Extracts from the local press
Notes from the Archives

Transcribed from The News, Chorley. Sept. 12th 1925



Wide spread sympathy and deep regret at the sense of the loss of a popular and respected townsman were expressed by townspeople and residents in the district, on the sad intelligence of the tragic death of Dr. W.J. Leighton of St. George’s Street Chorley, who met with a shocking death in a motor mishap on Tuesday evening at Whittle-le-Woods. Within a few minutes of the discovery of the tragic accident, Dr. Leighton, in his usual excellent health, had been engaged on an errand of mercy in his professional capacity in the Whittle-le-Woods district.

It was a dark night, rain showers had made the road slippery, and the shocking discovery fell to the lot of two young ladies, Miss Ellen and Miss Mary Blackledge, Scotson’s Farm, Whittle-le-Woods, who were returning from Chorley about nine o’clock. They were walking along Lucas Lane, when they saw a motor car spare wheel lying in the narrow lane, and a little further on the lights of a motor car shining into the hedge side. They found the car overturned broadside across the lane, and Dr. Leighton dead beneath it, with his head and arms projecting.


The inquest was conducted at the Court House, Chorley, on Thursday afternoon by the Deputy Coroner (Lieut. Col. Parker. D.S.O.)

There were present at the inquiry, Mr. Samuel Leighton, (father), of Belfast; Mr. James Trelford (uncle), of Belfast; and Mr. Arthur Keil, 9brother of the bereaved widow), of Sudbury, London.

The first witness was Mr. Arthur Lister Keil, brother-in-law of the deceased, who said the deceased was 42 years of age. Witness had known him about 15 years, and had frequently seen him and been in communication with him.

The Deputy Coroner: He was a man of very good health.?

Witness: Of perfect health. He had not had any accidents before. From enquiries and conversations he had with witness’s sister he ascribed Dr. Leighton was visiting patients on that particular night at Whittle and Wheelton.

Thomas Ellison (17), apprentice butcher, Lowe’s Far, Town Lane, Whittle-le-Woods, deposed that about 8-35 on Tuesday night he was near his home – about 40 yards from Lucas Lane end, when he saw a motor car drawn up on the roadside in Town Lane. It was facing towards Wheelton. It was on the proper side of the road and opposite to Lucas Lane. Witness recognised Dr. W.J. Leighton – he was standing in the middle of the road at the off side of the car. Witness noticed, by the lights of the car, repairing tools on the ground, and noticed Dr. Leighton had a repair tool in his hand. Witness did not see the car again until he saw it in Lucas Lane, upside down, fifteen minutes later. In the meantime, witness had been in the house.

In reply to the Deputy Coroner, witness said that when he saw Dr. Leighton attending to the car he was about 40 yards away, he could see the tools in the road by the light of the car lamps. He was quite certain they were tools.

Ellen Blackledge, Scotson’s Farm, Whittle-le-Woods, stated that about ten minutes past nine on Tuesday night, when walking home along Lucas Lane, near Town Lane, she saw a motor car lying upside down across the road. The lights were still burning. Witness did not see anybody about. She went home – about 150 yards away – and informed her brother. Witness did not hear any noise at the time.

Harry Blackledge, (25), farmer’s son, Scotson’s Farm, spoke as to ‘being informed of the occurrence’ by his sister. He at once went to the scene of the accident and saw the motor car, which was completely turned over. He obtained a lamp from a farm nearby, got assistance, and sent for the police. On returning to the place and examining the car they saw a man’s head and leg protruding from the car. The body was lying face downwards with the head showing and the arms were outside the car body. The right leg was also protruding from under the car. The remainder of the body was completely under the car. The witness with others lifted the car and released the body. Dr. Leighton appeared to be dead. They sent for a doctor and rendered what assistance they could until the arrival of the police.

Dr. Maclean deposed he was called at 9-40 p.m. to the scene of the accident. On arrival he found it was Dr. Leighton, of Chorley, who was involved. Witness examined the body. There were injuries about the left shoulder , but no external mark or evidence of injury. Witness concluded that death was due to shock and concussion, which was instantaneous. It must have been absolutely immediate. There was no fracture Death came so quickly that there was no time for haemorrhage. Witness saw exactly the position and cam to the conclusion that when the accident happened he would not be able to breathe; the shock and concussion would have been sufficient to kill him. He was not suffocated. The great part of the weight of the car seemed to have struck him on the back of the head. The most prominent part of the car was resting on the back of the neck.

Proceeding, Dr. Maclean said the car was an open two-seater; the hood had been up, but it was crumpled in the accident. Whenthe accident occurred his leg became involved in the steering wheel and the car was on top of him immediately.


The Deputy Coroner; It is a very bad road?

Dr. Maclean: A terrible place, and not fit to take a car along: it is too steep. It was not safe for any car. The gradient was between one in four and one in five. The road there was very narrow and there was a very sharp turning , less than a right angle from one side. The Deputy Coroner commented that the car would be facing the opposite way to the direction Dr. Leighton wanted to go to Chorley, when in Town Lane.

Dr. Maclean: The nearest way home would be to go back through Whittle . He thought Dr. Leighton had turned and made a great mistake and was backing into the lane : then put the mechanism into the reverse and then the accelerator, and the accident happened. The exhaust pipe was packed with soil and must have been going backwards. It seemed to have been travelling backwards, south, and then turned round, west and quarter of a circle.

P.S. King stationed at Wheelton said that about 9-30 p.m. he went to the scene and saw a Morris Cowley car, 1923 model, l l h.p. lying upside down, about six yards from the junction to Town Lane. Deceased was lying near the car. Witness examined the body and found death had taken place. Witness had the body removed to the home, 3 St. George’s Street, where it was examined by Dr. Maclean again. On examining the body witness found the lower jaw much discoloured, slight bruises on both knees, bruises on both arms, and no external bleeding. He examined the scene of the accident and found a mark as though the wheel has struck the nearside bank for about two yards. He also examined the car and found that the nearside leading wheel had a lot of dirt on the side of the tyre, and the hood was also marked and also the inside front mudguard, which led him to believe that the car was going don – not backing.

Witness proceeded that it was a very dangerous bank: the surface was very bad altogether. The end of the exhaust pipe and the end of the near side back-spring were coated with a quantity of earth and grease. Town Lane, at the scene of the accident was 21 feet wide, and there was a footpath about four feet wide on the far side from Lucas Lane end. The entrance to the lane was 17 feet wide, and there was a high bank. It was the worst road to take to Chorley at the scene where the car was wrecked. The radiator, mudguard, windscreen and lamps were crumpled up. The police had been unable to ascertain any witness of the accident.

Richard Butterfield, motor engineer, of Burlington Street, Chorley, stated that at 12-45 noon on Wednesday he examined the car, which was lying upside down in Lucas Lane. With the assistance of five or six men, the car was raised. The witness found the hand brake was tight on. The gear lever was partly in reverse position.

The Deputy Coroner: It might have been jammed in there when the car was thrown over?

Witness:. Yes.

The Deputy Coroner: Do you think it a likely solution that he wanted to turn and he backed into Lucas Lane, using the reverse gear, and he probably came down a bit faster than he expected and bumped the rear of the car into the bank: and thinking he was alright, or for some reason, put his hand brake on hard and started to dis-engage the gears with a view to getting into the first to draw out: and then the car started to run back?

Witness: It would have been impossible to move. The hand brake was in good order. Some of us tried to move it and found it impossible to do so. In reply to the Coroner, he said he would not like to suggest anything as to the cause of the accident. In reference to the dirt found in the silencer part he did not agree with Dr. Maclean’s theory of the accident, because if so, the car would have had to turn a complete somersault. He did not think it had turned a somersault – which seemed impossible for the kind of car under the circumstances.


A Pure Accident.

The Deputy Coroner in his summing up, remarked it was an extremely sad case . Most of those present and probably all of them knew the late Dr. Leighton, who had been in Chorley for some considerable time, and he had come into contact with his family often. On the night in question, Dr. Leighton evidently set out to visit certain patients, and at about 8-50 he was seen at the top of Town Lane doing something to his car. The his body was found in the lane beneath the overturned car. It was simply a question of surmise how the car came to be there or what hew was doing at the time.

He (the Coroner) surmised that for some reason or other he drove into Lucas Lane, whether for turning his car round, they did not know. But there was no doubt that for some reason on that dark night he was driving backwards, or something happened that caused the car to get out of control, and he collided with the bank and the car must have shot across the road and overturned. There was evidence that the lane (Lucas Lane) was an exceedingly dangerous spot for any car to go down. The brakes of the car might have been disturbed when the crash occurred. Fortunately – if in fact such would be said in connection with such a sad occurrence – from the medical evidence, he could not have suffered at all. The only verdict he could return in that case was that it had been a pure accident and he would return a verdict in accordance with the evidence – “Accidental Death”.

The news of the unexpected sudden end of Dr. J.W. Leighton, M.D., Ch.B., occasioned widespread sympathy and regret in Chorley and district, and the many friends by whom he was well known and respected. In the prime of manhood, he was in his 43rd year. Dr. Leighton has the promise of a very successful career. He entered into the public life of Chorley and district, in the objects for the welfare of the citizens, with much keenness, and he was a very popular figure. He was one of the keenest advocates of the scheme for a new hospital. He was Hon. Surgeon at the Rawcliffe Hospital, a position he had held since his arrival in Chorley, some fifteen years ago. He held a similar appointment at St. John’s Hospital, Manchester, which he frequently visited in his honorary medical work, and he had expected to fulfil an appointment there on Wednesday. In his professional calling he was a specialist of the ear, nose and throat and his skill was widely known. With his colleagues of the medical profession in the town he was highly popular, and some time ago they appointed him Secretary of the Chorley branch of the British Medical Association, and he was also a member of the Executive/ The late Dr. W.J. Leighton was a prominent Freemason, being a Past Master of the Townley Parker Lodge. In politics he was prominent in his fine efforts for the Conservative cause, and particularly in the last General Election he gave splendid services at the meetings in the constituency by his speeches which were invariably marked by brilliant asides. He regularly attended St. George’s Church, and although he did not hold an official position in that connection, he gave fine services in the various activities in the work of the parish.In local sports circles he was a prominent figure, and took a conscientious part as President in the organising of the annual Chorley Tennis Tournament, in aid of local charities. He was a Vice-President of the Chorley Football Club. Dr. Leighton leaves a wife and a little daughter.

The late Dr. Leighton was born in London, although he was of Northern Ireland parentage. He was an only son. He had only returned a few days ago from a visit to his parents’ home in Belfast, on the occasion of their Golden Wedding celebration.

Flags at St. George’s Church and at the Chorley Central Conservative Club, were displayed at half-mast in token of sympathy.


At a meeting of the Four Wards Committee of the Borough of Chorley on Wednesday night, Major Fairer at the onset referred in sympathetic terms to the tragic death of Dr. Leighton, who, he said had been a tower of strength to the Conservative Party and had taken an active interest in all the good works of the Borough.

A resolution of condolence to the bereaved, was passed on the proposition of Alderman A.E. Gregory, seconded by Mr. J.S. Lee and supported by Councillors Baxendale, Dr. Crisp and others.

Capt. Hacking said that by the death of Dr. Leighton the party and town had sustained a great loss.

As a further mark of respect the meeting was adjourned until September 17th.

The funeral will take place today, preceded by service at St. George’s Church.


Amid many manifestations of esteem and respect the funeral took place on Saturday morning of the late Dr. W.J.Leighton, who was killed in a motor mishap at Whittle-le-Woods on Tuesday night, last week. Large crowds lined the street when the cortege passed. There was a large and representative attendance at the impressive service held in St. George’s Church. The Vicar ( the Rev. C.J. Crabtree, M.A.), the Rector of Chorley (Dr. Kirkby M.A.), and the Rural Dean (Rev. A.E. Nock), officiated at the service , Mr. J. Lord Milnes, a personal friend of the late Dr. Leighton, presided at the organ by special request.

In a striking eulogy of the deceased, Dr. P.J. Kirkby said the terrible accident that had been the cause of the solemn service in which they were taking part had cast a gloom over the whole town. A life brimful of humane and human activities had been cut off before reaching its zenith. Dr. Leighton’s death was a great loss to Chorley, where he had shown a wonderful public spirit. He was essentially a man of intellect. The variety of his intellectual interests was remarkable. In private conversation with him one was struck with the accuracy of his knowledge in subjects remote from his profession, in which he was such an expert and specialist. But it was only possible that morning to mention a few of the characteristics of his rich personality. He had a remarkable gift of humour which, united with his great kindliness of nature, made him such a charming companion. He was always good to meet and to talk to. He was especially kind to young people, with whom he was very popular: but by far the best thing to remember about him was his life of unremitting labour in his noble profession, much of which was a labour of love in ways known only to himself or in connection with the hospital at Manchester, of which he was one of the staff. The deep sympathy of the congregation with Mrs. Leighton and his family and parents would be expressed in their prayers on their behalf. The perplexed inquiry: why in the scheme of things should one have been suddenly called away whose life was so singularly useful and benevolent, would be naturally on the lips or in the thoughts of many. The answer of the Christian would be that we can only see a little bit of the texture of reality. And only from a standpoint from which the whole could be viewed in all its relations would it be possible to see completely the reason and rightness of such tragedies. In other words, God alone could judge. But this, the Christian Church had always affirmed, that our human life is an incident or rather a necessary discipline in a timeless activity of the soul, created for immortality. For the rest we may derive comfort from the ancient oracle , “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.” And the lesson for all is that implied in the Prayer Book in the beautiful prayer said for the dying, “and teach us who survive in this and other like daily spectacles of mortality to see how frail and uncertain our own condition is, and so to number our days that we may seriously apply our hearts to that holy and heavenly wisdom, whilst we live here, which may in the end bring us to life everlasting.”

During the service the following appropriate pieces were sympathetically played and with consoling effect by Mr. J. Lord Milnes; Prelude by Stanford, Rheinberger, and Chopin- Chopin’s Funeral March and the Londonderry Air.

The family mourners present were: Mr. G. Leighton (father), of Belfast ; Mr. R. Trelford, (uncle) : Mr. J. Trelford, Belfast ; Mr. A.L. Keil, Sudbury, and Mr. Johnson (brother-in-law) ; Dr. Milligan, Glossop.

Members of the medical profession who attended the service in the church or were present at the graveside included; Dr. Crisp ; Dr. Lea ; Dr. Warburton ; Dr. Maclean ; Dr. Marsh ; Dr. Miller ; Dr. Peddy ; Dr. J. Rigby ; Dr. Sykes (Preston) ; and Dr. Quigley ; Mr. H. Stafford ; Mr. Miller (dentists) ; Mrs. Rigby was present representing Dr. W.C. Rigby (Adlington), ; Dr. J.W. Rigby, J.P. ; and Mr. W.H. Haslam (representing the Hospital). There were also present : Ald. A.E. Gregary ( representing the Conservative Committees of Four Wards). Mr. J. Dawson (representing the Chorley Division Conservative Registration Association), Ald. J. Fearnhead ; Councillor F.E.F, Burgess ; Mr. G.B. Alcock, B.A. ; Miss Alcock, Mr.

C de C Cuff, Mr. F.H. Taylor, Mr. P. Oakes, Supt. Marshall ; Mrs. J. L. Milnes, Mr. Brown ( for the Economic Society ), Rev. Jackson, (Vicar of Hoghton ), Rev. J. Mills, Mr. J.B. Kevill, Rev. J. Crabtree ( Vicar of Marton, Blackpool.), Councillor J. Sharples, Rev. Dr. Irving, Capt. F. Baines, M.C. ; Mr. Hamer ( churchwarden), Councillor E. Ashton, etc.

The Chorley and District Tennis Tournament was represented by Dr. Mackintosh.

There were representatives from: The Townley Parker Lodge, 1032 ; Lawrence Lodge, M.M.M. ; Ellesmere Lodge, 730 ; Earl of Lathom Chapter, 730.

Floral tributes were as follows ; From Mrs. Leighton and daughter, From Father, Mother, Kathleen and Lillie ; Uncle James and Auntie Mary, (Belfast) ; Uncle Bob and Auntie Kathleen, (Co. Down ) ; Jack and May ; Arthur and Elsie ; Mr. and Mrs. Jones and children ; Maggie, Ethel and Edith ; Officers and Members of the Four Wards Conservative Club ; Institute (Eaves Lane) Staff ; wreath and flowers from Lancashire County Panel Committee ; (Charles J. Crabtree and all at Marton Vicarage (racket) ; C. and H. and A.W. Stafford ; Dr. and Mrs. Maguire ; Dr. and Mrs. Middlebrook ; Sir H.F. Hibbert, Bart. And Lady Hibbert ; Capt. And Mrs. Hacking ; Capt. And Mrs.Dodds ; Dr. and Mrs. Rigby (Adlington) ; Dr. and Mrs. T.P. Leighton ; Dr. and Mrs. Marsh ; Nurse Bower and Nurse McNally ; Rev. J. and Mrs. Pedlar and family ; John Baxendale ; Mr. and Mrs. Baxendale jnr. ; Mr. and Mrs. Royle ; Mr. and Mrs. Southworth and family ; Mr. and Mrs. Booth and Mr. and Mrs. Rostron ; Mr. and Mrs. J. Wilson, Market St. ; Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Butterfield ; Mr. and Mrs. Johm Miller ; J.D. Williamson ; Mr. and Mrs. Jno Wilson, Primrose St. ; J. Kellett ; Mrs. Farrington ; Nellie Gent ; Evelyn Rigby ; Marion ; Buchannan ; Joyce ; Robert and Denniss ; Joss, Flo and Clara ; “W.O.” ; Marjorie and Jack.

Public floral tributes were ; from the Lancashire County Panel Committee (two) ; W.M. Officers and Bretheren , Temple Masonic Lodge, Belfast ; Matron and Staff, Chorley Hospital ; Chorley and District Tennis Tournament Committee (racket) ; St. Laurence’s Parochial Tennis Club ; Chorley Chemists’ Association ; Members of Central Conservative Club ; Park Road Tennis Club ; Chorley TENNIS Club ; South War Conservative Club and Ladies Committee ; Honorary Medical Staff , Chorley Hospital ; Management Committee, Chorley Hospital ; Patients in Fleet Street and Cheapside ; Members of Townley Parker Lodge ; Lawrence Lodge M.M.M. ; AND Earl of Lathom Chapter.

The last sad rites at the graveside were conducted by the Rev. C.J. Crabtree, M.A. There was also a short Masonic ceremony.

The funeral arrangements were efficiently carried out by Mr. B. Livesey, undertaker, Chorley.
Transcribed from The News, Chorley. Sept. 12th 1925.