On this day … 2 January 1660

According to the Preston Court Leet records:

A mob armed with clubs and crowbars attacked the town hall, breaking down the door to the jail there and freeing a number of prisoners.

Two of the attackers were fined 13s. 4d., it being their second offence. Five others were fined 6s 8d. A number of the offenders were not apprehended. The sum of 13s. 4d. was known as a mark, and at the court leet records people are frequently fined a mark or half a mark (6s. 8d.). It was never an actual coin in Britain, although it was in Germany before the introduction of the euro.

A mark was then worth less than £80 in today’s money, which seems a remarkably small fine for such a serious offence.

Here is the report in full (take a deep breath before starting reading, it’s all one sentence. They didn’t bother much with punctuation in the 17th century … and as for their spelling!):

Whereas Mr Maior of this Towne had comitted sevall psons to prisson as Actors abedtors and incouragers of a violent and forcable rescueing of some prisoner or prisoners that day from the officers, that in obedience to Mr Maiors comand were conveyinge them to prisson, and that Thomas ffrance, Robert Kighley, Thomas ffisher, Henry Balshawe, Thomas Hodson did designe together with Henry ffisher and Richard Hodgkinson, and others whose names doe not appeare unto us, to release the said prisoners there inprissoned by force of Armes, and upon monday the seacond of January last in a Royetous & tumultnous manner in prosecucon of the said design with Clubs Crowes of Iron & other Instruments of force, the said Richard Hodgkinson & Henry ffisher with many others did come to the Townes hall & brake open the prisson doores and set at Liberty those that were there inprissoned with exceedinge great vilifinge contempt and dispite of the Majestary and authority of this Towne, and contrary to the 11th order of Mr Prestons guild, wee therefore doe amerce Henry ffisher & Thomas ffrance beinge their second offence in 13s 4d a peece & Robert Kighley, Thomas ffisher, Henry Balshaw, Richard Hodgkinson sonn of Luke Hodgkinson and Thomas Hodson beinge their first offfence in 6s 8d. a peece for their abuse of the Majestary of this Towne, and for what other punishments they lye open to as offenders agt any Lawe or Statute of this Kingdome or Gild ordr. of this Burrogh wee leave to bee considered by Mr Maior and his Councell that they may see the Lawe Executed and Justice administered as the Nature of the offence shall require.

This report is taken from David Berry’s on-line edition of the Preston Court Leet records:
http://c5110394.myzen.co.uk/mw/index.php?title=Main_Page

Anthony Hewitson published a selection from the records, along with copious notes on Preston history:

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