AS part of our weekly Crime Files series, we are taking a look back at the archives to bring you stories from Herefordshire's history.

The following story dates from 1855.

EIGHT navvies were placed on trial for the manslaughter of a prostitute in Hereford in 1855.

William Stevens, 27, Robert Scott, 46, John Wilson, 24, James Ford, Henry Williams, 20, William Higgins, 22, Charles Smith, 22, and John Green, 30, all appeared before Hereford Assizes for trial in December that year.

The victim, Priscilla Morgan, who had lived in Bowsey Lane (now Wall Street), in Hereford's red light district, was found dead in September 1854.

The court heard there had been a disturbance in the brothel-lined street in the early hours of September 30.

Miss Morgan had been living with a man named Parkes, who went out to fetch the police.

Witnesses placed an angry bootless and coatless Wilson at the next-door house at 1am that morning, reporting that he had been knocking at the door while the other prisoners came up the lane.

But when the door was answered, and Wilson told his boots and coat were not inside, he and three or four of his companions entered the house, attacking Miss Morgan's neighbour, a Mr Holmes, and dragging him into the street by his hair.

Miss Morgan, witnesses said, was also dragged from her home, and struck in the head with a rolling-pin by Stevens.

She was carried into her house 'quite insensible' while the prisoners made a getaway, the court was told.

Surgeon Mr Hanbury was sent for, and found her in a senseless state and unable to speak, with wounds to the back and side of her head, and lacerations to her face.

She was taken to the infirmary where she later died of her injuries, found in a post-mortem to be a compression and laceration of the brain caused by a fracture of the skull.


Scott, Ford, and Wilson were taken into custody and the rest shortly after. They had all been in the service of a man named Mr Moxon, who had taken a contract for improving the drainage of the city, the court heard.

But despite the great number of witnesses produced, it was heard at the trial that many of them were 'of the lowest possible description', being brothel keepers and prostitutes, with one owning ten houses of ill-repute in the lane.

It was thought many of them may have been involved in the disturbance, and they contradicted each other to such a great extent on cross-examination that, it was reported, no reliance could be placed on their testimony.

The jury, after just a few minutes of deliberation, found all eight of the prisoners not guilty.