This medieval manor house was built in the early 16th century, with alterations in the 17th century and renovations at a later date.
Preston Court became an important farm, but in 1849 the farm buildings suffered catastrophic damage following an arson attack. At this time Mr. John Davies was the lessee of the farm under the Dean and Chapter of Hereford.
Servant Boy Charged with Incendiary Fire at Preston Court
In 1849 a fire on 3rd April reduced the extensive farm buildings of Mr. John Davis of Preston Court in Preston on Wye to a pile of rubble; at the same time a large quantity of feed, waggons, carts and farming implements were destroyed. Three barns, four beast houses, a stable and many sheds and other outbuildings over roughly three quarters of an acre were demolished with no walls remaining standing – fortunately all the animals were rescued, but it was not an easy task.
The buildings were only insured for £500, and this was nowhere near enough to cover the cost of the damage. It was reported that the blaze was so large and terrifying that at least 2000 people turned up to try to help.
There was no doubt that someone had deliberately set fire to the property but at first there were no suspects – then a couple of days later circumstances arose which led people to believe that John Jones, a 14 year old servant of Mr. Davis, was the perpetrator of the deed. In fact, Jones himself later confessed to Mr. Davies’ sister, saying that he used a Lucifer match – he hoped that because he had owned up he would be forgiven.
John Jones was the youngest of several boys, and his father, an out and out Chartist, lived close to Preston Court. Mr. Davis had always been very kind to Jones and his parents and had helped him and his brothers as they grew up, giving them work and trying to guide them into adulthood.
Apparently on the morning of the fire he had been reprimanded by Mr. Davis for neglecting the horses, and he was told not to go near them again while the job was given to another boy. Perhaps this had annoyed Jones, who was of limited intelligence, enough to set the fire.
The Court Hearing
John Jones was described as having a “heavy stupid appearance” and when he first arrived at Preston Court he appeared quite nonchalant about the whole thing, even enjoying bread and cheese and a mug of cider, (provided by the ever kind John Davis) but by the end of the proceedings he seemed to realise the seriousness of his position and burst into tears. His previous lies when first questioned were picked apart and after many witness statements as well as his own admission, his guilt was without doubt.
John Jones was convicted of setting fire to the farm buildings at preston court and sentenced to 15 years transportation. He was ordered by the Secretary of State to Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of White.
1851 – Preston Court Household
|John Davis||52||Farmer of 235 acres employing 8 labourers||b. Herefordshire|
|Julianna Davis||45||Wife||b. Herefordshire|
|Joseph Minest||12||Farm servant||b. Herefordshire|
|William Jones||17||Farm Servant||b. Herefordshire|
|Eliza Worthington||18||Farm Servant||b. Herefordshire|
|Ann Preece||16||Farm Servant||b. Herefordshire|
1861 – Preston Court Household
|John Davis||63||Farmer of 230 Acres||b. Herefordshire|
|Julia Davis||55||Wife||b. Herefordshire|
|Thomas Seabourn||18||Groom||b. Herefordshire|
|George Gardiner||16||Carter||b. Herefordshire|
|Harriet Seval||27||House Maid||b. Herefordshire|
|Hannah Rice||18||Dairy Maid||b. Herefordshire|
1871 – Preston Court Household
|John Davis||73||Farmer||b. Norton Cannon, Herefordshire|
|Julianna Davis||66||Wife||b. Kentchurch, Herefordshire|
|Thomas Davis||25||Nephew||b. Madley, Herefordshire|
|Henry Williams||16||Indoor farm servant||b. Woolhope, Herefordshire|
|Thomas Seal||16||Indoor farm servant||b. Preston on Wye, Herefordshire|
|Ann Prosser||25||General servant||b. Brinsop, Herefordshire|
|Catherine Prosser||22||General servant||b. Preston on wye, Herefordshire|
1881 – Preston Court Household
|Jonathan Davis||36||Farmer of 300 Acres||b. Madley, Herefordshire|
|Mary E. Davis||35||Wife||b. Kingstone, Herefordshire|
|Ethel Davis||6mths||Daughter||b. Preston on Wye, Herefordshire|
|Juliana Davis||76||Widow, Aunt||b. Herefordshire|
|William J. Davis||33||Brother||b. Madley, Herefordshire|
|Elizabeth Jancey||22||Cook||b. Preston on Wynne, Herefordshire|
|Emily Thomas||17||Housemaid||b. Mansel Lacey, Herefordshire|
|John Williams||16||Groom||b. Moccas, Herefordshire|
|George Thomas||17||Waggoners Boy||b. Holmer, Herefordshire|
1891 – Preston Court Household
|John Davis||46||Farmer||b. Madley, Herefordshire|
|Mary Davis||45||Wife||b. Kingstone, Herefordshire|
|Ethel Davis||10||Daughter||b. Preston on Wye, Herefordshire|
|Frances Davis||9||Daughter||b. Preston on Wye, Herefordshire|
|Juliana Davis||86||Widow, Aunt||b. Kentchurch, Herefordshire|
|Alice Rogers||19||Cook||b. Clehonger, Herefordshire|
|Emma Williams||18||Housemaid||b. Herefordshire|
|John Davies||19||Groom||b. Lyonshall, Herefordshire|
1901 – Preston Court Household
|Jonathan Davis||57||Farmer||b. Madley, Herefordshire|
|Mary E. Davis||58||Wife||b. Kingstone, Herefordshire|
|Ethel Mary Davis||20||Daughter||b. Preston on Wye, Herefordshire|
|Mary Jane Davis||51||Visitor, living on own means||b. Madley, Herefordshire|
|Frances Davis||47||Visitor, living on own means||b. Madley, Herefordshire|
|Gregory E. Damer||24||Farm Assistant||b. Gloucestershire|
|Kate Williams||18||Domestic Servant||b. Breinton, Herefordshire|
1911 – Preston Court Household
|Jonathan Davis||66||Farmer||b. Madley, Herefordshire|
|Ethel Mary Davis||30||Daughter||b. Preston on Wye, Herefordshire|
|Isabel Grace Davis||25||Daughter||b. Preston on Wye, Herefordshire|
|Harold Oswald Summers||22||Farm worker||b. Tooting, Surrey|