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Diabolical Outrages at Whitewell.
Extract from the Preston Chronicle 2nd May 1874
An outrage, or rather series of outrages, of a most fearful and diabolical character have recently occurred at New Hey, Whitewell near Bolton by Bowland. They are such a nature that had there not been the most undeniable and overwhelming evidence of the truth, it would be difficult to believe that such things could occur in England. The whole neighbourhood for miles has been in a state of intense excitement and the affair has created a most profound sensation. The Corporation of Preston are at present engaged extending their waterworks at New Hey, Whitewell in the Forest of Bowland by utilising the water from the rivers Langden and Hereden. Upwards of 200 navvies are engaged on the work and huts are erected for the accommodation of men. A man named George Holden took a large farm-house at New Hey and lodged between 30 and 40 of these men. From we have learned by visit, and from eye-witnesses the life led at this huge lodging house was of the most primitive and uncivilised kind [med14].

New Hey Farm and modern extension on the left.
The house was two storeys and had 5 rooms upstairs; and the same downstairs. Holden also kept a 'Store' after the American fashion, and not only supplied the hungry navvies with vittles, but with clothing. Before any man retired to bed he had to pay 3d and he had to pay for his food before he got it. He also sold beer without a licence and had as many as 20 or 30 barrels of beer on the premises at anyone time. We have been informed that women who were not of the most exemplary conduct were also kept on the premise.

New Hey Farm.
On 11 th inst. Holden had to go to Preston on some business and on the Thursday following, his wife went after him, leaving the place in charge of his father in law and the servant. The men who at there best, were the most drunken proclivities. During the absence of Holden strange rumours were heard, one being to the effect that the bailiffs were coming and another was that Holden had eloped to Preston Corporation. The men commenced drinking hard on Thursday and continued till Saturday, entirely neglecting their work. On Friday night the men commenced in a series of orgies of the most diabolical description. In the meantime the young women, after a series of indecent and strange escapades, went no-one knows where. All this time the men were drinking. There being twenty barrels of beer on the premises. Some of the went and filled buckets with beer and visited the men and asked them to sup. Some did so quietly and others refused. Those who refused had the ale poured over them. The drinking then became fearful. As daylight broke over the peaceful and rural scene outside, yells and screeches greeted the ears inside. Finally the men, being mad with drink and rage, commenced to smash the house and its contents. Doors were wrenched off their hinges, pots, pans, glasses and windows, window frames and furniture were all smashed. A valuable 8 day clock was kicked to pieces. Boxes were smashed open, 20 was stolen; wearing apparel, bedding and furniture were thrown out of windows. The premises were literally flooded with beer, the men drank beer out of the pots, basins, buckets, chamber utensils, dolly tubs and finally one inventive genius brought a wheelbarrow. The men sang a comic song composed a few days previously, A number of men rushed upstairs and seized hold of a man who was laying sick in bed, stripped him and brutally kicked him downstairs, He was left lying on the floor with his leg broken and now lies in a bad state in the Preston Infirmary. Holdens father in law, an old man apparently over 60 years of age, was thrown on the floor and a stalwart brute resumed to batter him head with a pot and swore he would kill him. Fortunately he was rescued before life was extinct. The men stripped themselves naked and went into the fields where they fought. There was a steep incline near to the house, and the drunken fellows rolled down the field and were scarcely able to crawl. After rolling about 40 to 50 yards the men became frantic. And the one called 'wild fire' was about to set fire to the premises when he was stopped by the gangs. Words cannot describe the fearful state of things. The horrible cursing and beastly conduct that baffles all description. The orgies that were indulged in were fiendish and if we dared shock our readers by describing them they would be scarcely credible. When the fury of the men had somewhat spent itself, some neighbours went and knocked the heads off the barrels of beer in, and let the beer escape. Some notion may be formed of the amount of beer consumed when we state that we counted 37 empty barrels. Holden was going to return on the Saturday night but he was informed if he did he would lose his life, so he wisely stayed away. His wife however had more courage and went but when she saw the state of things she made the best of her way from the place and happily without injury. Most of the men engaged in these horrible proceedings, went away on the Sunday and have not been heard of. The total damage is estimated at 90: the place as been so rough that no one dare go near. We were informed that a short time ago one policeman had the courage to go to the place but he was stripped, tied to a tree. And a man stood near him waving a bowie knife and threatened that if he spoke he would rip him open. On Sunday last 5 men were locked up on suspicion of having been concerned in the matter.
2nd May 1874
A STEP BACK IN TIME Chronicle of Village Life in & Around Longridge 1800s 1900s
Step Back in Time: Chronicles of Village Life in and Around Longridge
by Jane Riding Smyth
Paperback, 216 Pages, Published 1996

Thanks to Nick Mattock of Lancashire Constabulary for the update on rioters who were charged
Even though the works were for the Preston Corporation, the land was in the West Riding and the case was heard at Bolton by Bowland police court, where five men were charged with robbery and damage. Whilst there was clearly evidence of disorder and damage, no evidence could be given that the five men charged were actually responsible, and all were acquitted. The court appears to have taken a dim view of Holden and given he was summonsed for selling alcohol without a licence, one can only assume they held him to be a victim of circumstances he had engineered.
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