On the 31st July 1865, Hugh Pater, broke into St. Giles, the Wrexham Parish Church. Pater having entered the church, took three keys, broke into a money box and stole the money that it contained, and drank the communion wine. Peculiarly, he then wrote a letter addressed to the vicar that he left in the church.
Initially, it appeared that Hugh Pater had managed to get away with the offence. However, as the court case reveals, Pater’s behaviour was somewhat strange, and he could not help himself from confessing to the crime.
Hugh Pater appears to be a well-known Wrexham rogue. Inspector Lamb had arrested Pater on another matter, and was escorting Pater past St. Giles, he commented to Inspector Lamb, “You have not got the man who cracked the bloody church yet”. Inspector Lamb subsequently searched Pater, and amongst the items in his procession he found three keys.
Inspector Lamb took the keys that he had found in Hugh Pater’s possession, to Edward Lovatt, the Parish Clerk, who identified the keys as those stolen from the church.
Hugh Pater confessed the burglary to Police Constable Boyle. He said that he had entered the church, and that he drank the wine to the old Vicar’s health. He decided not to take the surplice that he found because he thought the Vicar would need it on Sunday. He had spent the money that he had stolen on a pair of clogs and treating other’s well in the lodging house on the night of the burglary. He also stated that he had written a letter to the vicar.
It was found that the letter matched Hugh Pater’s handwriting. The letter was dated from Spike Island, and it concluded by saying that if parsons would do what they preached, and the people what there heard, there would be no felony.
On the 19th March 1866, the case was heard at the Ruthin Assizes Court. It was reported that the case caused great amusement and laughter in the courtroom, particularly when Hugh Pater addressed the court in a very erratic style.
Hugh Pater was found guilty of the burglary and was sentenced to four months imprisonment.
Source: Written and researched by Wayne Cronin-Wojdat, B.A (Hons.), MSc – Historical Gems.