A Walk Through Euxton's Criminal Past

1. Euxton Mills/Introduction- Having already done a successful crime walk of Chorley it was decided we would try and do one here in Euxton as well, providing we could find enough material. After struggling though lots of petty offences such as fair dodging on trains, not sending children to school, and gambling (it seems 'Pitch and Toss' was a particular favourite in 19th century Euxton!) we eventually started to find some more interesting crimes connected with the village.
Note: Crime is not nice, it isn't now and wasn't then. Some of the crimes we will be talking about are quite much for the 'good old days!'
Euxton Mills was built as a coaching house in 1760; and originally called 'The Grapes'. The 19th century name change was probably due to the mills around the Pincock area providing much of the pubs business; the railway diminishing its importance as a coaching house.
In 1836 a man named Jacob Robinson had been drinking quite heavily in this pub and was walked back to his house on Pincock Street by two neighbours. Robinson was a 27 year old mill worker living with his wife Ann, they were both baptised, married, and eventually buried in St Andrew's, Leyland, but lived all their lives in Euxton. After arriving home Robinson heard shouting outside his house, it was William Gerrard, also of Euxton, shouting 'I'm coming, make thyself ready!' There had previously been a quarrel between the two men, the reason for which we do not know. A small crowd attempted to come between the men and Robinson said he did not want to fight. Gerrard, however, stripped to his waist and threw Robinson to the floor before repeatedly and violently beating him. Robinson managed to get to his feet and said: 'Though shall pay for this' to which Gerrard replied 'If I am to pay for this I will pay for more!' Robinson still did not want to fight and made the fatal decision to turn his back and walk away. Gerrard knocked him to the floor and attacked him. The London Morning Post reported, 'he was repeatedly punched by the prisoner with his foot while down, according to the style of fighting too commonly adopted in this county.' Robinson died there on the floor at the feet of Gerrard, who did not even receive a scratch in the fight. The coroner reported that the death blow had been a kick to the chest which had caused a laceration of the heart.
On the 6th August 1836 at the Lancaster Assizes William Gerrard was charged with 'killing and slaying Jacob Robinson.' He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years' transportation. Transportation to British colonies had been a common punishment since the 17th century. Convicts were required to work on government projects such as road construction, building, and mining. To most people it was seen as a way of easing prison numbers and generally improving society, to others it was seen as a form of slave labour. In the mid-19th century rates of criminal Transportation varied greatly according to sex and location. The vast majority of Transported criminals were male (including children) and most came from large industrial cities. London had the highest rate, followed by Lancashire, Bristol, and Surrey.
Gerrard was sent to Van Diemen's Land (modern day Tasmania) off the south coast of Australia aboard the ship Recovery. The ship docked on 8th October 1837 after a journey of nearly 5 months. Conditions aboard convict ships were notoriously bad at this date; convicts were kept below deck either chained up or in cells. 280 men set sail and 275 arrived, which was actually quite a good ratio compared to some. Pre 1840 most British and Irish convicts were sent to New South Wales, only the most dangerous criminals and repeat offenders were sent to Van Diemen's Land. Gerrard would have been in illustrious company!
An 1846 Convict Muster (similar to a Census) shows Gerrard still living with convicts in Van Diemen's Land, 3 years after he had served his sentence. He is recorded as having a Free Certificate. This meant very little to most, who could not afford to return to Britain and had few opportunities in Australia. Unfortunately the document trail then dries up. It can only be assumed that Gerrard lived out the rest of his life with some of the worst British criminals as a free man.

2. Bugle Inn- The date stone of 1767 probably dates to when this building was either extended or rebuilt because records show that there was an Inn on this site in at least 1753. It was one of several Victorian pubs in Euxton such as the still familiar Bay Horse, Railway Tavern, Talbot, Travellers' Rest, and Euxton Mills. Other forgotten pubs include the Anderton Arms, Red Lion, Gray Horse, Ince Arms, Millwright's Arms, and Plough Inn. Often drink and crime goes hand in hand, including the pubs themselves. In 1879 Thomas Holding, of Euxton Mills, and John William Taylor, of the Ince Arms, were charged under the Food and Drugs Act for serving 'Adulterated Whiskey'. An undercover inspector visited both premises and ordered half a pint of whiskey in each. He then told the owners he would be taking it away for analysis. In both cases it was found the whiskey had been watered down and was about 15% weaker than ordinary whiskey. For this both men were fined 20 shillings and costs.

3. Euxton Parish Church- The old church vicarage (now a private residence) was built for Rev. John Williams to mark the occasion of him becoming Euxton's new Vicar in 1838. Rev. Williams went on to serve Euxton until his death in 1892 and is highly regarded in the history books of Euxton. However, one incident in his life seems to have been consistently ignored or overlooked.
In September 1877 Rev. Williams was accused of 'indecent assaults and indecent and improper acts and language'. The Chorley Guardian reported that he was accused of having 'criminal intercourse.' The alleged incident happened in April of that year and the accuser was a 15 year old girl named Mary Elizabeth Balderson, a mill worker from the Pincock area of Euxton. The original hearing was at the Chorley Police Court to ascertain whether there was enough evidence to proceed. After 13 hours of deliberation the Archdeacon of Blackburn gave the verdict that there was.
The whole enquiry was held strictly behind closed doors and therefore press coverage was muted, although it was reported that 'the matter has caused considerable excitement in Euxton and Chorley.' Gossip must have been rife!
In December 1877 the Bishop of Manchester pronounced his judgement that Rev. Williams was guilty of breaking the Church Discipline Act and was suspended for 2 years. After this time he would be able to take up his post again providing he had 3 signatures from clergymen guaranteeing his future good conduct. Again due to the private nature of the enquiry very little was reported in the press and no further criminal charges were pursued. Kenneth Hodkinson, in his pictorial history of Euxton, praises Rev. John Williams for his record 54 years service to Euxton. His crime and 2 year break in service, it seems, have been written out of history.
Ten years after the incident Mary Elizabeth Balderson married George Wane at St George's, Chorley. In 1901 they were living together with their four children on Moor Street, Chorley.

6. Old Police Station/Club Street- During the 19th century the village of Euxton was split between two main centres, one here around Club Street and the other around the mills at Pincock. Here was the school, the village Police Station, Papa Luigi's was then The Anderton Arms, another pub 'The Red Lion' was across the road, and Club Street was historically the main residential area of the village. In 1877 a Thomas Heyes lived here on Club Street and was charged for assaulting Robert Wiggins. Wiggins was in charge of the school during the absence of the school-master and was at the garden gate one evening when Heyes threw him to the floor by his coat collar. The incident was described in the Chorley Guardian as 'a most disgraceful assault' but no motive was given. Heyes was ordered to pay 20 shillings and costs.
Another man, John Ravencroft, also lived here in the 1840's. In 1844 he and five other men from Euxton (John kerfoot, Robert Turner, Henry Chadwick, and Edward Aspin) appeared before the county magistrates at Chorley Town Hall charged with non payment of their Easter Offerings. They were all ordered to pay their debts as well as court costs.

5. Euxton Library- We end the walk with probably the most tragic crime in Euxton's criminal past which happened at the industrial Pincock area.
Ellen Ravenscroft, 11, was a half-timer working in the card room of Pincock Mill. On Saturday 2nd October 1875 at 8.30am Ellen and her older sister Alice, 13, had stopped for their morning breakfast (having already worked for around 3 hours!). On the previous Thursday Ellen had had an argument and water fight with a 9 year old boy named Robert Balderson, and as he entered the room she took the opportunity to continue their quarrel. As he walked past her she pushed him and Balderson said, 'I'll have thee for that!' A fight began with both parties throwing punches and kicks. Ellen called for her sister, 'Come and help me; he has hold of my leg.' Before Alice could separate them Balderson had kicked Ellen hard in the abdomen and punched her in the chest. She fell to the floor dead and Balderson ran away.
On Wednesday 6th Robert Balderson was brought before Chorley Police Court and charged with manslaughter. The coroner reported that, 'The deceased died from the effects of a blow given to her by Robert Balderson, producing a shock of the nervous system, from which the deceased did not recover.' Evidence at court was given by Robert Ravenscroft (father), Alice Ravenscroft (sister), Mary Barker (back tenter for the rovers at Pincock Mill), John Ralphs (roller grinder at Pincock Mill), Edwin Moore (surgeon), and P. C. Worden. Robert Balderson declined to make a statement and he was committed for trial at the next Manchester Assizes, bail was granted and paid by his father.
Robert Balderson appeared before the Manchester Assizes on 24th November 1875 charged with manslaughter and was acquitted. A reason for the acquittal is not given; it was presumably because of his age. In a way Balderson was very lucky to be shown such leniency, he could easily have been sent to a Reformatory School, setup in 1854, they were very tough places with strict discipline maintained through routine beatings.
Tracing him through the census' show that he was still living with his parents in Euxton until 1901; he appears to be just a very normal unmarried 35 year old mill worker. He is also listed on the Euxton Register of Electors for 1918, living alone on Pincock Street. He died in 1935 aged 69.
One final note on this tragic incident is that Robert Balderson was the younger brother of Mary Elizabeth Balderson, the girl who was indecently assaulted by Rev. John Williams just 2 years after this incident. Robert was a witness to her marriage in 1887.