In the late nineteenth century London was home to peoples from all over the British Empire and beyond. On the ships around the docklands you might encounter Lascars, in Limehouse the Chinese; in Whitechapel exiled Jews from the Russian Pale; there were Italians, French and thousands of Irish and Scots who made their home in the capital of Empire.
Some inhabitants were temporary visitors however, like the native Americans who came over with ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody and his Wild West Show. They must have found London a strange and threatening place, with its huge population and busy congested streets.
One visitor found himself at the wrong end of a magistrate’s ire when he prosecuted for violent assault in 1880.John Batika had been arrested for drunken brawling with several others near Tower Hill on a Friday night in early May. When he appeared before the magistrate at Thames Batika (described as ‘fierce looking’) declared himself to be a member of a troupe of Zulus who were set to perform at the Westminster Aquarium (a place of public entertainment on Tothill Street). The justice was unimpressed; Mr Lushington, a man noted for his dislike of public drunkenness, sentenced him to three days hard labour in prison.
Batika didn’t take his punishment well. When Robert Roach, one of gaolers at Thames, saw him remove his heavy boots he feared he might use them to injure one of his cell mates. But when he entered the cell to take them from his prisoner he was struck about the head with one of them. Roach’s helmet was damaged and he was cut on his forehead.
The Zula was once again summoned to court where Lushington remanded him to wait for someone that could interpret for both of them. The Zulu war which had started so well for the African nation ended in defeat and Londoners were probably keen to gawp in wonder at the ‘savages’ that had been triumphant at Battle of Isandlwana but were eventually (and to them, thankfully) crushed by the might of the British Empire.
[from The evening news, Monday, May 10, 1880]