Man escapes with warning after attack on Preston landlord caused his death

In 1906 the latest in a long line of landlords at the Red Lion Hotel on Church Street, opened in 1809, was John Robert Brindle. Unfortunately, following an incident on the second Saturday of December 1906 his stewardship would come to a sudden end.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 1:56 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 3:54 pm
Hitchin's was arrested on Church Street
Hitchin's was arrested on Church Street

Late that evening in the front parlour of the inn, where a rowdy crowd were gathered, an argument developed between William Hitchen, horse dealer, and other regulars.

Hitchen who was swearing and cursing got himself into an excitable state and the landlord intervened, telling Hitchen he must leave the parlour.

He was reluctant to depart and the landlord proceeded to push him out into the exit passage.

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Although he succeeded in doing so, Hitchen immediately rushed back in and after a struggle involving other drinkers he regained the room, being pushed onto a seat in the corner besides the door.

He then appeared to bounce up from his sitting position and as he did so he caught the landlord, who was in a stooping position on the chin with his fist and in his stomach with his flaying brown boots.

Brindle was clearly in a distressed state after the altercation and lay on the floor in the parlour.

A messenger went to get Dr. Dunn who arrived within half an hour, by which time the landlord was dead.

Hitchen had immediately left the inn after the incident.

Police Sergeant McGuire who was called to the inn after Brindle's death went at once in search of Hitchen and seeing him on Church Street apprehended him. When told of Brindle's death he replied that it was an accident. Nonetheless on the following Monday he was charged with causing the death at the Preston Borough Police Court and remanded in custody to await the inquest verdict later that day.

Coroner John Parker held the inquest and a key witness was Mrs. Brindle who told the hearing that her husband, aged 52, had been under the care of Dr. Dunn for the last three months, having suffered from breathlessness.

However, she thought in recent days he had been more like his old self having spent weeks without drinking.

She had heard the commotion in the parlour and as she made her way to the room she saw her husband on the floor with blood on his chin, and as she comforted him he said he was done for.

Various witnesses testified as to the scuffle and with regards to Hitchen's aggressive behaviour suggesting that the blows were inflicted on the landlord deliberately.

Alfred Newton, brother in law of the deceased, insisted that Hitchen knew what he was doing and reckoned he had kicked Brindle in the stomach three times.

Dr. Pilkington told the inquest that he had carried out a post mortem that morning and he testified that the only sign of violence was a contused wound on the lower jaw near the chin.

The body generally was loaded with fat, the heart was much enlarged, soft, and flabby in a state of degeneration. In his opinion the excitement and exertion caused faintness, syncope and death.

After a lengthy deliberation the jury returned with a verdict of death from syncope accelerated by Brindle's condition, there not being significant evidence to blame Hitchin's for the death.

The following day Hitchin, aged 25, was brought up at the Preston Police Court and after a brief explanation of the inquest findings by the Mayor William Edward Ord he was discharged with a warning as to his future behaviour.

The old Red Lion public house had a chequered time in the latter part of the twentieth century being closed following drug dealing and deceit. However, this ancient coaching inn put the dark days behind it and has traded under the name of Reflex and more recently Popworld.