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 shocking...so 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
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
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