Jury pleads for leniency after finding weaver guilty of rape

Fletcher Road with Peel Mill to the left where they both worked
Fletcher Road with Peel Mill to the left where they both worked
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Local historian Keith Johnson looks back at a mother's ordeal at the hands of a colleague...

At the Preston Police Court on the first Thursday of July 1866 steam loom weaver Roger Wilding, aged 28, described as a tall young fellow appeared before the magistrates and chairman Richard Pedder.

He was accused of committing a rape upon a widow named Ann Hall at her home amongst the terraced houses in Almond Street, off Fletcher Road, on the previous Tuesday night.

Leading the prosecution case was Mr. John Addison who called Mrs. Hall, a mother of three children, to testify. She appeared in court in a weakly state, being accommodated with a seat and was clearly much affected whilst giving her evidence.

Mrs. Hall, who was employed as a weaver in the Peel Mill in Fletcher Road, belonging to John Goodair, knew the accused who worked in the same factory. She stated that on the night in question at about 9 o’clock Wilding and his friend George Bolton had turned up at her home.

After the pair had been there about a quarter of an hour Bolton left and at this point she claimed that Wilding began taking liberties with her and committed the offence complained of.

Stating that she had resisted him as best she could, but was unable to raise the alarm; as she suffers from palpitations of the heart.

She concluded by saying that after he had completed the act he left immediately, and she went to a house in Salter Street to tell her friend Bridget Harrison about her ordeal.

At one point as she gave evidence Mrs. Hall fainted and had to be treated by a doctor before continuing.

Mr. Kay, appearing on behalf of the prisoner, contended that the woman was a consenting party.

The hearing ended with Wilding being remanded in custody and sent for trial to the Lancaster Assizes three weeks later.

Appearing before His Lordship Baron Martin he was accused of feloniously ravishing Ann Hall.

Preston lawyer John Addison appeared for the prosecution and details of the alleged act were recalled once more.

He was defended by Mr. Kay who claimed that Wilding was courting Mrs. Hall and that she had not made known to him that she was adverse to his familiarity.

The jury after a very short consultation returned to court saying they could not agree.

His Lordship telling them to return to their deliberations and after a couple of hours they returned with a guilty verdict, but with a strong recommendation for mercy.

His Lordship then informed Wilding he would go to prison for 18 months, remarking that only the jury’s mercy plea had saved him from a lengthy term of penal servitude.