Local historian Keith Johnson takes a look at brutal raid that saw a licensee set upon twice...
Shortly before midnight on the second Friday of July 1930 Elizabeth Ellen Stephenson, a widow and the licensee of the Pedder’s Arms on Wellfield Road, Preston, locked up the premises and went to bed.
At around 2 o’clock the following morning Mrs. Stephenson was awakened by the loud and prolonged barking of her dog.
She listened, and heard someone trying to quieten the dog.
Switching on the lights and making her way on to the landing she was shocked to see a man rushing upstairs who without comment struck her a violent blow to the head and before she could regain her senses the man bundled her into a bedroom, knocked her down and kicked her violently.
The man, assuming she was unconscious, then began ransacking the bedrooms and whilst he was distracted she crept downstairs hoping to raise the alarm.
However, when the intruder observed her about to open an outside door he rushed down the stairs and again struck and kicked her, before dashing out of the house and scaling a wall.
Neighbours had been aroused by the commotion and the attacker was seen leaving the premises. Mrs. Stephenson suffering from shock, was badly bruised and need stitches to a head injury spending a few days in hospital. Although three of the neighbours gave chase the intruder evaded capture being last seen in Savoy Street where he scaled a wall.
After intense investigation the police identified William James Ormerod, aged 32, as the likely culprit. He seemed to have disappeared after the incident and a county wide alert was posted for his arrest.
Over two months later off duty officer P.C. Aspinall of the Burnley force recognised Ormerod from his description walking down Sandygate and followed him into the Hole I’th Wall public house where he confronted him. Ormerod claimed his name was Alston and was evasive to the questions asked. Only after questioning at the Burnley police station did he admit to his identity.
He was immediately transferred to Preston and appeared in the Preston police court on the following day. The magistrates heard details of the brutal attack and a couple of witnesses identified Ormerod as the man who had fled the scene.
Despite his denials the accused was remanded in custody until his trial in mid October at the Preston Sessions.
The charges Ormerod faced were of burglariously breaking into the Pedder’s Arms with intent to steal and of inflicting grievous bodily harm upon the landlady. Pleading not guilty the accused gave evidence on his own behalf.
He claimed that he had met a man called Richard Cuerden with whom he shared a bottle of port before they went to the public house. He stated that he never entered the inn and that it was Cuerden who went inside hoping to get some drink after he gave him a leg up over the wall.
Feeling that he would be blamed for the attack he had fled to Burnley the next day.
The court heard that attempts by the police to trace Cuerden had proved to be fruitless and Mrs. Stephenson had earlier testified that her attacker was of a similar build to the accused. The jury after lengthy deliberations returned a guilty verdict on both charges.
He was then sentenced to penal servitude for five years for the attack on the widow and to 18 months for burglary, the sentences to run concurrently.
The Pedder’s Arms dated back to the mid-1850s and was situated on the corner of Lodge Street and was a popular local until the mid-1960s prior to demolition.
Shortly after her traumatic ordeal Mrs. Stephenson moved to Burnley, where she died in November 1939, aged 69, following a fall downstairs at her Lancaster Street home.