The Padeswood Retort Case, 1871

type: Beyond Scotland - Wales

Wrexham Advertiser
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The Padeswood Retort Case

Humphreys v . Milthrope —Mr Roper for the plaintiff and Mr Cartwright, of Chester, for the defendant.

Mr. Roper in his opening statement said the case had been before His Honour many times, and was adjourned one time alter another. The action was to recover the sum of £7 0s 6d, balance of an account for building twelve retorts at Padeswood, at a rate the plaintiff alleged of £7 10s each; 27s for excavating the foundations for them,; £5 15s for cleaning 70.000 bricks; £1 16s for riddling cinders, &c. Defendant denied several of these items and disputed the correctness of others. He then called the plaintiff,

James Humphreys, who said that he was a bricklayer, living at Buckley, In June, 1870, Mr. Goodison, the manager employed by Mr. Milthorpe at Padeswood, asked him what he could build twelve retorts for. He answered, £4 each, but if the defendants would put up the iron he would build them for £3 10s..

Mr. Goodison said that he would consult his employers, and in a day or two he (witness) received a letter from Mr. Goodison, asking him to commence at once. Witness answered the note at once, and went to work on the following Monday. When he got there he found that the foundation had not been excavated, and told Mr. Goodison he would go away. He replied that he would put a man on at once, and put a man named Ankers to begin the work, but when Ankers had been employed a quarter of an hour, he came and took him away, telling plaintiff to do it himself and charge the defendant with it. Plaintiff did so, and excavated a place 27 yards long, by 11 feet 4 inches wide, and from a foot to 18 inches deep, for which he charged 27s.

His Honour said that was too much. There was little more than thirty cubic yards had been removed, for which 16s would be sufficient.

Plaintiff continuing, said that Goodison told him on the Monday that he would give him £.3 10s a retort, and if plaintiff turned out a good job, Mr. Milthrope would not be within a pound or two. Defendant came and said that all was right, and no complaint was made up to the finish he being paid a sum on account each week, and always brought the retorts to £42, but wanted 5s back. On the 10th December the defendant came down, and plaintiff pointed out to him that he had screened ashes twice over for mortar, and that he expected to be paid for it, Mr. Milthrope turned to Goodison and asked if that was with the plaintiff's agreement. He answered no and then defendant said the plaintiff must be paid for it. There were forty -eight loads that he had screened, for which he charged 9d per load — £1 16s. — Cross-examined by Mr. Cartwright: The agreement was arrived at in the office of Mr. Goodison at the works. Mr. Goodison never said to him the price was to be £3 5s per retort, and witness to the defendant in Goodison's presence on the 10th December, 1870, that the price agreed upon was £3 5s. He dressed 70,000 bricks, and he counted them after putting them in. There were 6,500 in each retort, and 74,000 had been received from Messrs. Wilcox and Co., of the Hope Oil Works, and there was a chimney which had been pulled down as well. Defendant's men had cleaned a few bricks which he put down at 4,000, and he had used a few hundreds without cleaning.

The defendant's son— James Humphrey corroborated his father's evidence in some particulars, saying it was agreed that 2s 6d per thousand should be paid for cleaning the bricks, and that £3 10s each should be paid for building the retorts.

Mr. Cartwright in opening the case for the defence briefly stated that plaintiff had considerably overdrawn his bill, and had been paid quite sufficient for the work be had done. He had received £54 19s, which the other side did not delay and these items were brought forward in order to cover it. He would call Mr. J. Goodison, who said he was Mr. Milthrope's manager at the Padeswood Oil Works. In June, 1870, he negotiated with the plaintiff for the build of the retorts in question, for which he was to receive £3 5s each, at the same time saying that he would get sand if possible, if not, the cinders would be used, which would be better than sand. Plaintiff never asked for £3 10s, and in his daily report to the defendant which he sent at that time, witness stated that £3 5s was the price agreed upon. He did not remember that plaintiff ever had an interview with the defendant, and he never spoke to him in his presence on the 10th of December, or at any other time. About a fortnight ago he had gone over the work with a respectable builder.

Mr. Millington of Hope, and they counted 5,000 bricks in each retort, and in the whole work there were 12,000 undressed brick:, 5,000 in arenas and 7,000 in the foundations. He arrived at that calculation by measurement, and he had ordered that they should be put in undressed. The plaintiff had only dressed about 8000 bricks, and the others were done by defendant's men, — Ankers, Davies, Griffiths and Wright, who were at their for two or three hours, as they had time every day. Plaintiff made no effort to complete the work and was at it for two months longer than he need have been. — Cross-examined by Mr. Roper: There was no fixed time agreed upon for the completion of the work, and plaintiff had never asked for £4 per retort, £3 5s being the highest amount asked for. He offered £3 2s 6d in the first instance, but afterwards agreed to the plaintiff's terms.

Mr. Millington said he had gone over the work with Mr. Goodison, and considered £3 5s a fair price, but he never had any experience in building them himself. He considered Is 1s 6d a thousand a fair pries for cleaning the bricks.

Ankers and Griffiths, two of the men mentioned by Mr. Goodison, spoke to cleaning some of the bricks in their leisure hours. The latter said he had seen the plaintiff, defendant and Goodison standing together on the 10th December, after which plaintiff came to him and said that it was all right.

His Honour said there was a distinct oath as to the price of the retorts on each side, that on the side of the plaintiff was confirmed by his son, while that on the defendant's was not. Under these circumstances he was bound to believe the plaintiff, especially as Mr. Goodison gave his evidence in a very hasty manner, that would lead him to make mistakes in business as well as in his evidence. He would therefore allow £3 10s each for the retorts. With regard to the bricks he thought 70,000 to be an excessive number, 50,000 would be nearer the mark, and 1s 6d per thousand would be a fair price for cleaning them. The plaintiff's item of £8 15s, would therefore be reduced to £3 15s. There was an item of 3ds for riddling cinders, 9d a load would be a fairer price, and the item would be reduced to 24s. He would give judgement for the plaintiff for 10s 6d, with the costs of the court and witnesses.

The Wrexham Advertiser, 23rd December 1871