An indictment was sometime since (1809) tried at Huntingdon which excited no small degree of pleasantry as well as interest in the county: but the issue, perhaps, was the most singular that ever took place:—It was an indictment against a miller for a nuisance for working his mill so near the common highway as to endanger the lives of his Majesty's subjects, by frightening the horses travelling on the road.
The prosecutor was a clergyman residing in the neighbourhood of Huntingdon, a man of considerable property and consequence in the county. The mill in question was an old erection, and stood some time back far out of the high road upon a common; but by a recent act of parliament the common had been enclosed, and the only road left, unfortunately for the miller, passed close under the fly of his mill. The prosecutor, it appeared, was compelled to go this road, and the mill being at work as he passed, his horse took fright and threw him. This happened with almost every horse that passed the mill.
Mr. Justice Grose addressed the jury, and observed, that as the mill now stood, it was unquestionably a nuisance, and the miller must be found guilty. It was, however, no fault of his, he could not move his mill; but the commissioners under the Enclosure Bill, who directed the road to be set out, were most to blame, and he regretted they had not been made parties to the indictment. Neither was the prosecutor to blame, in preferring the indictment. He could go no other way since the enclosure, and his life, as well as those of his fellow-subjects travelling by the mill, was endangered, while the mill remained in its present situation. Under such circumstances he felt himself wholly at a loss how to act: the miller ought not to be punished for that he was innocent of, and yet the prosecutor's convenience and the public safety must be consulted. He thought, however, that the best way of deciding would be to direct the prosecutor to pay the miller 40l. and the miller to abate the nuisance, with leave to erect his mill on some convenient spot adjoining. This was accordingly made the judgment of the court. This decision caused much surprise in the county, being the first instance wherein the prosecutor has been made to pay a fine for obtaining justice.