A stolen horse and cart takes a trip to the seaside but ultimately conveys three miscreants to six months hard labour.
At the Preston Cemetery, opened in July, 1855, there were resident sextons in the Cemetery Lodges employed to attend to the needs of the Roman Catholic and Church of England burials of the town.
In August 1866 one such was Mr George Rogerson, who combined his duties there with the maintenance of Church of England grounds throughout the town.
On the last Tuesday afternoon of the month, he travelled in his horse and Whitechapel cart to the church of St Saviour’s, at the corner of Leeming Street (later Manchester Road) and Queen Street, to attend to some matter.
Leaving his conveyance outside the church, he was much surprised upon his return to see it in the distance being driven off.
John Booth, a shopkeeper, who lived opposite the church, had seen three men take possession of the conveyance.
He told Mr Rogerson that he recognised all three of the men, naming them as Richard Dimmock, Robert Ball and Joseph Gillespie.
The police were at once informed with the suspected culprits names and Chief Constable James Dunn issued a county-wide alert.
News was received the following day that three men had been at South Shore, Blackpool, and had offered a horse and conveyance to a local cab driver, called Richard Wright, for £10.
After some haggling, he had agreed to give them £6, but told them to call next morning to collect, handing them 10 shillings as part payment.
Wright had some suspicions about the men and informed a local constable, and he was waiting when two of them returned the next day.
By Thursday afternoon, Dimmock and Ball were in the dock at Preston Police Court accused of the theft of a horse and conveyance – valued at £24 – and were committed for trial at the next Preston Sessions.
At the Michaelmas Quarter Sessions of October, 1866, both the accused were found guilty and sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour.
The whereabouts of their accomplice was still not known, but happily sexton Rogerson and his transport had been reunited.
Eventually, in mid December, Joseph Gillespie, aged 35, returned to town and was observed by PC Watson who promptly arrested him.
He appeared at Preston Police Court accused of the same crime – but denied his involvement.
Nonetheless, PC Watson was called and stated that, on the way to the police station, Gillespie said: “I did it, and I have come to Preston to give myself up.”
Although after being charged, he had replied: “I had nothing to do with it.”
He was remanded until the next Preston Sessions.
At the Epiphany Quarter Sessions of January 1867, the accused pleaded not guilty.
His identification by shopkeeper John Booth and the apparent confession of his guilt to PC Watson seemed conclusive as the jury found him guilty. Chairman Mr T.B. Addison immediately sentenced him to six months imprisonment with hard labour – like his fellow thieves.