Man jailed after Preston pub row led to two men being stabbed

Local historian Keith Johnson looks back at a double stabbing that was sparked by a quarrel in a pub...

By Henry Widdas, Communities Content Page Manager
Friday, 28th January 2022, 9:38 pm
Updated Friday, 28th January 2022, 9:40 pm
The ‘Lady Of The Lake’ steamer launched on Windermere in 1845
The ‘Lady Of The Lake’ steamer launched on Windermere in 1845

There was in Preston in the mid-19th century a public house carrying the grand title of ‘The Lady Of The Lake’. It stood on what we now know as Tithebarn Street and the old Preston Fire Brigade Station built in 1852 stood alongside it briefly, prior to the inn’s demolition.

The public house made the headlines early in January 1853 after a Saturday night stabbing incident. On the second Monday of the month William Walker, an Irishman, described in court as a surly looking fellow, who toured the county with his fairground shooting gallery, appeared in the dock at the Town Hall police court accused of stabbing two men, namely John Johnson and Thomas Catterall on the previous Saturday.

The court heard that Johnson was unable to appear due to the severity of his wounds and Catterall appeared for the prosecution.

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He testified that he was in the public house and had seen the accused pull out a knife and run it into Johnson’s side after his victim had been quarreling with a friend of Walker’s.

According to Catterall when he tried to intervene Walker had responded by thrusting his knife towards him and prodded him in the side as he tried to wrestle the knife from his grasp.

Fortunately, the weapon was deflected by his hip bone and caused little harm to him.Clearly Walker was in an agitated state and it took the timely arrival of P.C. Martin to calm him down and take the weapon from him. After arranging for Dr. Spencer to attend to Johnson, the officer escorted Walker to the police station where according to the officer he admitted the stabbing.

The evidence was enough for the magistrates to commit the accused to the next Liverpool Assizes held in late February 1853. Walker appeared in the Crown Court before Mr. Justice Cresswell charged with feloniously stabbing Johnson with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

John Johnson, described as a broom maker, was called by Mr. Assheton Cross for the prosecution. He testified that he had been in the inn with his little boy when the accused took objection to his remarks to a fellow Irishman. According to Johnson the accused, who was clearly intoxicated, pulled out a knife and stabbed at him and as he fell backwards over a table he lunged at him again.

Dr. Spencer told the court that he had found two wounds when he examined Johnson. One was three inches long just below the liver and the other was on his left arm and he was under his care for three weeks.

Mr. Blair, who was defending the accused, called Isabella Rutherford as a witness and she claimed that Johnson had been up for a fight when he arrived at the inn and that he had been calling Walker names and referring to him as rowdy Irishman.

William Platt was next to testify and he claimed that it was Johnson who incited the trouble and struck the first blow and that Walker had a bruised shin bone and a mark on his face after the fracas.

After a lengthy summing up of the conflicting evidence His Lordship sent the jury out and after a brief deliberation they returned with a guilty verdict. Mr Justice Cresswell then informed the prisoner that he was sentenced to six months imprisonment in the House of Correction at Preston.

The name ‘Lady Of The Lake’ is associated with the legends of King Arthur and perhaps Mr. Atkinson, an early landlord of the inn, who also owned a mare named ‘Lady Of The Lake’ that participated in local race meetings including the Lancaster races with limited success, was inspired by the legend.

Just like the ‘Lady Of The Lake’ steamer launched on Windermere in 1845 that predated the Ullswater steamer ‘My Lady Of The Lake’ that was launched in 1877, converted to diesel in 1936 and is still going strong.