A Cadley cannonball killed Will

The original Crimean War cannon in Avenham Park (via Preston Digital Archive)
The original Crimean War cannon in Avenham Park (via Preston Digital Archive)
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Patriotic fervour reigned while Preston marked Bonfire Night 1854, and one young man paid the ultimate price

In March 1854 England and France declared war on Russia and so began our involvement in the Crimean War, a conflict that raged until 1856.

Coroner Miles Myres

Coroner Miles Myres

In September 1854 allied troops landed in the Crimea with the intent of capturing Sebastopol, which was defended heroically for more than a year.

There was great concern felt in this country as the war intensified, and on Sunday November 5, 1854, all the churches in Preston, and the nation, took part in common prayers for those involved.

With the Sabbath over plans were made to hold the usual bonfire night activities in the town on the Monday and, from an early hour until late in the evening, the firing was incessant.

Many folk seemed determined to replicate the kind of activity that was occurring in Sebastopol.

Withy Trees

Withy Trees

Cannon, pistol and blunderbuss were all used much too frequently, particularly in the Avenham area, and with a couple of shells crashing through parlour ceilings residents felt like they were in a war zone.

The incautious use of gunpowder led to a number of minor casualties on the streets of the town.

It was a similar tale from the village of Broughton where ruffians had set fire to tar barrels, which they carried up and down the lanes.

Armed with guns a number of them broke many a window pane with their random firing.

The drunken behaviour of some also culminated in the burning down of a cattle shed of a Catholic family.

Sadly, three young men who got caught up in the excitement of the occasion would be involved in a traumatic incident.

That evening the three ventured into the Cadley 
area where they observed some persons firing a cannon in a field.

They went to the spot where they also took a turn at firing the cannon.

It was then moved to another field, and a smaller one used. While the smaller one was being fired William Gardner, aged 19, a power loom weaver, one of the three who had trekked from Preston, was seen to fall.

The others immediately rushed to their fallen companion, but he was dead.

The cannonball had fragmented into four or five pieces with one of them having struck him on the skull.

Such was the intensity of the blast that almost the whole of his head was shot away.

An inquest was held on the following afternoon at the Withy Trees in Fulwood before Coroner Miles Myres.

Having heard details of the tragic event the jury returned a verdict of ‘accidental death’.

Preston like many a town and city received a pair of cannon that were captured during the Crimean War and they were a familiar site on Avenham Park – until they were melted down and used for the war effort in creating munitions for the Second World War.

Two replica cannon now-adays stand in the same spot on Avenham Park.