28 November 1903

ALARMING GAS EXPLOSION AT ASHTON
Man Injured

An alarming explosion, which startled the whole neighbourhood, occurred at the butcher’s shop of Mr Charles MITCHELL, Old-street, Ashton, on Saturday night about 8.30. A large number of people, many of whom were out shopping, were in the vicinity at the time, and when the sound of the explosion was heard a crowd ran to the spot. The occupants of the premises on either side of the shop were greatly alarmed, and each ran upstairs with buckets of water, thinking the upper rooms had caught fire.

At the time of the explosion Mr MITCHELL and two boys were in charge of the butcher’s shop. As to what was the primary cause of the leakage of gas resulting in the explosion has not been properly elucidated, but shortly afterwards a break was discovered in the gas pipe suspended from the ceiling of the back kitchen, which suggested that it had been wrenched by something.

The gas would appear to have been escaping most if not all Saturday afternoon, but owing to the pressure of business requiring the attention of the butcher and his assistants in the shop, and the fact that the premises had been closed for a short time, the smell of gas was not noticed until about 8 o’clock in the evening, and on going into the back kitchen quite a hissing sound was heard.

Mr MITCHELL mounted a step-ladder and tried to discover the leak, and struck a match for the purpose. An explosion was the inevitable result, and Mr MITCHELL was thrown with considerable force on to the ground and stunned. He was left badly burned about the face and neck, and was almost unrecognisable. His hair was burned to the scalp, and his eyebrows and moustache were burned completely off.

One of the assistants, who was standing in the doorway, was lifted off his feet and blown through a smaller room into the shop some yards away. Portions of plaster were torn from the roof, and the windows and framework were blown out. Fortunately the shop door was open, and had it not been as the concussion would undoubtedly have shattered the large and mostly plate-glass windows in the shop.

Papers and other materials were scattered about the shop in profusion. Mr MITCHELL was assisted into the shop of Mr HAGUE close by where his head and face were bandaged up after applying linseed oil and limewater, and he was subsequently driven home in a cab.

SHOP FIRE AT ASHTON
An outbreak of fire, which caused some excitement in the neighbourhood, occurred about 11.40 on Saturday morning at the premises of Mr Jn ARDERN, chemist, George-street, Ashton. The fire originated in a third storey room at the back of the premises, used as a storeroom, and was caused apparently through the over-heating of the chimney flue setting same paper on fire which was stored close by.

The flames spread with remarkable rapidity, setting fire to other parts of the room. Efforts were made by means of buckets of water to put out the flames, but they were unavailing, and a communication was dispatched in the meantime to the Town Hall, where the fire alarm bells were rung, and the float with a contingent of firemen dispatched.

On the arrival of the brigade a branch was got to work from the main in George-street, and another from the main in Old-street, and after working about 15 minutes the fire was extinguished. Considerable damage was done to the room in which the fire extinguished.

ACCIDENT ON THE ASHTON MARKET GROUND
About 11.50, on Friday noon, a man named John KILLETT, engine driver for Mr COLLINS, owner of the gondolas on the Ashton market ground, was engaged carrying a signboard up a ladder reared against the gondolas, when he fell to the ground, striking his head upon the pavement, and causing a severe wound over the right eye. He was assisted to the police station, where his wound was stitched by Dr MANN.

HOUSEBREAKING AND ROBBERY AT ASHTON
Housebreakers have been paying a periodic visit to Ashton; or it may be, as appears more likely, judging from the circumstances that one need not go far to lay their hands on the offender or offenders.

On Saturday evening the home of Mr William MILLER, Birch-street, was broken into, and a sum of money amounting to between £8 and £9 stolen. The family was away in town at the time, and on their return they discovered that a piece of glass had been broken out of the side window, facing Stockport-road, and the window catch turned, and by this means an entrance effected. No marks were left on the window sill to give any clue. Having gained access to the house, a drawer was broken open and the money extracted, the robbers then decamping with the booty, and leaving some money in a money box close by.

About the same time a pigeon cote standing on some spare ground of Birch-street, owned by Mr HALL, was broken into, and several valuable pigeons stolen. Pigeons have also been stolen from a pigeon cote belonging to Mr J CLOUGH, in Victoria-street. Surreptitious visits appear also to have been paid to the house of Mr J GARTSIDE, confectioner, Birch-street, and a quantity of coal stolen.

This appears to have been going on for some time, though the quantities stolen have been smaller than on the present occasion. Complaints have also been received of attempts having been made to break into houses on Stockport-road. The police have been informed, and to their credit be it said that on Wednesday they traced the missing pigeons to some boys, who were promptly arrested. Further investigations are being made.

A PRETTY WEDDING AT ASHTON
A pretty wedding took place on Tuesday at St James’s Church, Ashton. The contracting parties were Miss Lily HULLEY, eldest daughter of Mr George HULLEY, builder, Ashton, and Mr James COULTER, of Badford, Leigh. The ceremony was fixed for two o’clock, was solemnised by the Rev T B DIXON (vicar).

The bride, who carried a shower bouquet of white flowers, and wore a dress of grey voile with hat to match, was attended by her father, who gave her away, and her two bridesmaids, her sister, Miss Beatrice HULLEY, and Miss Gertrude MARLAND. The duties of best man were carried out by Mr C HOYLE. After the ceremony the guests were taken to her father’s house, where a very happy evening was spent. There were a great number of useful and costly presents. The happy couple left Ashton for Leigh, the bridegroom’s native town, where they are to reside.

INSANITARY PROPERTY AT STALYBRIDGE
Ignoring a Magisterial Order

At the Stalybridge Police Court, on Monday, an important case affecting property owners in the borough came on for hearing. Defendants were the owner or owners of cottage property, 58 to 70 Canal-street, 123 Cooper’s Yard, 19, 21, and 23 Brierley-street, and they were summoned for having failed to obey an order made under the Public Health Act, 1875, to alter closets, etc, which had been deemed a nuisance.

The Mayor (Councillor WOOD) occupied a seat on the Bench, but being a member of the Corporation he did not adjudicate in this case. There was no response on the part of the owners, and Councillor HOBSON proved having served the summons upon Mr LOWNDS, Cavendish-street, Ashton, agent of the property in question.

Mr Jno MILLER (Town Clerk) appeared to prosecute on behalf of the Corporation, and observed at the outset that Mr LOWNDS was one of the owners as well as the agent of the property. This was a case in which defendants had failed to comply with an order made by that Court on the 20th May last. On that date application was made to the justices for an order requesting defendants to abate a nuisance on the property, and on that occasion they were professionally represented by a solicitor, but were fined 2s 6d and costs.

Even the penalty imposed was not paid until the 27th August, and though the order was made so far back as May nothing whatever had been done towards abating the nuisance, and therefore the sanitary authority felt compelled to assume that the owners of the property were simply setting the Court and the Corporation at defiance. The section under the Public Health Act under which proceedings were taken provided that any person not obeying a magisterial order requesting them to abate a nuisance they would be liable to a penalty not exceeding 10s per day.

The abatement order was served upon Mr LOWNDS in June, and thereby he became the owner for the purpose of those proceedings. The property was in mortgage, and, of course, the mortgagee would not do anything, therefore it was left to the Corporation to take such proceedings as they might be advised for the purpose of compelling someone to abate the nuisance.

When the case was up before it was proved beyond all doubt that the nuisance was an abominable one. Within three feet of two of the houses which were tenanted the poor people could not open their back doors without having to endure an offensive smell. The Corporation thought it was incumbent upon them, if only in the interests of the inhabitants of the district, that this abominable nuisance be done away with.

The yard where the nuisance existed was enclosed, and if allowed to continue the ultimate result might mean a serious epidemic. The order which the court made that the nuisance should be abated, and water closets erected in place of the existing privies. It was not for the pecuniary result that the Corporation took these proceedings, but they were bound and were determined to insist upon the committee’s order being carried out, otherwise the delinquents must pay the penalty. Defendants were liable for 115 days, or a total sum of £5 10s.

Mr WILLIAMSON: Is the property worth that? — The Town Clerk: There is a mortgage of £500 upon it, so it must be worth that. At the last proceedings it was asked that the Corporation should do the work, but one of the beneficiaries under the will of the late owner said he had not received any rent for a long time, and knew nothing about it. Then the solicitor said, “Who is going to pay the costs?” The Town Clerk proceeded to say that the property was very old, and already three of the cottages had been closed as being worthless.

Formal evidence was given by Mr Joseph OLIVER, sanitary inspector. He said he had seen the property that morning, and nothing had been done to abate the nuisance which had been complained of for 20 years. Mr LOWNDS was one of the executors. — Mr J WHITEHEAD, magistrates’ clerk, proved the making of the order to abate by the magistrates.

The Town Clerk said he regretted very much that defendants were not represented in court. The Sanitary Committee some time ago received a letter from Mr LOWNDS stating that the owners of the property were poor people. The Corporation did not want to punish these poor people, seeing that the property was in the hands of a mortgagee, but they thought the latter should pay the penalty. — Mr WILLIAMSON: The health of the people is to be considered more than pounds, shillings and pence.

Asked who was the mortgagee, the Town Clerk said he did not know, but whoever he was all the surplus rent went to him. The Bench retired, and after a few minutes’ consultation Mr WILLIAMSON said that the magistrates had decided unanimously that they would not impose the full penalty. Mr MILLER, no doubt, never expected that, but the Bench resolved to fine defendants £5 and costs for disobeying the order.

SUDDEN DEATH OF MR HENRY WRIGHT
Death took place at Gorton on Saturday night, under painfully sudden circumstances, of Mr Henry WRIGHT, late of Ashton, where he was greatly esteemed and respected as the former keeper of the Stamford-street Wesleyan Chapel. It appears that on Saturday night Mr WRIGHT went to be as usual, but during the night awoke, asked Mrs WRIGHT to get a light, and immediately expired.

The interment took place at Christ Church, Ashton, on Wednesday afternoon, and was a quiet and unostentatious character. The Rev H BRIERLY officiated at the grave side.

SINGULAR DEATH OF A BOY AT ASHTON
Information was received at the Ashton Police Station on Friday night of last week, of the death of John Law GRIMSHAW, aged 11 years, son of Oliver GRIMSHAW, 78 Katherine-street, Ashton. The boy had always enjoyed good health up to the day previous to his death, and had never been attended by a doctor. On the day in question he commenced to cough, and his mother gave him linseed tea to drink.

On Friday he complained of thirst, and a pain in the chest, throat and side, and his mother gave him some brandy and water. He commenced vomiting, and sat in a chair in the house until about 5pm, when he got up and went into the kitchen. On returning he fainted, and his mother took him in her arms and tried to give him a little brandy and water, but he could not swallow it. Dr HUGHES, junr, was sent for, and on his arrival shortly afterwards he pronounced life extinct. The inquest was held on Tuesday by Mr J F PRICE. Mr Alfred ADAMS was foreman of the jury.

Clarissa GRIMSHAW, mother of the deceased, said he had always been a healthy boy until Thursday night when he complained of a cough. Witness gave him some linseed and Spanish juice. On Friday morning he got up about eight o’clock, when he complained of a pain in his throat and right side. He also complained of being thirsty, and she gave him some tea and brandy and water.

At dinner time he had a little raspberry sandwich. He vomited, and sat in a chair all afternoon. About half past five he went into the kitchen, and when he came out he staggered. Witness got hold of him. She then sent for Mrs GARFORTH, a neighbour, and tried to give him some brandy. She also sent for the doctor who pronounced him dead.

Dr HUGHES, junior, said he was called to see deceased on Friday about 5.40pm, and found him dead. He made a post-mortem examination on Monday afternoon. The child was rather thin, but everything was healthy in the head. There was extensive pleurisy on the right side of the chest. The heart was quite healthy. In the abdomen the alimentary passages were all healthy, and in fact all the organs of the abdomen were. The base of the left lung was very congested.

In his opinion the cause of death was failure of the heart consequent upon acute pleurisy. He thought the child must have had a difficulty in breath, and suffered great pain. A verdict of death from natural causes was returned.

ASHTON CYCLIST’S CLAIM FOR FALSE IMPRISONMENT
At the Manchester Assizes, on Wednesday, William Henry WHATMOUGH, who was introduced to the Court by his counsel as the “Ashton midget,” brought an action against John WEST, brewer at Messrs Gartside’s Brewery, Ashton-under-Lyne, to recover damaged for assault and false imprisonment. Mr SHEE appeared for the defendant.

The plaintiff is said to be a well-known amateur cyclist at Ashton. According to his story he was riding home on his bicycle on the night of April 15 and went into the yard of an empty house next door to the defendant’s house. He took his bicycle into the yard and bolted the door as people were passing up and down the street. While he was in an out house his bicycle fell. The noise brought the defendant out of his house, and he seized the plaintiff, who was leaving the yard, and took him into the house.

The police were sent for, and the plaintiff, having been handcuffed, was taken through the streets to the West End Police Station, a distance of 600 yards. He was there charged in defendant’s presence with being on enclosed premises for an unlawful purpose. Afterwards he was taken, again on foot, to the Ashton Town Hall, and spent the night in a cell. He asked to be allowed out on bail the following morning, but was not let out until the afternoon.

Three days later he appeared before the magistrates, and the case was dismissed. Plaintiff stated that he showed the defendant a medal bearing his name, and also his certificate of membership of the National Cyclists’ Union. He denied altogether that he ever went into WEST’s own yard.

For the defence, Mr SHEE contended that there was reasonable cause for suspecting the plaintiff, and urged that if the jury found against his client, a farthing damages would be sufficient.

The defendant stated that he heard bottles being broken, and when he went outside the house he found that an empty crate had been placed against his yard wall. He had often been disturbed by trespassers. He denied that the plaintiff showed him his medal and certificate, and said that before the case was heard by the magistrates plaintiff went to him and asked him not to give evidence. — The police sergeant who took the plaintiff into custody and several other witnesses gave evidence with the object of showing that the plaintiff had no excuse for going into the yard.

The Judge, in summing up, said the jury had simply to assess the damages, but they should remember that the plaintiff was himself partly to blame for what occurred. The jury awarded the plaintiff £3. In an argument which ensued as to the costs, the Judge said he thought the plaintiff would have been well off if he had got a farthing damages. He, however, decided to make no order as to costs, which meant that the plaintiff would receive costs on the County Court scale.

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