Local historian Keith Johnson looks at the case of a man who killed himself after a failed attempt to murder his wife...
On the third Friday of September 1904 Arthur Aston, aged 47, landlord of the Old Legs Of Man public house in Preston visited a Fishergate gunsmith’s shop and purchased a six-chamber revolver.
On the same day he went to his solicitor and had his Will changed so that his brother, and not his wife Rachel, became the beneficiary.
The following Tuesday Mrs. Aston went to her friend Mrs. Roberts home in Christ Church Street telling her she had quarreled with her husband. Later that evening Mr. Aston appeared asking for his wife who was reluctant to see him, but eventually he was admitted. At Mr. Aston’s request Mrs. Roberts then went to purchase a bottle of gin, when she returned she was horror stricken to find the couple lying in a pool of blood.
Despite having two bullet wounds to her face Mrs. Aston was conscious and indicated that her husband had shot her. The couple were rushed in a horse drawn ambulance to the hospital where Mr. Aston died hours later, whilst his wife began a slow recovery.
A week after the tragic incident a great crowd of curious onlookers gathered outside the Old Legs of Man to see Mr. Aston’s funeral cortege set off for the Preston Cemetery, with the publican’s three brothers amongst the mourners.
Eventually in early November the inquest, which had previously been adjourned, came to its final conclusion. Mrs. Aston was still in hospital making satisfactory progress and not deemed well enough to attend. At the inquest, before county coroner John Parker, it emerged that the publican had left a farewell note in which he accused her of having a relationship with another man who was a regular in their public house.
The jury were told that the man had been questioned by the police and he denied the affair. There had been hope that the man named as Samuel Elliot Jones would attend the hearing, but when his name was called out there was no response. A couple of witnesses testified as to seeing Mrs. Aston in the company of Jones including Frederick Brown, the landlord of the Withy Trees, who spoke of the couple arriving separately.
Extracts from Mr. Aston’s diary were then read out which recorded the occasions that his wife had been meeting up with Jones and how they had quarreled when he had accused her of the liaisons. Dr. Anderson was called, at the request of the jury, and he stated that Mr. Aston had been taking morphia for sometime and that it could have made him act on impulse.
Although the last time he saw him he seemed mentally capable of transacting any business.
There was little doubt that jealousy was at the heart of the tragedy and that Mr. Aston’s actions had been premeditated. The coroner in summing up reviewed the principle features of the evidence and suggested there was nothing that pointed towards insanity. After a few minutes the jury returned a verdict of ‘felo de se’.
Within weeks the Old Legs of Man license passed into the hands of his brother Frederick Aston. The building was amongst those knocked down in 1930 to make way for the new Manchester & County Bank, later the Nat West Bank and nowadays the Fishers public house.