Young Preston sheep thief who sold the stolen livestock gets two years in jail

At the Preston Intermediate Sessions of mid August 1868, before the chairman Mr. T.B. Addison, William Smith Wintour, a 21 year old,was indicted for stealing at Fulwood, Preston, in mid July six sheep, which were the property of Peter Grime.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 21st April 2022, 4:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st April 2022, 6:02 pm
Gangs of prisoner would be sent out for physical duties
Gangs of prisoner would be sent out for physical duties

Barrister John Addison led the prosecution on behalf of Mr. Grime, a Preston butcher.

Mr Addison stated that earlier in the day the prosecutor had bought the animals at the Preston cattle market, opened in October 1867, at the north end of Brook Street.

And early that evening he drove them to a field at Fulwood.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

It was not uncommon on the regular Thursday sale at the venue to see over 2,000 sheep and around 150 cattle up for sale.

On the way to Fulwood, Wintour, approached the prosecutor and offered to assist him.

But Mr. Grime declined the invitation although the accused continued to walk the road with him.

And the pair shared a glass of beer as they went along.

He bade the stranger farewell as he approached the field.

And he left the sheep safely secured and grazing within the enclosure and went home.

That same night the prisoner was observed driving some sheep on the highway towards Penwortham by P.C. Noblett.

The police constable enquired as to where Wintour had got the sheep.

And the accused stated that they belonged to a man called Abraham Mitchell who had engaged him to take them to the Golden Ball at Longton.

For this service he claimed he was to receive two shillings.

He told the officer that he was willing to go to Mr. Mitchell his hirer to prove the truth.

His explanation convinced P.C. Noblett that he was telling the truth.

And so he was allowed to continue on hus way with the sheep.

Further evidence submitted showed that he had in fact taken the sheep to Tarleton.

And while there he sold them the next day for £8 to a man called Harrison.

Mr. Grime had readily identified the sheep as his and despite his denials Wintour had been committed for trial.

The jury took little time in returning with a guilty verdict.

And Mr. T.B. Addison, taking into account his previous convictions, sentenced Wintour to two years imprisonment for an offence that back in April 1803 had seen George Short hang at Lancaster Castle alongside three men convicted of burglary.

The Capital Punishment option for horse or sheep stealing only being abolished in 1827.

Unfortunately, the spell in prison had not deterred Wintour from a life of crime and in late November 1871 he was once more before Mr. T.B. Addison at the Preston Sessions.

On that occasion he was found guilty by the jury of stealing 20lbs of suet from the Preston slaughter house, the property of butcher Charles Moore.

Mr. Addison showed no leniency informing him that he was sentenced to seven year’s penal servitude, at the end of which time a period of seven years police supervision would follow.

The imposing of penal servitude meant years of hard physical labour lay ahead. In Preston's House of Correction stone breaking was one of the tasks that occupied the convicts time.

Penal servitude was first introduced in 1853 to replace in many cases transportation across the seas, it was abolished in 1948.