Wednesday 22 January 2014

The Death of Great-Grandfather, Joshua Kelsall

I touched briefly on the life of my Mum's paternal grandfather in this post and had messages from several second generation cousins. We knew that Joshua had been shot dead while walking in some woods in Preston, supposedly mistaken for a rabbit! This week I had a fascinating email from a new-to-me second cousin, Phil Kelsall(a grandson of my grandad Bob's older brother, Joe) and he sent me his copies of the newspaper report and then the inquest.




 Lancashire Daily Post Monday September 6th  1920.

Early yesterday morning a tragic event occurred near Preston, as a result of which a man named Joshua Kelsall, about 55 years of age, met his death by shooting.

At a point off the Preston-Blackburn new road, before reaching Halfpenny Bridge, nearly opposite the Royal Cross School, and bordering Brockholes Wood, is an area known as the Golf Field, Portions of which are let off. Some of the land is under cultivation, and as much growing produce has suffered from the depredations of rabbits &c, three men yesterday morning went with two guns, to endeavour to destroy or drive away the pests.

About 5.30 the men took up different positions and one, Robert Hargreaves, of Raikes Rd, Preston who had a double barreled breech loading gun, seeing something stir among the bracken, a little distance from where he stood fired, under the impression that the movement was that of a rabbit. On going to test the effect of his shot he was horrified to discover the dead body of a man, the charge having struck Kelsall in the head killing him instantly. Realising what had happened Hargreaves acquainted the police and gave himself up.

It is surmised that Kelsall, who is a man of no fixed abode and who usually stayed in common lodging-houses, had been sleeping out, and in waking had disturbed the foliage and thus attracted the attention of Hargreaves.

The body of the deceased was removed to the police mortuary.


Lancashire Daily Post Monday September 6th 1920

Robert Hargreaves, Labourer (31) of 23, Raikes Road, was charged at the Police court. this morning, before Messrs A. Clemesha and W. Gregory, with unlawfully causing the death of Kelsall by shooting him.

Mr Fazackerly, who appeared for the police, said Kelsall collected ferns and wild flowers which he brought to town for sale. Hargreaves, a man named Forshaw and another man named Edward Whittaker, Left their Homes at 5 45 yesterday morning and proceeded to a field near Brockholes wood. Hargreaves and Whittaker carried double barrelled guns for the purpose of shooting rabbits. On entering the field near the Halfpenny Bridge Hargreaves said he would go round the plots - a number of allotments there - to see if he could get a rabbit, and Forshaw and Whittaker went in the other direction. About 6 30 Forshaw and Whittaker heard a shot, and a moment or two later Hargreaves ran up to them  and said "I've shot a man." Forshaw said "Get away, what are you taking about?" Thinking Hargreaves was joking. Hargreaves then said "I saw something move, and I fired, thinking it was a rabbit. I went to pick it up, and I found it was a man" Forshaw and Whittaker asked if anything could be done, and Hargreaves said "No; he is qute dead," and went for the police

P.S. Cardwell said that about seven o'clock on Sunday morning he had just entered his house on coming off night duty when he heard Hargreaves shout "Cardwell" three times Witness asked: "what is the matter?" Hargreaves said, "I've just shot a man in Farringdon Park in mistake for a rabbit" Witness accompanied Hargreaves to the Golf Field behind Farringdon Park, and amongst some bracken saw the body of Kelsall, the bracken covering all except the face and chest. The head was slightly turned to the left, the hat which was on the left shoulder was riddled with shot, and the deceased was bleeding from numerous pellet wounds on the right side of the face. Prisoner pointed out that he had been standing about 13 yards from where the body lay when he fired the shot.

Mr Fazackerly said the inquest would be held on that or the following day, he asked for a remand until the Coroner's jury should have inquired into the matter.

Mr J Whittle for the prisoner, said the police now knew the full circumstances of the case, and the bench had been acquainted with all the details. Hargreaves was a man of unimpeachable character, and the manager of the firm for whom he worked was prepared to stand surety for him. He (Mr Whittle) could not object to the remand, but asked for bail.

The Police did not object to bail, which was granted, and Hargreaves was remanded till Wednesday, bail being allowed in one surety of £20 and a personal surety of £20.


Lancashire Daily Post Tuesday September 7th 1920

The tragic shooting in the Golf Field behind Farringdon Park, Preston was inquired into this afternoon, at Preston by Mr Harold Parker, deputy Coroner and a jury. There were present Mr  H Fazackerly representing the police and Mr Jno Whittle representing Robert Hargreaves who fired the fatal shot and who is under remand on bail charged with causing the death of Joshua Kelsall. Hargreaves was also present.

Catherine Kelsall, 29 Snow Hill  the widow said her husband Joshua Kelsall was 61 years of age and a market gardener. She and her husband had lived apart for the past 14 years. He had lived in common lodging-houses, sometimes he had lived at the house of the witness's married daughter, and occasionally he had slept out. He gained a living by getting ferns and making wreaths, button holes, and bouquets which he sold about town.

Dr. Mary Lowry assistant medical officer of health gave details of the post-mortem examination. There were fractures of the skull  above the right eye and behind the right ear, the latter about an inch long  and half inch wide, a portion of bone being driven inwards, causing haemorrhage over the surface of the right side of the brain.  The cause of death was a fracture of the skull and haemorrhage, and what she saw was  consistent with shots from a gun.

In reply to Mr Whittle, witness's  said the type of shot she found was of a kind used for rabbit shooting, and in answer to the deputy Coroner she said the area covered by shots was about four or five inches in diameter.

John Conners 10 Iddesleigh road Preston mill fireman said he and a man named James Derbyshire were joint tenants of an acre of land on the Golf Field. He did not know to whom the shooting rights over the land belonged but the allotment holders had a mutual arrangement to go on to each other's ground for the purpose of protecting each others property whilst the remainder were away.

Proceeding witness's said he knew Edgar Whitaker, William Forshaw, and Robert Hargreaves and all held land in the neighbourhood of his. He had never made any arrangements for anyone to shoot rabbits on his land or given any permission for that purpose. He had seen plenty of people with guns on his land, but had never taken notice of  who they were having gone on with his work. He had not told them they had no right to be there.

In reply to Mr Whittle  witness's said they had been very much bothered by rabbits, having lost practically all his cabbage plants in consequence of them. He was therefore, glad that someone should come there to shoot provided no accidents happened, and he would not stop any of the tenants of the land from shooting over his ground.

By the Coroner: He understood that Hargreaves and Forshaw were partners in a plot of land on the same estate as that on which witness cultivated a plot. Whittaker, he understood was not a plot holder. Witness had warned Kelsall of his land because he thought he was going to make use of his (witness's) cabin.

Edgar Whittaker, Linotype operator, 224 Brockholes View, said he met Forshaw by appointment and along with Forshaw and Hargreaves they went to Forshaw's allotment in order to see what they could do for the clearing of rabbits, which were doing much damage to the crops. He had a gun and Hargreaves had one, and each carried his own cartridges. On arriving on the ground Hargreaves took a different course to witness, saying he would try to get a rabbit.


Lancashire Daily Post Wednesday September 8th 1920

Yesterday afternoon, at Preston Police Station, Mr Harold Parker, deputy coroner, and a jury inquired into the circumstances attending the death of Joshua Kelsall (61), market gardener, and latterly a fern gatherer, who was shot in the Golf Field behind Farringdon Park, Preston, by Robert Hargreaves, a labourer, who as out shooting rabbits. Mr Fasackerly appeared for the police, and Mr Whittle for Hargreaves.

Evidence at considerable length was given showing that allotment cultivators, of whom Hargreaves was one, had been much troubled by the depredations of rabbits, and from time to time guns were taken upon the allotments for the protection of produce from thieves and rabbits. The fatal shooting took place near the land of John Connors, a mill fireman. Hargreaves, it was stated, had since January this year cultivated one-sixth of an allotment in the occupation of William Forshaw, boot and shoemaker, who was one of the party on Sunday morning.

Mr Whittle did not call Hargreaves. The police had received his statement already, and there was nothing to add to it.

The deputy coroner said the law on the point was that if a man were in the course of committing an unlawful act-in that case the unlawful act would be trespassing in search of game- he fired a shot and through quite ignorant of the fact, killed a man, it would be the jury's duty to find the verdict of manslaughter, and for him as coroner to commit on that charge.

He asked the jury Did they find evidence of an unlawful act? if Hargreaves went as a trespasser and discharged his gun, he had told them what the verdict should be. If on the other hand, they found it was understood and that he believed he had the right to go on other peoples allotments shooting rabbits, then the verdict would be that of "Misadventure".

Alluding to the method of shooting, the deputy coroner said that to fire at anything moving was rather a dangerous practice, and if he were Hargreaves he should avoid doing such a thing again. There were other things which moved near a town besides rabbits and game and he thought it a wise thing for a man who went sporting to see what he was going to fire at before he fired.

The Jury returned a verdict of "Misadventure". believing that Hargreaves had a perfect right on the land and that he was not a trespasser.


Lancashire Daily Post Wednesday September 8th 1920

At the Borough Police Court, this morning, Hargreaves was charged on remand, with causing the death of Kelsall.

Mr Fazackerly said the accused was charged before this court on Monday, with causing the death of Kelsall by shooting him with a gun. The coroner and a jury had held an exhaustive  and everybody who could throw any light on this unfortunate occurrence was called and examined. The result of the inquiry was that the jury returned a verdict of "Death by Misadventure". The chief Constable had considered the position, and having regard to the verdict, he did not propose to offer any further evidence, and asked that the accused should be discharged.

Accused was then discharged, and on his behalf, Mr Whittle said he appreciated the courtesy of the police towards the accused throughout the inquiry. The affair had been a great shock to him.

The chairman (Mr W.J.Hayhurst) said the bench appreciated that it was a very painful position for him to be placed in.

If pictures could talk! I am quite sure that this is Joshua Kelsall in his prime.
He had a BA from Oxford University and was known by neighbours to be a perfect gentleman, however he was not a perfect husband.

My sincerest thanks to Phil for sharing this information with our family...Phil also may have some other 'goodies' to add...he and his wife visited the road where the Jennet Clegg's two grandsons lived in London and saw a pub dating back to the 1600s and St Olave's Church in Hart Street...interesting reading in it's right. 

Bye bye for now, 

Coincidently my grand-daughters' great grandfather was also shot dead not long before their mother was born. While it's not really part of my family history it must have affected his family very deeply.
He was First Class Constable William (Bill) Pense and was killed on duty in Mt Barker in the south of Western Australia in 1979 while serving a court summons for a fine of $325!

 Here is one report...

This article makes mention of a memorial now at Mt Barker,

The Memorial was held on 12 October
– 33 years to the day that First Class
Constable William Pense was killed in
the line of duty.
Const. Pense assistant to the bailiff,
Officer in Charge, Sergeant James
Keelan, had headed out to a property
to serve a court summons for an unpaid
fine of $325.
The man at the property Donald Edwin
Parre immediately ordered the officers
away before producing a rifle and
opening fire.
Sergeant Keelan was hit as he ran to
the van to retrieve a handgun - he
survived. Const. Pense was not so
lucky. He was shot four times as he
tried to disarm Parre, the last bullet
penetrating his heart.


  1. That is interesting reading, Sue. Such a tragedy though! My father was in a similar situation years ago when he was shooting with some friends when he was young which was a common practice for farming men many years ago. One of the men was shot and killed when they were going under a fence. I don't think my dad ever went shooting again after that.

  2. As tragic as the story is is it always so awesome to get these stories that go with the "name and birth date" info that is so dry. It certainly makes people more real and helps to get a feel for their lives! I just love this kind of stuff!

  3. Josh was my great grandad too.