A Case of Animal Cruelty

There has been a lot of justified outrage in the past week concerning the trainee solicitor who left her dog locked up in a kitchen only for it to die a long, cruel death. Sadly, animal cruelty is something that often rears it ugly head and, upon reading this story, I was reminded of a tale from my own family’s past.

The Great Eastern, Mill Street, Toxteth, where Henry Mills was a beer house keeper.

The Great Eastern, Mill Street, Toxteth, where Henry Mills was a beerhouse keeper.

On March 23rd, 1862, my great-great-great grandfather, Henry Mills, beerhouse keeper in Mill Street, Toxteth Park, heard loud coughing and neighing sounds coming from the stable he rented to John Thornton, a car driver and proprietor. Upon looking through a gap in the shutters, he saw two horses lying on the floor. He did not enter the stable but, the following day, he opened up one of the shutters on the stable window and sent someone in to see the condition of the horses. Subsequently, Henry entered the stable himself and was shocked by what he saw. The horses were lying on the floor, the fore foot of one of them being over the halter by which it was tied. The horse’s eye was injured as a result of it striking itself against the manger. The animals were both in a horrendous state of exhaustion and emaciation. In an attempt to improve the health of the horses, Henry prepared and gave them some bran mash.

The following Tuesday morning, Henry once again looked into the stable and, to his shock, found one of the horses had died. He removed the animal and placed the other horse in the stall.  For the following four or five days, he tried to raise the surviving horse but it was all proving too difficult due to its severe ill health.

Henry sent for John Thornton, who arrived in a state intoxication and did not attempt to provide any relief for the horse. Henry decided it was time to call in the authorities. On examining the animal, veterinary surgeon, Mr Briscoe, stated that it was in need of proper nourishment. It had large abscesses on the left side of its body, legs, face, cheek and knee and was reduced to a complete skeleton. It was also suffering from diseases of the lungs and liver. Mr Briscoe stated that this was the worst case of neglect he had witnessed in his career.

Thornton was charged under the 13th section of the act of Parliament for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with having wilfully neglected and abused two horses. He was fined £5 and costs and, in default of payment, would be imprisoned for two months.


Lest We Forget

On Remembrance Sunday, my thoughts have turned to the members of my family who fought for their country, never to return. I have already written about my grandfather’s cousin, Hubert Stanley Denson, who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme https://unearthingtheskeletons.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/battle-of-the-somme-a-tragic-tale/ and I would like to share another story of an ancestor who died in World War One.

John Stephen Mills, my great-grandmother’s brother, was born on 18th December 1890 and, due to his father being a manager of a public house, he spent the early part of his life moving from house to house, living in the Liverpool areas of Bootle, Everton and Kensington. By the age of 20, he was still living at the family home of 67 Kensington, working as a restaurant porter.

North Lancashire Regiment

North Lancashire Regiment

On the outbreak of World War One, John decided to join the armed forces and was attested at Seaforth on 9th September 1914, becoming a private in the 8th battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire regiment. After moving to Boscombe, Bournemouth, back to Boscombe and then finally to Romsey, on 22nd May 1915, he was promoted to Lance Corporal in an unpaid capacity and a month later, was in a paid position.

On 25th September 1915, just over a week after being posted abroad (to Boulogne), John did what other members of the armed forces did and wrote a will in the event of him not returning. These handwritten wills were kept in the pocket service books of the soldier and tucked into their uniforms. John’s read:

In the event of my death, I give the whole of my property and affects to my mother and if my mother be deceased at the time of my death I bequeath the whole of my property and affects to my brother Edward and if he be deceased at the time of my death to my niece Margaret Mills. Signed the 25th day of Sept 1915, John Stephen Mills, L Corpl. No 15429 8th North Loyal North Lancs.

Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais

Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais

Sadly, the instructions in this will had to be carried out as John Stephen Mills was reported missing on 21st May 1916 and, later the same day, was declared killed in action. He is remembered on the Arras Memorial in Pas de Calais. His mother, Annie Florence Mills, later claimed his medals – the 1914-18 Star, Victory Medal and British War Medal.

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Summoned for Permitting Drunkenness

Henry Mills was born in Meifod, Mongomeryshire in 1822 but relocated to Toxteth Park with his family when he was only a child. After his marriage, in 1845, to Sarah Ingram, he settled in Mill Street where he became a baker and flour dealer. In about 1862, he decided upon a change of occupation and became aThe Great Eastern, Mill Street, Toxteth. licensed victualler, turning his flour shop into a public house – the Great Eastern.

The Great Eastern, Mill Street, Toxteth.

Business was obviously good, as by 1868, Henry Mills had relocated to much larger premises – also called the Great Eastern – in New Ferry. The Great Eastern Hotel in New Ferry, named after the ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was built in 1862 but only really came into its own after Henry Mills became landlord. Because of its location, the hotel became popular with tourists and visitors who had crossed the Mersey on the ferry. It also boasted picnic grounds, a 1000-seater tea room and a ballroom.

On Good Friday in 1876, at 3pm, Sergeant Perry and other police officers visited the Great Eastern where they witnessed a number of people in the grounds clearly under the influence of alcohol and staggering around.

The Great Eastern, New Ferry, 1912.

The Great Eastern, New Ferry, 1912.

Although it was an offence, it became apparent that Mills and his staff were still serving liquor to these cusomers despite their inebriated state. The police officers brought this to the attention of Henry Mills who promised that he would stop the tap and only serve them ginger beer.

At 5,30pm, Sergeant Perry again visited the Great Eastern only to find that the hotel was in a state of great disorder. There were five or six simultaneous fights occurring and the people in the grounds were still being served with alcohol. This was, again, brought to the attention of Mills.

An hour later, at 6.30pm, the sergeant returned only to find things had got worse as there were now women lying in the grounds of the hotel, vomiting. The alcohol was still being sold. By 8.30pm, most had moved out of the hotel grounds but a group of drunken people were discovered in the vaults, being served by waiters. One man, glass in hand, couldn’t even stand!

As a result, Henry Mills was summoned to court where he faced charges of permitting drunkenness and riotous conduct on his premises. Police officers giving evidence spoke of disorder from 3-9pm with fighting and drunkenness almost continual. The defence argued that Henry Mills had given strict orders that no drunk person should be supplied with alcohol and precautions were taken to ensure that these orders were carried out. Witnesses were called who supported the argument of the defence.

Advertisement for the Great Eastern, New Ferry taken from the Liverpool Mercury, 3rd May 1969.

Advertisement for the Great Eastern, New Ferry taken from the Liverpool Mercury, 3rd May 1969.

The charge of permitting drunkenness was proved with the magistrate staring that this case was a “disgraceful one.” Henry Mills was given a penalty of £10 and asked to pay costs.

This wasn’t the only time Henry Mills had an encounter with the magistrates’ court although his next appearance had a different outcome.

In January 1877, Mills was again summoned for permitting drunkenness. On December 29th of the previous year, Sergeant O’Donnell and Police Constable Asbury visited the Great Eastern where they found a local man, John Cooney, drunk, leaning on the counter with a pint mug of beer in front of him. Mills denied that there was anything wrong with the man but, after being spoken to by the police, agreed that the man had had enough. Sergeant O’Donnell had suspicions that the landlord was shortsighted.

At court, staff from the Wirral Hotel were called and said that they’d denied Cooney drink at their establishment due to his drunken state. A postman, on the other hand, who had been at the Great Eastern that evening, said that he’d not seen anything to suggest that the man was drunk.

To convict Henry Mills, he had to be seen to be serving a drunk man. Due to the sergeant’s suspicions that he was shortsighted, the case was dismissed!