Stamper who stole postal order confessed his crime to the landlord of the Prince Arthur pub
At the Lancaster Summer Assizes of August 1860 John Ashton, a stamper employed at the Preston Post Office, appeared in the dock accused of stealing a letter and a post office order for £4 the property of the Postmaster General in early March.
That Saturday morning only the clerk William Marsden and the accused were on duty in the post office.
The first witness George Troughton, a Preston butcher, testified that he had purchased the money order, put it in an envelope, sealed it up and placed it in the post box.
The letter should have been received in Manchester on the following Monday, but wasn’t.
In fact, on the Tuesday afternoon the post office order was presented in the Manchester post office and was paid out.
The court heard that on the same day the accused asked for leave from midday as he had to meet some friends.
And that he did not return until late Thursday, saying he had been drinking and then gone to Bury to meet an old sweetheart, consequently he was suspended from duty.
Finlay Ringland, a police inspector, stated that he had arrested Ashton at his lodgings and that when charged with the theft he had denied it. Sarah Bailey was called to the court from her home in Bury and stated that whilst in the past Ashton had made addresses to her, she had not set eyes on him for over 18 months.
Ruth Buck who was living at the Prince Arthur Inn on Moor Lane and acquainted with Ashton testified that he had visited her to try and get her to go to Manchester with him, and that he had returned on the Friday and told her he had given his mother £2.
Samuel Collinson, the keeper of the Prince Arthur, testified that Ashton had visited him on Easter Sunday and had confessed to taking a money order and getting it cashed in Manchester, and that as Ruth Buck knew about it he was thinking of marrying her to silence her.
However, the following morning he had asked him not to speak of his confession, as he had just been rambling.
The jury took sometime over their deliberations and arrived back in court at six o’clock that evening with a guilty verdict. His Lordship Baron Martin informed Ashton that as it was a late hour he would be sentenced in the morning.
The following morning His Lordship told Ashton it was a very serious breach of trust and that there was a fixed punishment for stealing from the Postmaster General, and that was a sentence of Penal Servitude for four years.