On this day … 23 May 1868

The letters page of the Preston Chronicle showed that the new owner and editor of the paper, Anthony Hewitson, had put his stamp on his recent purchase. Papers are best judged by the liveliness of their letters pages and the correspondence columns of the Preston Chronicle after Hewitson took over certainly prove the point.

He sets out his rules of engagement for correspondents to his paper at the top of the page:

We in no way hold ourselves responsible for the opinions of Correspondents. We offer a fair field for all, and shall never refuse insertion to letters, from whomsoever they may come, unless they are either totally irrelevant, unreasonably long, or personally abusive.

It reads like useful guidance for today’s social media platforms, the twenty-first century replacement for the local papers that used to make up the daily reading of most of the population.

The letters page in the Chronicle on that 23 May 1868 included the following, many of which are complaints that could easily be echoed today:

𝐏𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧’𝐬 𝐍𝐞𝐠𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐃𝐮𝐭𝐲

The letter writer was incensed that despite an increase in the number of policemen, they were still plagued by public nuisances:

I never felt more annoyed since coming to reside in Friargate, than I have for the last few years … I have had the recess of my door used time after time as if it were a urinal, and not only so, but twice or thrice lately has my door been broken open by the lads and lasses that meet also every night running purposely against it.

𝐏𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐅𝐨𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐡 𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐏𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐲 𝐖𝐢𝐬𝐞

This correspondent was furious with the council for ‘spending money as recklessly as they could’ and then having to cut back on essentials, which caused him personal injury:

Coming up Church Street tonight, on crossing from Worthington’s corner, I ran against a lamp-post at the opposite corner. On recovering myself I found that only every alternate lamp in the row of pillars, opposite the Town Hall, was lighted. Now, none of these new lamps … give out much light, for the burners appear small; at any rate the light is miserable, and there is no need to make it worse by only lighting every other lamp.

𝐇𝐨𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐬’ ‘𝐁𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐤𝐞𝐫𝐬’

There had been a letter in the previous edition complaining that the stones in the road at the junction of Friargate and Heatley Street had worn so smooth that horses were constantly slipping and falling down when making the turn. The latest correspondent argued that one of the reasons for the falls was the cruel use of blinkers on the horses that only allowed them to see what was directly in front of them.

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐈𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐡 𝐂𝐡𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐡

Another topic on the page was the attack by the vicar of Preston, the Rev John Owen Parr, on attempts by the prime minister William Gladstone to reform the Church of Ireland, so that the vast majority of worshippers in that country, the Catholics, did not have to subsidise the worship of a tiny minority, the Anglicans.

Parr was clearly fearful that the reform would be the thin end of the edge, and Gladstone would next come for the Anglican church in England and threaten the income of his fellow clergy. The correspondents were having no truck with his ‘twaddle’ and poured scorn on the hypocrisy of his argument.

A more scandalous hypocrisy was laid at the vicar’s door a few years later when Hewitson revealed in his paper that Parr had been posing as a widower while secretly married to one of his servants, several years his junior.

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