On Monday 25 April 1836 a young man was brought to the bar of the Guildhall Police Court charged with ‘having fired a pistol loaded with ball’. The young man, Adolphus Gasken, had (literally it seems) been taking pot shots; aiming his firearm at the chimney pots he could see from his vantage point atop a roof in Golden Lane.
Unfortunately for him him one of his shots shattered the window of a Mr Whitecombe, who made some enquiries and soon discovered who had been disturbing his peace. Quite apart from the damage to his property Whitecombe was concerned for the safety of his daughter, who made it a habit of hers to gaze out of the window in the evening.
He told the sitting justice that ‘it was very fortunate that she was not there at the time, or she certainly must have been killed’. The young man humbly begged forgiveness and offered to pay for the repair to the gentleman’s window. Satisfied Mr Whitecombe most generously declined to press further charges and Adolphus, suitably chastened and with a flea in his ear from the beak, was released.
Guns in England were certainly available in the 1830s but there had been an attempt to control their use in the mid 1820s. The wide-ranging Vagrancy Act of 1824 had restricted gun ownership and young Adolphus was likely a member of the middle to upper classes: a working-class youth would have been unlikely to have been practising his skills in this way. Nor would have have been so lucky in his treatment by the court or his prosecutor. When it came to guns (as with so many things in the 1800s) there was one law for the rich and quite another for the rest of us.