Another dip into our archives this week for a story of violence and theft in Mid Cheshire.

Francis McGill, a Scotsman, was a travelling draper and tea dealer resident at Hanover Street, in Manchester; he was well known in the Mid Cheshire area where he supplied his customers.

On Friday, October 23, 1846, he was walking along the road from Great Budworth and Pickmere towards Tabley.

It was his usual round as a travelling hawker and had been so for several years. He knew all the roads and many residents who were his customers.

He was heading for his last calls and would have the takings from the earlier customers, a comparatively large amount of notes, money, and gold.

Mr McGill heard footsteps behind him as he approached the bridge over the Waterless Brook (which still bears that name near Flittogate Farm).

Looking behind him, Mr McGill saw John Wright; at the time, he was a few yards from the bridge across the brook.

He asked after Mr McGill and mentioned a man called James Shannon, asking if he had seen him lately.

Mr McGill said he had seen him and was on his way to meet him to dine at The Windmill in Tabley.

Northwich Guardian: The Windmill at Tabley circa 1915The Windmill at Tabley circa 1915 (Image: Paul Hurley)

Mr Shannon was a draper in Manchester who had once employed Wright, as had Mr McGill, so the man was known to him.

Wright would be aware of his round and that he would be nearing the end and so would have quite a substantial sum of money on him.

Mr McGill noticed that Wright was carrying a walking stick with a round metal handle.

He approached the bridge just ahead of Wright, and when on the Waterless Brook bridge, he suddenly felt a blow to his head, knocking him unconscious and causing him to fall.

After a very short while, he regained consciousness and saw that Wright was searching his right-hand trouser pocket.

He muttered: “Spare my life, man, and I’ll gie ye what I hae.”

His silver was in that pocket, and he told Wright to take all he had but to spare his life.

He took his purse from his other pocket that contained two £20 and one £5 notes and Wright snatched it from him.

Northwich Guardian: Windmill at Tabley in 2011Windmill at Tabley in 2011 (Image: Paul Hurley)

After stealing all he had, Wright walked off towards Pickmere. He had stolen the purse containing two £20 notes (value today £5,965.99), two £5 notes and £18. In gold a total of £23 (value today £3,430.44) and £3.17s (value today £472.80). This gives a total value stolen in today’s money as £9,869.23.

Mr McGill was in great pain and covered in blood but managed to stumble to nearby Flittogate Farm (still extant), the home of Mr Barber, who returned with him back to the scene of the crime.

There was a large pool of blood there and his hat, umbrella, bag, and £3s.6d scattered amongst the blood. He was then taken to the Windmill Tavern.

PCs Green and Bohanna attended at the Windmill Tavern, where Mr McGill was in a bed.

The doctor had been called and stated that his wounds were so life-threatening that his version should be committed to paper in the form of a deposition. 

Northwich Guardian: TableyTabley (Image: Paul Hurley)

Afterwards, he was taken to his home in Manchester, where Dr Harrison attended him. A magistrate and the coroner took the deposition (now a dying declaration).

In it, he stated that John Wright was the offender. He also said that in his pocket, he had a crooked sixpence, he always had this upon him, and it was amongst the stolen property.

Mr McGill was in danger for several days, and witnesses said they heard a gunshot.

The doctor identified a hole in the man’s head but could not say for sure if a hard blow or a bullet had caused it; a firearm was later disregarded. Inquiries then commenced.

To be continued next week.