Last week’s delve into crime in 1846 commenced with the tale of Francis McGill, a Scotsman who was a travelling draper and tea dealer resident at Hanover Street Manchester.

He was well known in the Mid Cheshire area where he supplied his customers. Near the Waterless Brook in Tabley, he was violently attacked and robbed by a man known to him called John Wright.

After the attack, Mr McGill had gone to the nearby Flittogate Farm, the home of Mr Barber, and because of what he said and the fact that he was covered in blood John Barber, the son of the house, together with three of the servants, James Hickson, Richard Hall, and William Shaw, went in search of Wright, asking neighbours who had seen him.

After following their directions, they found him drinking in the Smoker Tavern, but after listening to his story, they allowed him to go on his way toward Northwich.

On the way, Wright called at the Black Greyhound, had a glass of ale, and smoked his pipe; he left after 20 minutes and was later at the Crown Hotel in Crown Street.

It was here that Northwich police arrested him, and he was taken to Knutsford Gaol. When searched, Wright was found to have the crooked sixpenny piece amongst the gold.

It transpired that the aforementioned James Shannon, together with Mr McGill, had both employed Wright.

Northwich Guardian: The Smoker tavernThe Smoker tavern (Image: Paul Hurley)

There were questions about his honesty when collecting debts from customers, and they both dispensed with his services.

James Shannon had crossed the Waterless Bridge before the assault and was on the way to meet Mr McGill for lunch at The Windmill.

The hearing was at Knutsford Court House and was held on Tuesday, November 10, 1846, before the magistrates.

The prosecution was led by James Roscoe, solicitor Knutsford aided by his son Thomas Roscoe.

The first witness was Ann Edwards of the Cock Inn, Northwich, she knew Wright, and the last time she saw him was at the inn on the day of the robbery.

She saw him walk off in the direction of Warrington and then again that afternoon pass the house on the way into Northwich town.

Other witnesses identified him walking towards the Windmill public house area on the day.

The resident of a house near The Cock in Northwich was Samuel Holland, the town clerk who was handed Wright’s coat and walking stick on the day of the robbery.

Northwich Guardian: The original Cock Inn in NorthwichThe original Cock Inn in Northwich (Image: Paul Hurley)

After hearing of the robbery, Mr Holland searched it and in the bloodstained coat were £20 and two £5 notes that he locked in his safe and handed with the coat and walking stick to the police.

It was, he thought, simply to look after it. Wright had once been married to Mr Holland’s niece.

Mrs Fowles of the Roebuck Hotel in Witton Street, Northwich, stated that she had given the £20 note to Mr McGill for goods she had purchased, and he had spent the night at the inn.

Wright was described as a Scotch traveller who resided with his father at Broken Cross, two miles from Northwich.

He was described as 27, sturdily built, and 5ft 7in tall. Upon completion of the hearing, he was sentenced to trial at the next Chester Assizes charged with highway robbery and attempted murder.

Northwich Guardian: The Black GreyhoundThe Black Greyhound (Image: Paul Hurley)

The trial took place on Thursday, April 8, 1847, when Mr McGill had recovered sufficiently to appear and give evidence.

On completion of the evidence, the judge addressed the jury, and they went out to deliberate. The verdict was guilty to both charges.

The judge donned his black cap and sentenced Wright to death by hanging. Later the sentence was reduced to transportation for life. Wright would no longer be a danger to the good folk of Mid Cheshire.