A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire

George Norman, market gardener, was fined 10s including costs for an assault on Thomas Ward of Preston this morning in Hitchin market. (July 1855)


Mr George Wright (farmer) of Preston was charged with an assault upon Thomas Ward (aged 39, of Back Lane , Preston) of Preston on the night of the 5th of November. Complainant said that about eleven o’clock he went into a lane to look for his donkeys and found they had strayed into Mr Wright’s fields and went in to fetch them out. Whilst in the field, Mr Wright came up to him and asked him what he was doing there. he said to fetch out his donkeys that had got through a gap in the hedge. Mr Wright said he would take the law into his own hands and struck him in the face with his fists and said he would thrash him if he did not take himself off. Mr Wright admitted having struck the complainant, but said that when he went up to him to tell him that neither he nor his donkeys had any right on his land, some altercation took place when Ward  kicked him on the leg. Fined 5s and costs.  (September 1856)


ASSAULT. Daniel Groom (aged 45, a labourer from Church End, St Pauls Walden) was brought up in custody charged with committing an assault on Mr John Cook at Hill End in May last. The prisoner had just come out of gaol, where he had been imprisoned under a conviction for night poaching. Committed for six weeks. (December 1859)


ASSAULT. John Sharp, (labourer) of Preston, whose case was adjourned from last week, was accused of assaulting  James Kirkby Complainant stated that on the evening of the 27th of August, he met the defendant who worked for his father, and asked him why he had not been to his work that day. the defendant then struck him with a stick and struck the horse that he was on two or three severe blows. Complainant then rode away, when Sharp threw stones at him. Ordered to pay 10s and the costs. (September 1863)


John Sharp, labourer of Preston, charged by J Weeks Esq. of Preston with threatening to assault him. Dismissed. (October 1870)


George Wright (aged 61), farmer of Preston, charged with assaulting one of his labouring boys, Samuel Reeves (aged 11, a ploughboy living in a cottage near Preston Hill Farm), who appeared in court with his arm very much injured. Fined £3 including costs. (December 1870)

(See Alleged Assault at Kings Walden case below)


ASSAULTING THE POLICE. Henry Chalkley (aged 29, a brick maker of Breachwood Green, Kings Walden) and Charles Chambers were charged with assaulting the police while in the execution of their duty. Police-constable Gibbs said on the 30th ult. he and Pc Farr attended the fair at Preston. About half-past ten at night a man was given in their custody at the Red Lion public-house on a charge of felony and as they were escorting him through the village, the two defendants came up and said they should not take the man into custody. The two men then seized hold of the prisoner and tried to rescue him and subsequently he was kicked by one of the defendants and hurt very much. They succeeded in getting the prisoner as far as the Chequers public house and there a cart was lent them to convey the prisoner to the  station-house. Witness and Farr tried to put the prisoner into the vehicle and all the time they did so, the defendants interfered and tried to prevent them doing their duty. Chalkley was fined 40s and 12s 6d costs or two months imprisonment and Chambers, 20s, including costs, or 14 days imprisonment. (November 1872)


ALLEGED ASSAULT. George Wright,  farmer , was summoned for having on the 13 ult. assaulted a young woman,Mary Slater.The defendant was summoned to appear before the Bench at their last meeting, but had failed to do so. Mr Shepherd appeared for the accused. He said the defendant was exceedingly sorry that anything should have occurred to call for the interference of the Court, but since the occurrence a satisfactory arrangement had been come to between himself and the complainant’s father and the young woman did not now wish to press the charge. The magistrates, under these circumstances, allowed the case to be dismissed. (August 1873)


ASSAULT. William Monrow, gardener to Mr Weeks of Temple Dinsley, was charged with assaulting William Sharp (aged 16, living in Preston in 1871)  on 21st of November. Mr Harper appeared to prosecute.

Wm Sharp deposed: I have worked for Mr Weeks at Temple Dinsley about four years and a half. On Friday last I was at leaf cart about half past three. Geo Palmer (aged 14, living in Preston in 1871) was with me. The defendant came to us and said, ”Pull off your jacket.” I told him it was too cold, when he said if I did not pull my jacket off, he would and then took hold of my throat and said, “ You -------, I’ll choke you.” the buttons on my shirt were broken off and my collar was smothered with blood by the defendant scratching me. He then threw me on the ground and swore he would kill me; he struck me while down and tore my trousers down the side. The cowman came and pulled him off me and he told me and Palmer to go to the stable and he would pay us.

Defendant said he spoke to Sharp about his work and told him if he did not do his work better, he would have to leave. He also told the boys about having their coats on and they refused to take them off. He told them if they did not obey they would have to leave and then Sharp threw down his rake and said, “Now you ------------, give us our money.”

Fined £1 including costs (November  1873)


ASSAULT AT PRESTON. Martha Peters (aged 20 of Back Lane, Preston) of Preston was charged with assaulting George Boston (aged 15 of Back Lane, Preston) of Preston but as the defendant was unable to appear, the case was adjourned for six weeks. (September 1877)


SERIOUS CHARGE. At the Hitchin Petty Sessions on Tuesday, Jesse Bryce, a young man of about twenty years of age was charged on remand with feloniously assaulting Elizabeth Roberts, a middle-aged woman, on the road between Gosmore and Preston on the night of April 19th. Several witnesses having been examined, including the prosecutrix, who was too ill to attend. The magistrates sent the defendant for trial at the Assizes. Mr Nash, solicitor who defended, asked for bail and fixed it as follows: the accused in £100 and two sureties in £50 each with notice to the police. (May 1889)    



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Henry Jeeves of Preston (woodman of Back Lane b 1839c) was charged with assaulting Frank Stanford of Hitchin on the 18 July. Mr Horace Baker, solicitor, appeared for the defendant. Stanford was also charged with assaulting Jeeves at the same time and place. The Bench dismissed the charge against Stanford and fined Jeeves 16s 6d including costs or seven days imprisonment. (Aug 1881)


ASSAULT. Thomas Ward (b 1816) was charged with assaulting Elizabeth Sturgess (b 1827) of Preston. It came out in evidence that the fair complainant herself was guilty of the offence with which she charged the defendant and the case was therefore dismissed, on payment of costs by her. (May 1845)


Francis Sharpe was charged with assaulting John Buck of Kings Walden. It appeared from the complainant’s statement that the defendant came to his house in company with some others on a day when a club feast was held there and called for beer. This however was refused upon which Sharpe and the others (one of whom was convicted last week) assaulted the complainant and threatened to demolish his windows. Fined £1 and in default of payment committed for one month. (May 1845)


ASSAULT. Charles Ray (sic) was summoned, charged by Hill with assaulting him on 12 March. From the evidence of the prosecutor it appeared that he was making hurdles in a wood. Ray came up to him and charged him with taking the bread out of his mouth. This the prosecutor said he could not help as he had been told to do the job. Ray then went up to him and struck him with a hurdle sideways. When the prosecutor got up, Ray then pulled him by his coat and struck him a blow in the eye with his fist. (The mark was still visible) Ray also said that if he found out that the prosecutor had asked for the job, he would drop on to him and give him a good thrashing.

The prisoner said that he had gone and sworn at the prosecutor for taking the job out of his hands. As he was going away, he told Hill what he would do to him if it was true. Hill retorted, and he went back and struck him in the eye with his fist.

The magistrates said that one man had as much right as another to do a job and therefore fined Ray £1 and 12s 6d costs which were paid. (March 1860)


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Hitchin Petty Sessions, 10 January 1837. John Wade (sic - probably Ward), of Preston was brought up on a warrant charged with assaulting John Squires at Preston on 7 January. The complainant stated that on the night in question, when he was coming out of the door of the Chequers at Preston, where his club had been held that evening, he found Wade waiting for him outside. Wade immediately struck him and a little scuffle ensued after which the prisoner fetched a large stake and hit the complainant over the eye with it and made a great wound. He was convicted in the sum of 15s to include costs and in default was committed to the House of Correction at Hitchin for 21 days.


Daniel Winch was also brought up for assaulting John French at the same place and on the same evening. The circumstances attending the affair were very similar to the last case but with considerably more aggravation. He was therefore fined the full penalty of £5 and committed to the House of Correction for two calendar months.

Assault. Charles Swain was charged with assaulting Joseph Saunderson and John Wilshire at Preston in the parish of Hitchin. It appeared from the statement of the complainants that they are related to the defendant and met together when some family differences arose and the assault complained of was committed. (The defendant’s solicitor) endeavoured to make out that his client was ‘more sinned against than sinning’ but in this he failed and the defendant was adjudged to pay £2 10s including costs. (9 October 1847)

Henry Jeeves, a labourer, was charged with assaulting Frederick Redrup, a publican of Preston and also with doing damage to a window to the extent of 5/-. The complainant said that the defendant’s sister was occasionally in his employment. On the night of 6 September, a stone was thrown through the window and on the witness opening the door to see who was outside, the defendant struck him. The defendant said that his sister, who kept his house, went to the complainant’s house to drink rather than to work. He admitted breaking the window but denied the assault. For the assault he was fined £1 and costs and for the damage, 10/- and costs making a total of £2 1s 6d. (16 September 1899)

A charge against Samuel Reeves, dealer of Whitwell, of assaulting William Henry Brown, another dealer at Preston on Saturday, was dismissed. There had, it seemed, been a dispute between the parties about money matters. (11 Dec 1897)


Frank Brown, of Preston, was summoned for assaulting John Dew at Preston on 30 June. The complainant, a farmer, gave evidence to the effect that while driving towards Hitchin, a missile struck him on the back and when he pulled up to ask what it meant, the defendant threatened to assault him. In cross examination it was established that the witness was not struck by the defendant and that there had been some ill feeling between the parties. The defendant was ordered to pay the costs amounting to 14/6d and was bound over to keep the peace for three months. (11 July 1891)


Frank Brown of Preston was charged with using threats to John Dew, farmer of Preston and also with obstructing the highway there. Both charges were adjourned to enable the defendant to call witnesses, the summons only having come to his knowledge late on Monday night.

Later – The complainant threatened to “do for him” but this was denied by the defendant who said that Dew had given him a great deal of annoyance for some time past. After hearing the witnesses on both sides, the Magistrates bound both parties over to keep the peace for six months. The charge of obstruction, which was brought by Mr Dew, in his capacity of surveyor of highways, was dismissed the Bench thinking that the dog-cart which was found on the road was not there long enough to sustain such a complaint. (23 July 1892)

Petty Sessions, Hitchin. Alfred Brown, farmer of Preston was charged with using threats to George Hailey, saddler of Hitchin. There had it seemed been some unpleasantness between the parties before arising out of County Court proceedings set on foot by Mr Hailey and when they met on the road, the defendant, it was alleged, used the threats complained of. The Magistrates bound the defendant over in his own recognisances in the sum of £10 to keep the peace for six months. (11 November 1893)

MASTER and MAN. William Jackson, farmer of Hill End, Hitchin was charged with assaulting Samuel Peacock, a groom-gardener who was in his employment, on December 21 The complainant said Mr Jackson found fault with him for not completely plucking two geese and witness rejoined that he had kept on plucking as long as he could see. With that the defendant committed the assault, throwing him down and almost strangling him and knocking his head against the door of a cart shed. Being cross-examined, the witness said he was quite sober. It was true that he used threats to the defendant but these were conditional on the defendant interfering with him. Strong language was used by them both. Giving evidence on his own behalf, the defendant said he paid the defendant his wages and ordered him off the premises. He did not leave and was thereupon put outside on the highway. Peacock was not sober at the time. Mr Jackson flatly contradicted the main part of the complainant’s testimony. After retiring to consider their decision, the Magistrates dismissed the case on the defendant paying the costs. (5 January 1906)

PETTY SESSIONS. Arthur Jenkins, a labourer, was charged with assaulting his wife at Preston on March 5th. The complainant who has to walk on crutches because of an infirmity, said her husband came home the worse for drink and struck her with his hand on the side of the head. Jenkins said he gave her a slap on the face because she nagged him. He was bound over in his own recognizances to keep the peace for six months. (14 March 1908)

PETTY SESSIONS. Albert Smoothy, dairyman of Hitchin was charged with assaulting Reginald Joseph Brown a lad of 17 living at Preston. The complainant’s evidence was that he was sitting in the bar parlour of the Gloucester Arms public house with the defendant and two others after looking at a horse he wished to buy from one of the company. Smoothy asked to be paid some money witness owed him. Witness promised to pay him but before he could do so, the defendant hit him a severe blow on the eye. For the defence it was contended that the blow was a slight one and that provocation had been given. A fine of £1 with 10/- costs was imposed. (8 April 1905)

James Brown of Kings Walden was charged with an assault upon Joseph Barker who said: I am a farmer and live at Knebworth. On 28 October, I was at Preston fair and about noon Brown came up to me and said, “Come along with me!”. I said, “What for?” and refused to go. He caught hold of the collar of my waistband and tore it off. I told him to let go but he would not and dragged me along about a pole. He abused me very much and I struck him on the head twice before he would let me go. Brown had also summoned Barker. The evidence was very contradictory and the Bench dismissed both cases. (6 November 1852)

Henry Bradden, (61) keeper of the Chequers public house at Preston, was charged with committing an assault on George Hammitt of the same place. Case dismissed (10 November 1861)

Charles Swain (34) of Preston in the parish of Hitchin was charged with assaulting John Swain (34, cousin of Charles), blacksmith of the same place. Case dismissed with plaintiff paying costs. (17 April 1852)


William James Wright of Preston, farmer (of Preston Hill Farm)  was fined 12/- including costs for an assault upon Thomas Ward (40, of Back Lane), a dealer in marine stores on the night of 5 November at Preston. Complainant stated that about 11 o’clock he missed his two donkeys from a lane into which he had turned them and found they had strayed into one of Mr Wright’s fields and went over the fence through a gap to fetch them out when Mr Wright came up and asked him what he was doing there. He said, ‘After my donkeys’ and Mr Wright struck him with his fist on the face. Mr Wright admitted having struck the complainant but that he first kicked his legs. (18 November 1856)

William Monk of Preston was charged with assaulting Mr James Ford Kirkling (Kirkby?), farmer of Preston on 3 February. Fine and costs £1: Paid. (19 February 1859)


William Sturgeon (Sturgess ?, father and son at Back Lane 52 and 18),of Preston was charged with assaulting Julia Rowbottom (26, married to George, of Hill End). Fined 40/- and costs. (19 June 1852)

Benjamin Brown of Preston was charged with committing an assault on William Brown (46 of the Red Lion)

of the same place. Fined £1 including costs. (11 January 1862)


Charles Stevens and William Currell were charged with assaulting a poor man of weak intellect, Samuel Farr,

at Kings Walden on 25 July. Farr appeared to have been beaten very severely, but both defendants stated

positively that he threw stones at them before they touched him. Stevens was fined 7/- and Currell, 5/- (12

August 1843)

Charles Wray (my great grandfather) of Kings Walden was charged with committing an assault on Henry Hill.

The parties were rival hurdle-makers and the assault arose because Hill was employed by one of Wray’s

masters. Fined £1 1/- and costs (24 March 1860)

John May (59, ag lab) was charged with assaulting Thos Bradden, landlord of the Chequers at Preston. It

appeared from the evidence that the defendant misbehaved himself in the house and Bradden very properly

interfered when he was struck by the defendant for so doing. Fined 1/6d and costs 13/6d. (18 September 1847)