Troubled times for Preston pub with thefts and woman’s sad death

Local historian Keith Johnson looks back to the turbulent history of a popular watering hole in Preston...

Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 3:45 pm
The Lamb Hotel circa 1965
The Lamb Hotel circa 1965

In mid-March 1881 at the Preston police court local lawyer William Blackhurst appeared for the prosecution as Thomas Cox, aged 40, was charged on remand with stealing on the previous Thursday 10 shillings in cash from the bar drawer of the Lamb Hotel on Church Street.

He told the court that on the Thursday afternoon the prisoner went into the hotel and asked landlord Thomas Bonney, who was on his way into the cellar, to lend him a shilling.

The request was refused by both himself and his daughter Alice who was working behind the bar.

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According to Mr. Blackhurst a few minutes later Alice left the vault bar for a short time and when she returned she saw the accused leaning over the bar counter with his hand in the money drawer. The incident prompted her to call her mother Ellen Bonney who checking the till reckoned that at least 10 shillings were missing.

Cox denied taking any money and while a couple of regulars prevented him from leaving the premises the landlord called for the police and P. C. Woodcock was soon in attendance.

Despite his denials Cox was taken to the Earl Street police station and when his pockets were searched he was found to have four shillings and a handful of copper in his possession.

After much discuss by the magistrates the chairman James Hibbert, the Mayor of Preston, informed Cox that being aware of his previous convictions at the Manchester Assizes he would be remanded in custody to appear at the forthcoming Preston Sessions.

Within days the Lamb Hotel was at the centre of another incident that led to an inquest in late March following the death of widow Ann Green. Amongst the witnesses called was Annie Bonney, a niece of the landlord Thomas Bonney, who told the gathering that the woman had called on the previous Tuesday afternoon and asked for 3 shillings worth of brandy in her jug.

She received a sovereign from the woman and went to get her the change. When she returned to the bar parlour the woman had the jug to her mouth and she took it from her, with barely a spoonful left in the bottom. The woman who was sat in a chair soon became unconscious and she lifted her on to a sofa.

Shortly afterwards the landlord returned from an errand and immediately sent for Dr. Hart who arranged for her to be taken to her Back Newton Street home. That night he visited her three times, applying a stomach pump on the first occasion. According to Dr. Hart death was due to congestion of the brain.

Her son, Thomas Green, told the inquest his mother was 66 years old and had been a temperate woman, but had been poorly since Christmas, taking brandy on a number of occasions.

He had left his wife with her overnight and had been called to her home early on Wednesday morning, she having died during her slumbers. The jury after directions from coroner W.

Gilbertson returned a verdict that she had died from the effects of the brandy, not being in a proper state of mind at the time.

The Bonney family were next in attendance at the Preston Sessions, held at the Court House adjoining the Preston prison, in early April where Cox was found guilty by the jury of the theft from the Lamb Hotel.

Before sentencing him it was stated that he was an experienced offender, known by several aliases. The chairman W. H. Higgins QC then informed the prisoner that he was sentenced to seven years penal servitude with a further seven years under police supervision.

The Lamb Hotel was until 1874 called the Holy Lamb, it was closed in 1999 ending an era when it had been a popular venue for folk music and it was converted to student apartments.