Preston boy who stole newspapers sentenced to 12 strokes of the birch

Amongst those up before the Mayor Joseph Bithnell Hallmark and a bench of magistrates at the Preston Police Court in mid May 1879 was Thomas Threlfall, aged 12. He was charged with stealing forty newspapers the property of William Dobson, stationer of Fishergate.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 3:53 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 11:39 am
A policeman's duty included birching
A policeman's duty included birching

Mr J.S. Clinning, manager of the shop, confirmed that the 'Manchester Courier' newspapers produced in court had been part of a consignment due from Preston railway station on the previous Monday. They were valued at over 3 shillings and they had arrived in a bundle marked with their intended destination.

From information he received he went to the shop of Mr. Ward, a newsagent on Friargate, where he saw the accused with the newspapers addressed to Mr. Dobson. Threlfall telling him that he had been told by another boy in the employ of Messrs. Barratt & Parkinson, stationers, of Church Street to go and take them.

Next to be called was Albert Ward, a young lad, and son of Mr. Ward who stated that at six o'clock on the Monday morning he had seen the accused at the station, and asked him what he was looking for. The accused replying that he was just collecting papers and a few minutes later he saw him heading out of the station with a bundle of newspapers under his arm. He then alerted his brother Thomas who ran after the accused and told him the papers belonged to Mr. Dobson, but the prisoner insisted that he had been asked to collect. Police Sergeant Dugdale then told the magistrates he had been called to the Friargate newsagents shop where the lad had confessed to taking the newspapers.

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Mr. Hankin, the school attendance officer, was next to give evidence and he stated that the lad was a bad character, whose father had been fined three times for not keeping him at school. His father, who was in attendance, responded by saying his son was quite unmanageable at times.

The magistrates then retired for a brief discussion and when they returned Mayor Hallmark stated that they had found the accused guilty. The sentence being twelve strokes with the birch rod administered by D.S. Charnley at the Preston police station. He then warned his father that that he had better look after his son because next time he was brought to court he would be sent to prison, and then on to a reformatory.

The 'Manchester Courier' was a daily newspaper founded in 1825 and was published up until 1916. The popularity of newspapers in Preston was ever increasing in the 1870s with the Preston Chronicle, Preston Pilot, Preston Guardian and the Preston Herald all being published once or twice weekly. In 1870 George Toulmin had made a serious bid for the daily market with the introduction of the Preston Evening News, but that paper faltered after a few months. Undeterred, George Toulmin & Sons gave it another go in 1886 when they published for the first time the Lancashire Evening Post, our Lancashire Post of today.

Keith Johnson