A shocking case of animal cruelty from yesteryear

It was a common occurrences in late Victorian days for genteel folk in Preston to hire a horse and trap to take a visit to the countryside. Unfortunately, there were some who neglected to take care of the animal entrusted to them.

Amongst the visitors to Richard Potter’s livery stables on Church Street, Preston, on the first Sunday of February 1890 was Anthony Marshall who hired a horse and gig, constructed to carry two persons, to visit Broughton.

What followed would see Marshall along with fellow cotton operatives Thomas Brogden, Charles Carter and James Hall in the dock of the Preston County Court on the following Friday. They had been summoned for cruelly treating a horse.

P.C. Patterson was called and he testified that he observed the horse and gig arriving in the village of Broughton with five men aboard travelling at a gallop. He followed them for a short distance at which point the gig’s springs appeared to break under the heavy load and Marshall leaping out of the gig began to savagely kick the horse.

The constable at once seized hold off Marshall and the gig shaft, but was obliged to let go when another man whipped the horse to move off as Marshall clambered aboard. With the horse continuing to be ill treated the party galloped away in the direction of Preston.

Another witness was then called and he stated that he saw the horse and gig being furiously driven along Plungington Road. The horse was being flogged repeatedly and when the gig reached the junction of Eldon Street the horse fell down and died immediately from exhaustion. A veterinary surgeon who carried out a post-mortem examination was next to testify and he stated that he had no doubts in certifying that the animal died due to over driving after being cruelly treated.

The prosecution pointed out that the horse had not been of a stubborn nature and was clearly overworked. It was then stated that the fifth member of the party named Sharples, who had fallen from the gig in an intoxicated state on the road back from Broughton, had not been involved in the cruelty and had been dealt with separately by the issue of a £5 fine.

Mr. Edmundson, the barrister who represented the defendants, suggested that the horse was a ‘jibber’, and that the men, who were intoxicated at the time, only kicked the horse once.

After consulting with the accused he then admitted the offence on their behalf and pleaded with the magistrates to inflict as small a penalty as possible.

The magistrates after consulting in private for a quarter of an hour returned and addressing the accused the Chairman stated that it was undoubtedly a case of gross cruelty, and that it was the magistrates duty to sentence accordingly. Marshall was identified as the main culprit and was sentenced to two months imprisonment with hard labour and the others were sentenced to one month, also with hard labour.