (ed. A Sunday). Florence Wray said that while she and her brother were bird-keeping (ie scaring) on that date she saw the defendants and asked them the time. She then saw them go on towards two empty houses at the windows of which they threw stones breaking 26 panes. The agent for the owner, Mr Squires, said all the panes were broken recently and he hoped the Bench would make an example of the defendants who admitted throwing one stone each as this was not the first time damage had been done to the property. Funded 10/- each including costs 22 April 1904 George Reeves of Preston fined 3/- and 7/- costs for damaging a fence by cutting a quantity of growing wood, the property of Mr Pigott on the 6 December 12 December 1880
A History of Preston in Hertfordshire
Preston in the news:
Arson and damage to property