A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire

THE CHARGE OF FELONIOUSLY RECEIVING A STOLEN HORSE. James Pratchet was brought up on remand charged with receiving a horse, the property of John Jeeves (aged 53, a carter) of Preston, knowing it to be stolen. Mr W. H. Simpson Jun., solicitor, of St Albans, appeared for the prisoner and called for several witnesses to speak for his character. The Bench, thinking there might be a doubt whether the prisoner knew the horse was stolen, discharged the case. (December 1859)


HORSE STEALING. William Pedder aged 26, a carpenter and close neighbour of John Jeeves in 1871) was brought up in custody, having been remanded since Wednesday last, charged with stealing a horse belonging to John Jeeves ( aged 53, a carter) of Preston, near Hitchin on 20th November. The horse was traced the following day to Barnet Fair, by Inspector Pangbourne, and found to be in the possession of a man named James Pratchet, who now swore positively to the prisoner as being the man that brought the horse to him. Pratchet was corroborated by his wife, who also identified the prisoner. The evidence being very conclusive, the prisoner was committed for trial. (December 1859)


John Fitzjohn (aged 43, living at Sootfield Green) was charged with leaving the service of Mr Kirkby, (aged 53 of Preston Castle) farmer of Preston, near Hitchin. The prosecutor stated that the prisoner had worked for him for more than two years and that on the 4th of August last he left his employ without any cause whatever and that he had not seen him since - until brought up today. The prisoner admitted the offence and stated that he went away thinking he could earn more money. Ordered to pay 10s and in default committed for 14 days. (September 1862)


James Kirkby (aged 19, son of a, farmer ) of Preston was charged with shooting ten tame fowls belonging to John Fitzjohn (aged 43 living at Sootfield Green) of Preston. Mr Shepherd, solicitor, of Luton, appeared for the defendant, and admitted shooting the fowls but contended they had every right to do so as the fowls were in Mr Kikby’s barley and when Mrs Fitzjohn was told to keep them out of the barley, she would not own them - but when the defendant shot them, she at once owned them. The bench thought it was a case for the county court to deal with and gave no opinion on it. (October 1862)


Cripps vs Brown, William( aged 52, also publican at Red Lion in 1851). Claim of £15 12s 6d for loss by resale of horse. Mr Codd instructed by Mr Medland of Dunstable appeared for the plaintiff and Mr Simpson of St Albans appeared for the defence. The case having been opened by Mr Codd.

Mr W Cripps deposed: I am a small farmer and reside at Hockliffe. I was at Luton market on the 4th of January and was introduced to the defendant by a person of the name of Eames. He said he had a good horse for sale. I asked where I could see the horse and the defendant replied that the horse was at his farm at Preston, near Hitchin and I said, “It is  along distance and I shall not go so far out of my way unless you can say that the horse is sound, a good worker and stands 16 hands high;” to which Brown replied, “ He is all you say, and a better worker or sounder horse you never bought in your life.” I told him I should be at Hitchin market the following day and he agreed to drive me to his farm. I went accordingly to see the horse and when it was run up and down I thought I saw it flinch a little, but Brown said the horse was sound and never had anything the matter with it. The horse was very “froksical” (the plaintiff stated that was the word they used in Bedfordshire to express frisky). I said, “I suppose you warrant the horse, Mr Brown.” and he replied, “No, I never warrant a horse any further than out of my yard. I’ll warrant the horse sound up till now.” I agreed to give £42 for the horse. Some days after, I went for the horse and paid for it. When I got there, I said I should like to see the horse before I paid for it, and he ordered his man to bring the horse out, and I said to my son, “Do you see anything like lameness in the horse?”. Brown heard me speak to my son about the lameness and said, “Lame, you can take my word he is as sound a horse as ever you bought.” It is 17 miles from the defendant’s house to my farm at Hockliffe. My son led the horse gently. The next morning I found the horse was lame and wrote to the defendant who did not answer my letter. I sent for Mr Powell, a veterinary surgeon, who stated that the lameness was caused by an enlarged tendon at the back of the hock. I then sent my son to the defendant to hear what he intended to do and he told him he had nothing more to do with it. The horse was subsequently sold in Dunstable market for £30 and purchased by a Mr Cochin.

Other witnesses were called to corroborate the plaintiff’s evidence.

Mr Simpson addressed the jury and called:

Mr Brown, who said: I live at Preston near Hitchin. I had the horse three or four months which I sold to the plaintiff and the whole of that time I never noticed any lameness. The plaintiff came to my house and saw the horse and he asked me the conditions on which I was going to sell the horse, and I replied I never warrant horses and I should sell this one without warranty. I asked him £45 for the horse and he offered me £38. I said, “I shall not take £38; I was offered £40 last week.” He subsequently purchased the horse for £41, but he did not take it away for twelve days for which I charged him £1 for keep. I told the plaintiff, if I gave a warranty with the horse I could get £50 for it at Redbourn fair the following day.

Several other witnesses were called for the defence and the judge having summed up, the jury without any consultation returned a verdict for the plaintiff for the whole amount less one guinea charged as veterinary surgical expenses. (March 1864)


GREAT DESTRUCTION OF FARM PRODUCE.  A fire broke out early on Saturday last on the farm in the occupation of Mr Samuel Kirkby (aged 60) of Preston-castle, about three miles from Hitchin. the smoke was first seen coming from under the roof about the centre of one of the barns, which, from the nature of its contents, was soon in flames. The fire then spread with great rapidity and quickly consumed wagon, harrow and cart sheds, stables, granaries and dwelling house. All the contents of the rick-yard - the whole harvest of the year - except one stack of wheat were destroyed.  There were destroyed, three ricks of hay, three of wheat and one of straw besides the produce of several acres of barley, oats and tares which were in the barns. Two calves and four pigs were also burnt, but the rest of the stock were saved. The Hitchin Fire Brigade were soon on the spot and rendered great service. With the assistance of neighbours, a large portion of the household furniture and wearing apparel was saved. The fire continued to rage throughout the whole of Saturday and every vestige of the farm buildings have been destroyed except a small granary. Mr Kirkby is insured in the County Fire Office for his corn and Mrs Curling, the owner of the property is insured in the Royal Exchange, but will not cover the loss. The farm is not without some historical interest, being the place where John Bunyan and other ejected ministers found a retreat and hospitable welcome from persecution. There is a large wood not far from the house and in it a dell where, it is said, John Bunyan frequently preached when released on parole from Bedford Gaol. (August 1868)


CARRYING A GUN WITHOUT A LICENCE. Thomas Marriott (aged 21), son of a farmer at Preston, was charged with carrying a gun without a licence on the 3rd June. Mr Watkins, excise officer, appeared to prosecute. Mr Barham another Inland Revenue Officer said on the 3rd of June he met the defendant carrying a gun at Tatmore Hills. He asked the defendant for his licence and at first he said he had one, but afterwards said he had not got one. He hope the witness would not be hard upon him and witness said he would not if he got a licence. Defendant promised to take out a licence and about three weeks afterwards, witness met the defendant and on asking about the licence he said he should not take one out. Defendant said he had not used the gun since. Mr Watkins said defendant was charged with carrying a gun on the 3rd June. The Chairman said it was the hardest case he had ever had before him. What the defendant had done was in ignorance. He thought the Excise ought to be satisfied if the defendant took out a £3 licence within a week. Mr Watkins said the defendant had been warned and his other licence expired in April. He was obliged to press for a conviction. The defendant was fined £2 10s the Chairman remarking again that it was the hardest case he had ever had before him. The defendant had mistaken his rights but had not intentionally violated the law. (July 1875)


CRUELTY TO A HORSE Charles Brown (aged 33, cattle dealer keeping the Red Lion in 1871), dealer of Preston, was charged with cruelly ill-treating a horse by working it in an unfit state on the 17th ult.

The proceedings were instituted by the RSPCA.

Police-constable Tripp stated that on the 17th ult. he saw the defendant driving the horse up the hill through Gosmore. The horse was poor and had great difficulty in moving. It appeared in great pain and was lame on the off hind leg. It had caps on its knees and it had recently gone down for blood and matter were issuing from the wounds. There were raw places under the arms and on the withers which the collar pressed against. He told H it was cruel to drive it and the defendant said it was not.

Thomas Walds of Offley said he saw the horse when the constable was examining it and saw the blood issuing from the off fore knee which was severely cut. There was blood on the knee caps.

William Rogers one of the Society’s inspectors said he saw the defendant on the 24th ult. and spoke to him about the matter. He said, “Yes its quite right, but I have sold the horse to be killed.” Witness asked him for a certificate to that effect, when the defendant said, “It’s no use telling lies about it, the horse is grazing in my meadow now.” Witness looked at it. He found blood issuing from the off fore knee, it was lame on the off hind leg, in a very poor condition, and totally unfit for work. Witness had seen the horse that morning and it had apparently been at work.

The horse was at this stage brought outside the Court for the inspection of the Bench.

Defendant said Mr Leggatt of Luton had seen the horse and said a little work would do it good.

The Bench fined the defendant £2 and 14s 6d costs. (August 1875)


KILLING PHEASANTS. Mr Stephen Marriott (aged 51, living at Castle Farm) farmer of Preston, was charged with killing pheasants out of season. Charlie Watson (see above) said on the 1st of September he was at work for Mr Marriott and about half past eleven, defendant and a gentleman with him came into the field and Mr Marriott fired at two pheasants, killing both. A third got up and defendant also shot that. Defendant admitted killing the birds but said he did it momentarily. When the birds got up he thought they were partridges, as they were very small. The third bird he shot was a French partridge. The bench retired and on returning, the Chairman said they believed the defendant’s statement and dismissed the case.  (October 1876)


COUNTY COURT. (Frank?) Brown v. Hawkes and Co.

The plaintiff is a farmer living near Preston (probably Frank Brown, 40, hay dealer of Chequers Lane; but Alfred Brown was farming at Home Farm, Preston) and the defendants are brewers at Bishops Stortford. The action was for the sum of £3 5s balance of account alleged to be due for hay supplied. There was no dispute as to the amount, quality or price but the defendants alleged that the hay was not ordered by them or by any person having authority to pledge their credit. Mr Nash, solicitor of Hitchin, appeared for the plaintiff and Mr Thorneycroft, solicitor of Bishops Stortford, for the defendants. The evidence of the defendant went to show that in November 1887 a Mr Barker, who was an agent for Messrs Hawkes and Co. at Luton, asked him to supply Messrs Hawkes with a load of hay there. The hay was delivered accordingly as was another load in December 1887 under similar circumstances. On I February or March, a man whom the defendant had frequently seen at Hawkes offices at Luton asked him to send another load of hay which was delivered soon afterwards. On applying to Hawkes for the money, he was informed that they were not responsible for payment. Barker afterwards sent his own cheque for £10 on account of the hay, leaving unpaid the balance now sued for. Being cross-examined, Mr Brown said he knew that Barker was an agent for the defendants and manager of their stores at Luton. He was questioned as to the correspondence, but the only letter of any importance was one from the defendants on October 17, 1888 asking him to send a statement of his account and saying that if correct it would receive their attention. The other letters from the defendants disclaimed all liability. Six weeks ago the plaintiff said Barker told him the hay was not bought for Hawkes and Co

The man who delivered the first load of hay being ill in Hitchin Infirmary could not be called as a witness, but the two carters, Reeves and Sharp, who delivered the other loads were examined. They said the hay was taken into the premises of Hawkes where there were stables and put in a shed. Mr Thorneycroft said that his defence was that Barker had no authority from Hawkes to buy the hay. He had tried to get Barker here as a witness but owing to an important engagement, he was unable to come. Barker had the entire management at the stores at Luton and paid all the expenses. The horses at the stores were Barker’s horses and not the defendants. The men employed there were employed by Barker and not the defendants.

The Judge asked how the plaintiff could be expected to know of that special arrangement. The plaintiff’s case did not rest merely on Barker giving the order; it rested also on the fact that that the goods were delivered at premises bearing the defendants’ name. He was ready to assume that there was such an arrangement as Mr Thorneycroft had said but could the defendants show that it had come to the plaintiff’s knowledge? Mr Thorneycroft: I cannot prove that. The Judge; Then I think you fail. In the end the case was adjourned for the attendance of Barker as a witness.  (March 1889)


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CHARGE OF CRUELTY TO A HORSE. Frank Brown, farmer of Preston (hay Dealer at Chequers Lane b 1849c) and William Marshall, labourer of Preston (probably living at St Pauls Walden) were charged with cruelty to a horse on 23 December.

Pc Brice said on Tuesday December 27 at about four o’clock he saw a van drawn by a horse in Whitwell loaded with hay. He noticed the horse was in very bad condition. On examining the horse he found a large raw wound on the near side under the saddle. Witness then went to the cottage and found Marshall there. He asked who was in charge of the horse and van and he said he was and that it belonged to Frank Brown. Witness told the defendant to take the horse out, which he did, and the witness pointed out the wound to him and he said he did not think it was so large. It was 2 ½ inches in length and 1 ½ inches wide and looked to be a wound of long standing. Defendant said he was glad witness had stopped him as he was ashamed to go about with the horse. He had previously been stopped by Mr Hale who said the horse was too bad to go about.

Brown said for eight weeks the horse had not been worked as it had a little the matter with its back and it had only been a short distance to fetch nine trusses of hay. He had had the horse examined by Mr Matthews, veterinary surgeon of Stevenage, a certificate from whom he produced.

The case was adjourned for a week to produce further evidence.

Later. George Wood, labourer of Whitwell, said on the 27 December he was walking through Whitwell in the afternoon and saw the horse in question being taken out of a van by the policeman Brice. Witness helped to take the harness off the horse and on examining it they found a great wound on its back where the saddle had been, about the size of one’s hand. It was raw and bleeding. The horse was in very bad condition and quite unfit to be worked.

Mr Herbert Matthews said he examined the horse on 7 January when he found a wound about the size of a shilling. There had evidently been a wound there before, which had partly healed up and the skin, which was tender, had been chafed by the saddle. The horse was an old one and was not fit for ordinary work.

The Bench fined Brown £2 and 16s 6d costs and Marshall was discharged with a caution. (Jan 1882)


SHEEP WORRYING. A number of sheep in the neighbourhood of this town have recently been worried in a very serious manner by dogs. A very valuable sheep, the property of Mr F Allwood, farmer of Walsworth was severely injured and had to be killed. On the farm of Mr Kingsley, sheep dealer of Ippollitts, two had their legs eaten off and had to be killed and others were wounded. On the farm of Mr Piggott of Preston (Temple Farm) 15 sheep were injured and three killed. On the farm of Mr Brown, Preston, six or seven were injured. On the farm of Mr John Lewin, Charlton, one was killed and several injured. Farmers in the neighbourhood all appear to have sustained damage by dogs worrying sheep more or less and have been compelled to watch their flocks by night. The damage done is estimated at £80 to £100. The dogs which caused the mischief are stated to have been identified. (Aug 1883)


ASSAULT Benjamin Hill of Preston, farmer, (b 1816c) was charged with assaulting his shepherd boy, Charles Stevens, who stated that his master knocked him down and that when he got up, his master ran a two-tined fork through the top of his hat into his head, making it bleed. A witness was called by Stevens who saw the assault committed. Hill said the boy called him names first. Fined 30s including costs. (March 1843)


Henry Stratton, a servant in husbandry to Mr Benjamin Hill of Preston was charged with leaving his service without the consent of his master. Defendant was reprimanded and discharged on paying the expenses incurred. (March 1841)


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At the Petty Sessions on Tuesday, George Freeman, labourer of Preston, was charged with cruelty to a horse at Hitchin, by causing it to be worked in an unfit state and Frank Brown, farmer of Preston was charged with causing the animal to be ill-treated. Inspector Berry, of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said Freeman was in charge of a horse in Nightingale Road, Hitchin which was drawing a load of straw. It was lame on both fore feet. There was a dropped sole on the near forefoot and that foot and the off forefoot were both hot and showing symptoms of fever. It would cause the horse pain to work. Brown denied seeing the horse before it was sent out. Freeman said that the horse had been shod that morning. Ps Brice gave similar evidence. The defence was that Brown knew nothing of the horse being lame; that the horse was not lame when taken out in the morning, but became so during the day. Mr Passingham said it was one of those cases of accident which might occur to anyone who took a horse out. Evidence in support was provided by Brown and Frank Piggott, blacksmith. The Magistrates dismissed the case.

Unreasonable and wanton act of oppression. Unwilling as we always are to give pain to individuals by any personal observations, it is with great regret we insert the following notice of an act of great barbarity committed by a county magistrate – but the press would forego one of its highest functions if it did not at all time stand forth to protect the poor man from his opulent oppressor.


Mr Curling of Hitchin was recently shooting near Preston and observed the remains of a rabbit which his gamekeeper suggested might have been killed by a dog belonging to the shepherd of Mr Wright of Preston. Mr Curling without making further inquiry proceeded to the field where the man was attending his master’s sheep and in spite of his remonstrances shot the poor man’s dog on the spot – and not satisfied with this summary act of vengeance commanded Mr Wright, who is one of his tenants, to dismiss the man from his service. The poor man called upon Mr Curling to endeavour to obtain some compensation for the loss of his faithful and valuable dog but after waiting two hours was refused an interview. We are glad to hear that he has obtained another situation as he bore a most excellent character and had lived with a former master thirty years.

(12 February 1842)

Samuel Farey and Henry Crawley labourers of Preston were charged with wilfully damaging a fence to the amount of 6d, the property of Mr W Brown, farmer. Fined 5s each. (26 September 1868)

John Dew farmer of Preston, was sued by Charles Chalkley for 5/- alleged to be due for wages. The plaintiff said the money was due for piecework but the defendant claimed to set off this sum against a previous transaction between them in the sale of apples. The magistrates made an order for the payment of 5/- and costs and told the defendant that he could sue in the County Court for the money alleged to be due to him. (21 October 1899)


STRAYING STEERS. Summoned for allowing six steers to stray at Preston on December 1 1924, Alfred Brown (64), farmer of Leggetts Farm Kingswalden was fined £1 10/-.

COUNTY COURT.  Brown vs. Parke. The plaintiff, a butcher at Preston, claimed £6 as damages for an alleged breach of warranty on the sale of a cow. His evidence was that on buying the cow in October 1903 at the defendant’s public house at Whitwell, she was warranted to be in calf, being due to calve at the end of April or the beginning of May. She turned out not to be so and the plaintiff had to pay £5 5/- to his aunt to whom he sold the cow after being in his possession three weeks with the same warranty as he received with her. The cow was afterwards sold as barren at Messrs. Jackson’s sale yard for £6 5/-. The defendant denied giving any warranty that the cow was in calf. In giving judgment with costs to the defendant his honour remarked that he would be a bold man who warranted a cow to be in calf nearly eight months before the time it was supposed she would be due to calve. (10 January 1925)

PETTY SESSIONS. William Brown and Arthur Spencer, boys of 12 or 14, admitted doing damage to the extent of 1/6d to hazel bushes, the property of Mr John Dew farmer of Ippollitts. Each was fined 1/-. (2 September 1905)

SALE BY AUCTION ON TEMPLE DINSLEY ESTATE. Oak timber trees including about 100 seconds of useful dimensions, drawn together, and lying at Scannels Green and Sootfield Green adjoining hard roads together with five large stacks of prime dry rangewood, ash and oak top faggots standing in Lady’s Grove and Kiln Wood; quantity of poles and hardwood, three elms, a sycamore and a few ash trees. Sold at twelve o’clock by the direction of Mrs Darton (7 April 1863)


SALE OF HAY. About 65 loads of very superior meadow hay of the growth of 1860, 1861 and 1862 well got and secured from weather standing in the rick-yard at Temple Dinsley. At the direction of Mrs Darton (7 April 1863)

John Reynolds was charged with absconding from the service of Mr Wright of Preston Hill Farm and was discharged from his service (10 February 1855)

Samuel Kirby, farmer of Preston (Castle Farm) was charged by John Scott (21) with refusing to pay him

£1 3/- wages due. He was ordered to pay with costs. (9 October 1852)

Mr Edward Bird, farmer of Preston (Temple Farm) was charged by David Crew (40, of Chequers Lane, ag

lab), labourer of the same place, with refusing to pay wages due him for digging chalk. Case dismissed. (14

January 1860)


LETTER. Sir, you will be conferring a favour on the farmers of this county by inserting the following as a caution

to those who may be in the habit of dealing with persons as inconsiderate as Mr Brown. ‘An Invite to the Cattle

Plague.’ Mr Brown, a dealer of Preston on Monday last brought twenty head of young stock from Aylesbury, a

district very much infected with the rinderpest. About half of these were sent to Hitchin Hill for sale, there being

an order prohibiting stock within the town, but information having reached the inspector to the knowledge of Mr

Brown, they were hurried back to Preston – much to the discomfort of his neighbours. (18 November 1865)

SALE OF FARM Included: ten cart horses and colts, grey nag horse, seven head of cow stock, eight store hogs,

50 head of poultry and ducks. Also, the following implements: six iron-armed, narrow wheel carts, iron-armed

wagon with hoops and tilt, land roll, iron and wood ploughs and harrows, iron scuffler, two-row turnip drill, horse

hoe, turnip cutter, sheep troughs, 20 dozen hurdles and stakes, dressing machine, barn tackle, cart and plough

harness, a four-horse power, a two wheel chaise etc. Sold by the executors of the late George Lake (of Home

Farm). (Auction held 1 May 1861)

Sale of Poynders End Farm 8 December 1827

Sale of Poynders End Farm 2 February 1822

Sale of Preston castle 11 May 1851