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100 YEARS AGO: THE PERILS OF PEEPING THROUGH PENDLEBURY PUB'S LETTER BOXES

History With Flynn
Sometimes you come across a story so bizarre, yet funny in a strange kind of way and this one surely rates amongst the best.

 

Thomas Bell the landlord of the Windmill pub in Pendlebury, Swinton appeared at the Manchester County Police Courts charged with with wilfully inflicting grievous bodily harm on a four year old boy called, John Wilcock who resided at Engine Brow, Pendlebury.

The court was told that on Sunday, 23rd February 1919, John was playing with a few friends outside the pub when for some reason he decided to peer through the letter box of the pub.

He was met with a faceful of boiling water chucked at him from inside the pub which scalded him about the eye's..

Mary Wilcock the boy's mother rushed him to a local Doctor who treated his injuries, he was then taken to the hospital for further treatment and was discharged that day.

Richard Price a collier told the court that he noticed a group of young lads playing outside the pub, and a young boy lifting the letter box and looking through.

He then heard the boy scream and run away, rather ominously he noticed a pool of steaming water on the pavement outside the pub.

Rose Dixon who lived in the pub took the stand and said that she had heard the letter box rattling and saw Thomas Bell standing in the vestibule but she couldn't see what was in his hand as he had his back to her.

Minutes later she heard somebody banging on the pub door and in came Mrs Woodcock with young John in her arms, she too had noticed steam coming from a pool of water outside the pub.

Cross examined by Mr Watson for the defence she said that Bell had been in the Army since October 1914 but last Christmas had a severe bout of influenza which led to pneumonia, this resulted in him going into hospital for treatment.

When he did come home she noticed that he appeared, "a bit queer"...read into that what you will.

P.C. Woodworth told the court that when he arrived at the pub to to make enquiries, Bell rushed past him and ran upstairs, the plucky P.C. caught hold of him by the legs and dragged him to the floor and arrested him.

He was taken to Pendlebury Police Station and charged with assaulting the boy, to which he replied, "I am not guilty of that"

Addressing the Magistrate's on Bell's behalf, Mr Watson gave a lengthy and strange explanation for Mr Bell's actions.

He said there was no evidence before them to suggest that it was an act that was done deliberately for the purpose of injuring the child and that the correct assumption was that it was done impulsively in a moment of irritation to frighten the children who had been annoying him.

He did not dispute that the water had been thrown and naturally it was a most unfortunate incident.

Mr Bell had decided to make himself a cup of tea and had a kettle of boiling water in his hand for that purpose when he was annoyed by children rattling the letter box and without thinking of the consequences, he threw the water at the closed door and some appeared to have spurted through the opening, sadly hitting the boy in the face.

In what seems a plea for mercy, Mr Watson continued that Bell was anxious to to make any possible reparation as far as the child was concerned, and to pay Mrs Woodcock £5 for any expenses that she had been put to, also something substantial as well.

Does that sound to you like he is attempting to buy the family off?

With a final flourish he added that the Magistrates to come to the conclusion that Mr Bell was a thoroughly, respectable man, but was queer in the head and that the least rattling of the letter box would irritate him.

The Chairman of the Bench, Mr Hugh Howarth then decided that a fit punishment would be that Bell would be fined £1, with a further £1 for legal costs, also Mrs Woodcoock to be given 10 shillings and the other two witnesses five shillings each.

He was told that he was fortunate that the boy wasn't badly injured or he would be facing a far more serious charge.

Superintendent Keys then piped up that Bell was an absentee from the Army!

However the Magistrates decided that to adjourn that charge for a week so that the Military could be informed, and Mr Bell walked free from the Court.

So what do we make of this, if Bell was an absentee from the Army, no wonder he wanted to pay the family off, however his fine was considerably less than what he had offered!

If he was an absentee, how come he was the Landlord of a busy pub, hardly hiding away was he?

I'm certain that the Military would take into account his service record and also his sickness record and discharge him, I hope so.

It's a good job that "Trick or Treat" hadn't yet landed on our shores or I would imagine there would be a lot more scalded kids in Pendlebury, if Mr Bell had his way.




Tony Flynn



 

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    GOT A STORY OR A PRESS RELEASE?

    TELEPHONE: 0161 820 1411

    EMAIL: ADMIN@SALFORD.MEDIA

     

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