Missing pig case in Preston resolved when identical animal found

Local historian Keith Johnson isn't telling porkies when he informs about this intriguing case from yesteryear!

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 3:45 pm
The Corporation Arms where the pig was held
The Corporation Arms where the pig was held

The Preston court houses have witnessed many a drama, but rarely have two pigs taken centre stage. However, that was the case on the last Saturday of April 1835 before the Mayor Thomas Troughton and a bench of magistrates at the Town Hall.

Standing in the dock was Josiah Bell to answer a charge that he had forcibly taken away (otherwise stolen) from a pigsty of a woman residing near Bridge Street, a pig, which she swore was her property. To back up the woman’s claim no fewer than twelve witnesses corroborated her testimony relative to the identity of the one year old pig.

On the other hand Bell explained that his pig had a habit of wandering off and that in searching for it he had spotted it in his accuser’s pig sty. Consequently he had quite rightly seized it and returned it to its familiar territory. To support his testimony he then called up eight witnesses who swore that the pig belonged to him.

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Just as the magistrates were considering the next step to take regarding the complicated issue it was announced that a stray pig, answering the description of the one in dispute, had been taken up in the street, and was being retained at the Corporation Arms in Lune Street, until claimed by the rightful owner. The magistrates immediately despatched the complaint and the accused, with all their entourage of witnesses, to see the stray porker.

When the court hearing resumed later in the day it was stated that to the astonishment of the woman and her friends that had inspected the stray pig that it was identical to the grunter she had bred and nurtured these past twelve months.

Matters were then further resolved when a servant girl employed by the woman testified that one day in the previous week the pig had strayed from its sty. Subsequently she had gone in search of it, without mentioning the fact, and had found a pig at large which she took to be the same, and drove it into the sty. She then stated that she now realised its was the defendant’s animal.

The Mayor then explained that the similarity of the two animals was so great, that few judges could distinguish them apart.

However, as one pig was a year old, and the other two, an inspection of their tusks had resolved their respective identities beyond doubt. He then proceeded to dismiss the case reflecting on the fact that such a case of mistaken identity could well have led to a man being unjustly tried and punished.

He concluded by telling Bell that as for his desire to bring a prosecution against the woman, unless he was recompensed for the false accusations, was not a matter he could deal with and strongly advised against such an action.

The woman was pleased to be reunited with her porker and grateful that it had not ended up in the wrong hands and been sold on the Saturday pig market.

The Corporation Arms dated back to c1812 and was visited by generations of local folk who attended functions at the nearby Public Hall. It was closed in 1967 and was swept away along with a number of shop premises as the new Ring Road development cut through the area at the bottom of Lune Street.