Seven years’ hard labour for Preston pub thief

Thieves struck at the Black Bull on Friargate
Thieves struck at the Black Bull on Friargate
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Local historian Keith Johnson takes a look at a thief who got seven years’ hard labour for a pub break-in..

On the third Thursday of July 1871 John Taylor, aged 48, the landlord of the Black Bull Inn on Friargate, retired to bed shortly before midnight. Before doing so he secured all the doors and windows.

As was his custom, he examined the bar, and placed on a shelf under the beer casks about 17 shillings in pennies. In the bar drawer, that he locked, were a few shillings and coppers, and in a box close by he put two bundles of cigars worth about 10 shillings.

When he woke at about six-thirty in the morning the door at the bottom of the stairs was jammed shut and had to be forced open. Once down stairs it was apparent that intruders had been at work with a window in the back door broken, the bar drawer empty of cash, the collection of penny coins missing and the boxed cigars gone.

Investigations led to Joseph Scott and John Dagger appearing at the Preston police court accused of burglariously entering the Black Bull and stealing therein 27 shillings and 104 cigars. Chief Constable James Dunn led the prosecution and he told the court that Scott had been apprehended on the Friday afternoon in Lancaster Road.

And in answer to the charge he had denied it, but then became very violent before detective Carter and other officers had restrained him and taken him to the police station in Earl Street. Upon being searched he had five shillings in silver and two cigars in his pockets.

It was apparent that the intruders had made good their entry by clambering over the back yard wall and traces of material from cord trousers had been left behind that seemed to match Scott’s trousers.

The landlord told of his discovery of the burglary and recalled seeing Scott in the public bar a few days before the theft. Amongst the witnesses was Obediah Dewhurst, a second-hand clothes dealer, living on Lancaster Road.

She told the court that on the Friday morning the prisoner Joseph Scott had visited her shop.

Purchasing from her a pair of trousers, a vest and a cap for 7 shillings, paying for them all with a pile of copper.

Jane Williams, a shopkeeper on North Road told a similar tale that she had sold Scott a pair of clogs for two shillings and been paid in penny coins.

The police having heard of the suspicious transactions linked his associate Dagger with the crime and when detective Carter went to his home to question him he found cigars and almost 7 shillings in copper in his possession. In response to the accusation of burglary he denied it, claiming Scott had asked him to look after them.

The magistrates after a brief discussion remanded both prisoners to await trial at the forthcoming Preston Sessions.

These took place in mid August before Mr. T. B.

Addison at the court house, adjoining the House of Correction.

With both accused found guilty the sentences imposed by Mr. Addison were something of a surprise.

Joseph Scott was told he would go to penal servitude for seven years with his partner in crime John Dagger, who was clearly seen as playing a lesser role, getting a sentence of four months imprisonment.