On this day … 7 March 1690

Col Thomas Bellingham

The Preston diarist Thomas Bellingham (pictured) wrote: ‘Ye 7th. A fayr day. About 2 this morning young Patten dy’d. Ye Coroner’s inquest found it murder in both ye Danes. Ye town dispatch’d messengers wth ye account, to the coll and major, to Liverpoole.’

Young Patten was William, the son of Bellingham’s cousin, also William. Two nights before, in a fight involving Danish soldiers at Widow Carr’s tavern, he was stabbed with a bayonet by one of the Danes. The Danish regiment left the next day for Liverpool on its way to Ireland. The following morning, William’s wound was dressed and there was some hope that he would recover, but when his father and Dr Tarleton visited in the evening, the doctor held out ‘but small hopes’. He died in the early hours of the following morning.

As noted in the diary entry, the coroner held an inquest on the same day, and messengers were sent chasing after the regiment. The outcome is unknown.

The Danish regiment was one of many briefly stationed in Preston at this time, on their way to Liverpool and embarkation for Ireland. It meant that at any one time thousands of soldiers, many from regiments in which discipline was notoriously lax, were in town and in its taverns.

Their presence was especially irksome for local Catholics, for the soldiers were frequently recruited to search the homes of suspected supporters of James II for weapons, and those were usually Catholic homes.

The regiments were being mustered to support William III in his campaign against James’ forces in Ireland. At the battle of the Boyne, Bellingham, by then a colonel, was William’s aide de camp. The account of the battle he left in his diary has been a major source for historians.

A few days before William Patten’s murder, Bellingham included the following in his diary, ‘We had Major Billings and others drank att Crabtrees, where were most of ye gentlemen of ye town and ye Danish minister a good scholar and ready in Latin. I spoake more Latin than I have done these 20 years. There are orders come for ye Danes to march.’

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