A Walk Through Chorley's Criminal Past

A Walk Through Chorley's Criminal Past

1. Introduction in front of Chorley Library before walking down Union Street and entering the grounds of St Laurence's.

2. St Laurence's- A church may seem like an odd place to stop first on a crime tour of Chorley but, like churches throughout the country, St Laurence's would have been the main focus of local law and order long before the establishment of a regular police force. One of the earliest crimes recorded in Chorley comes down to us through the ecclesiastical authorities. The case occurred during the mid 15th century and involved the maiming of cattle owned by a man named James Parker; it was thought the perpetrators of the crime had a personal vendetta against him. The case was heard in St Laurence's where it was said, 'I denounce for accursed all who have struck a cow of James Parker's with axe or bill or any other manner of edged weapon by which stroke to cow is dead. Also those who smote or hurt a swine in a field.'
St Laurence's dates back to 14 century, possible church on site from 12th. 2 medieval fonts dating to poss 14th.
Walk down the side of Mealhouse Lane and gather in the square in front of the police station.

3. Police Station/St Thomas's Square- The site of St Thomas' Square and the Police Station have been associated with crime (more specifically punishment) for hundreds of years. This was the site of the Town Green, the focal point of which was a large stone cross and a set of stocks (burned in a fire in 1850's). Thomas Breres was constable in 1733 when a new set of stocks was needed. Adam Rigby & John Atherton were paid 5 days work to make the stocks, though it is doubtful whether these were the same stocks that were burnt in the fire.It was here on 7th April 1801 that a James Allison was publicly whipped for rioting. The modern connotations of the word rioting are somewhat different, then it could mean anything from being drunk and disorderly to serious acts of violence or vandalism. The town's stone cross was removed in 1875 when the town hall was being built but there is some debate about where it has ended up. In the 1970's George Birtill wrote an article in the Chorley Guardian claiming that the cross was now at Shaw Hill. His argument was countered by a former employee of Chorley Parks Department who remembered moving the remains of the cross to Astley Hall from Yarrow House in the 1930's. He was told that the cross ended up at Yarrow house via Humphrey Norris Whittle (who we will hear more about later), Mayor of Chorley 1896-7, who lived at Yarrow House. The cross then went missing from outside Astley Hall only to be found in Dog Trap Wood shortly after and replaced. It is still exhibited in grounds of Astley Hall today.

Modern policing of the Chorley area had been administered from Leyland station until it was decided that Chorley warranted its own. It was in 1858 that the old dungeon which had served the town was superseded by Chorley's first police station, on the site where the modern station now stands. The first station soon proved to be inadequate and another station was completed in 1869. This one lasted considerably longer, still being used in the 1960's.
Chorley police officers were called in to deal with a wide range of offences from serious riots (as in 1868) to daily problems of drunkenness, petty theft and assault, their skills were challenged by characters such as a blacksmith in High Street who was involved in cock fighting, and who would hide the birds under the working forge when the constables checked his premises.
With the turn of the century a different kind of offence posed problems for the police. Motoring offences were a novelty in 1909 when one motor vehicle exceeded the speed limit of five miles per hour between Adlington and Heath Charnock. Police constable Mitchinson had tailed the driver on his bicycle, the vehicle having done one mile in eight minutes and two seconds. Speeding at seven mph earned him a fine of ten shillings.

Head back to Market Street and walk south. Stop outside Barclays bank.

4. Old Courthouse, High Street- Mention the case of George Taylor, a carter, who appeared before the magistrates in 1911. He was accused of being drunk in charge of a horse and trap going down Market Street (drink driving is certainly not just a modern problem for police). Taylor's defence in court was that it wasn't him that was drunk but that it was his horse! The police superintendant ignored such claims and stated that this was the 29th such offence Taylor had committed. Taylor then promptly corrected the superintendant...this was actually the 42nd.

Turn left from Market Street onto Fazackerley Street.

5. Commercial Hotel, Fazackerley Street (5 Fazackerley Street, outside Fifteens)- 28th December 1871: Mary Ann Shaw was charged with stealing three bottles of wine, a satchel and other articles worth £1.3s, the property of Mr Swithin Dickinson. Shaw was in the service of Mr Dickinson as a general servant but was given notice to quit due to other misdemeanours. She begged to be allowed to stay on and remained until the weekend when she was found to be drunk and disorderly and told to leave, the articles in question where found in her possession when leaving. The police were called and she was taken into custody. The prisoner pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three months imprisonment.

Head down Fazackerley Street to Market Place.
6. Co-operative Stores, Market Place (opposite Prince of Wales)- 1866, alleged theft from the Co-operative. At the police-court on Thursday, before J. Rigby Esq., a respectably connected married woman, named Mary Brimley, of Brown’s Square, was charged with stealing a leg of mutton, the property of James Jolly of Water Street. On Saturday morning, complainant’s wife bought a leg of mutton for 5s 5d, in the butcher’s shop at the Co-operative store, and tied it up in a handkerchief. She afterwards left the bundle in the grocery department on a counter, near the cheque boy, whilst she went into the drapery department. On her return, in about ten minutes, the bundle was gone, and in consequence of something the manager said to her she went to the prisoner’s house. Critchley, the manager, had got there before her, and he told her the prisoner had shown him a bundle which she said was the only one she had brought back with her. Mrs. Jolly looked about and found her handkerchief on a chair and it contained a sheep’s pluck, and her leg of mutton. Prisoner seemed much surprised at the discovery, and lifted her hands exclaiming “Ay, Ay I have brought it in a mistake.” William James Chadwick, the cheque clerk at the stores, saw the prisoner thrust the Sheep’s Pluck into the bundle on the counter. Shortly afterwards Mrs. Jolly was making enquiries about a bundle she had missed. On Saturday morning Mr. Critchley, the manager, supplied prisoner with one and a half pounds of beef, one pound of mutton chops, and a sheep’s pluck, for which she paid 3s. These she tied up in a handkerchief, something similar to the one belonging to the complainant. He afterwards heard Mrs. Jolly asking about a missing bundle. He made enquiries of the cheque clerk, and also looked on the file, and found the 3s ticket he had made out for the prisoner. He then spoke to Mrs. Jolly, and went in search of the prisoner, finding her at her house, and he told her there had been a leg of mutton taken from the stores, and he had reason to believe she had got it. She said she had only one handkerchief, and she handed it to him, and she pointed to the piece of beef and the mutton chops as the articles she had taken from it. He saw another bundle on a chair, but did not say anything about it before Mrs. Jolly came in. When Mrs. Jolly arrived, she opened the bundle, and asked the prisoner how the pluck got there and she said she thought she was tying it up with some bread she had purchased and forthwith went into the back place and brought out two small loaves, being the bread referred to. Mr. Critchley perceived that the bread was not of the description made at the Co-operative Stores. On being charged with committing the offence, prisoner said, “I am guilty of taking it in mistake.”- Mr. Rigby said he should have been very glad indeed if he had seen anything like a loophole for the prisoner to creep out at, as her husband was a good and religious man, but he had no alternative but to send her to the house of correction for trial at the sessions. She was admitted to bail.
Chorley Standard- 25.8.1866. Mrs. Brimley was acquitted at the Preston Sessions “after the jury had deliberated for 50 minutes.”
Head back to Market Street via Chapel Street. Head south towards Parson's Brow on the right. Point out back of the old hospital.

7. 10 Parson's Brow (between West Street and Gillibrand Street)- At the end of the 19th century this was the home of George Shellard, notorious in his day. Shellard lived here with his wife and two daughters doing various jobs which usually ended with him being fired; he apparently had a violent temper and liked a drink. Shellard had been in the employ of Chorley Town Councillor (and future Mayor), Humphrey N. Whittle, for several months before being fired for misconduct and suspicion of an affair with Councillor Whittle's wife. Mrs Ellen Jane Whittle then moved away to Gresford, near Wrexham, from where she continued to exchange letters with Shellard and also send him money, but he grew increasingly frustrated with the relationship. He managed to obtain a gun from the shop of Mr Aaron Hall, 42 Market Street, and then caught the train to Wrexham to meet with Mrs Whittle. Before boarding the train he stopped for a drink and a cigar in The Railway Hotel, when asked where he was heading he told the landlord that by tomorrow he would be in hell!
Mrs Whittle met Shellard at the station before going back to her house together. Shellard then managed to get her alone in her bedroom where he shot her twice, once in the neck and again through the cheek. The gun shots and screams attracted the attention of a house servant named Miss Taylor who came running into the room only to he threatened by Shellard, who said that if she raised the alarm he would blow her brains out. Mrs Whittle was writhing around on the bed covered in blood when Shellard said, "Oh Lord! I cannot see her suffering such misery." He then pulled out a razor and slit her throat before turning the gun on himself, saying, "I have finished her, and now I will follow her." Miss Taylor then ran screaming out of the room and called the police. When she went back into the room she was astonished to see both Mrs Whittle and Shellard laying side by side in bed, the murderer being partly undressed. A note was found in Shellard's pocket declaring that he would, "come over and finish her, as it had been going on long enough."

Walk down Market Street past Runshaw towards Bolton Road. Cross to Fleet Street using the crossing at Pall Mall. Stop in the back car park/goods in of QS Fashion.

8. Nightingale Square (just off Bolton Street, before Gin Bow and Leigh Row)- The Chorley Guardian reported, on Saturday 18th November 1871, a fight that occurred in Nightingale Square. Thomas Loughlin and Thomas Simpson were both charged with being drunk and disorderly and fighting. Police Constable Walsh had great trouble separating the two men. Loughlin was fined £10 and ordered to keep the peace for 12 months, or in default suffer 21 days imprisonment. Simpson was fined £5.
As some of you know, on the corner facing Market St. was St George's School. When built in 1825 it was known as the National School, later other classrooms & the Parish Institute were added to the Pall Mall side. At the rear in Back Street was the slaughter house (where ill or unwanted pets would be put to sleep) Latterly the fire station & ambulance station were also on this area. Nestling in the triangle roughly where we are standing (goods yard QS) was an area known as Nightingale Square .

Head back up to Market Street and stop outside Uncles Pawnbrokers (133 Market Street).

9. 133 Market Street- This building has a long history of being used as a pawnbroker and in the 1860's it was owned by Mr Miles Alston who lived on George Street (there aren't many shops in Chorley today that still serve the same purpose as they did 150 years ago.) The shop was to play a pivotal role in convicting a Chorley man of one of the most infamous Lancashire murders of the Victorian era. The man's name was Thomas Grime, of Eaves Lane, and he was convicted and hanged for the murder of James Barton. He was to be known nationally as 'The Wigan Murderer', and achieved a celebrity status in Victorian society.
In 1863 James Barton was brutally attacked and killed at a small colliery in Haigh whilst working a lone night shift, he was severely beaten before being thrown into a furnace; dead or alive at the time, no-one knows. Motives for the murder were difficult to establish, though Barton did own a watch of considerable value. The case dragged on for 3 years. A £300 reward was offered for information that lead to a conviction and Queen Victoria herself even issued a pardon to any accomplice with information who did not actually commit the crime. This shows the high status of the crime which not only gripped Lancashire but the whole nation. Various people were made suspects and even confessed only to retract their statements later, usually blaming drink and the temptation of the reward for their previous confession.
The main problem was lack of hard evidence. The police needed to find Barton's watch so they decided to publish a lengthy description of it in the local press. James Grime instantly recognised the description and remembered his brother, Thomas, showing it to him claiming he had worked very hard to get it. He also remembered where his brother had had the watch pawned, so he rushed down to this shop and bought it. After consulting with his father it was decided it would be best to hand it over to the police.
Thomas Grime himself was well known to the police as being a petty thief, drunk, and trouble maker; though on a fairly small scale. At the time he was in prison in Dartmoor serving a 3 year sentence for the theft of a horse blanket. Grime initially confessed to the murder but later changed his story, saying that he was only present at the murder and claimed to have never laid a finger on Barton himself, he did however name the people he claimed were involved and who had dealt the deadly blow. Sadly for Grime no proof could be found to verify his series of events. Therefore a combination of a retracted confession and possession of the murdered mans watch was enough to convince the judge of Grime's guilt, he was hung in Liverpool on September 1st 1866 in front of a crowd that was reported to be nearly 50,000 people. At his trial Thomas Grime had stated in a clear, confident voice, "I am as innocent as a child."