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 1843.

A PUB dance quarrel saw a Herefordshire man hauled up before the court after it ended in tragedy.

An inquest held at the Byford Boat House public house in August 1843 heard that victim James Preece had been to a dance at that very pub the night before his death.

But while there, he and another dancer, Charles Lewis, had quarrelled.

The next morning the pair had gone out at 7am to fight, battling it out for six or seven rounds before Preece was overcome in a wrestle and stated that he was ruined for ever, with pains in his neck and back.

He was carried back to the Boat, where he was put to bed and bled by a woman, but died a little after midnight.

A post mortem carried out by surgeon Mr Giles found that Preece had been generally healthy, but that "the whole of the vessels of the membranes of the brain, as well as the brain itself, were very much congested and gorged with blood."

There was also blood in the cavities of the brain, and a fracture and dislocation of the sixth and seventh vertical vertebrae.

The doctor concluded that the injury to the spinal cord and subsequent bleeding had been the cause of death.

The inquest jury returned a verdict of manslaughter.


Lewis appeared before Hereford Assizes the next year, charged with manslaughter and assault.

The court heard from labourer Thomas Davies, who had witnessed the fight, that Lewis had initially said he did not want to fight, and had been "quite drunk" at the time.

Another labourer, William Brace, said the pair had shaken hands before they fought, and Preece had tried to throw Lewis down when the former fell on his head, with Lewis falling on top of him.

Preece himself had said before he died that it had been purely accidental and that he did not blame Lewis, the court heard.

The jury found Lewis not guilty on both counts.

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