Henry Mitchell was a young man and like many young men today he liked a flutter. Watch any sport on television at the moment and during the ad breaks (and sometimes even during the play if you are on Sky) there will be an invitation to bet on the outcome.
Gambling is not illegal now but it used to be much more tightly restricted. I think it is rather a shame that it isn’t still because it ruins lives; the past wasn’t always a worse and less enlightened place.
Back to Henry. In July 1877 PC Ward was patrolling his beat in Sands End , Fulham on a Sunday when he came across two boys playing ‘look out’ for the police. He called a colleague and stationed him at one end of Gas Factory lane while he headed across the nearby field.
Ward soon found what the two lads had been trying to screen him from: eight or nine young men ‘gambling with halfpence’. Mitchell was arrested and found to have 21s in silver and 3s 9d in bronze coins. The court was told that Mitchell and others made a habit of gambling here on Sundays (when it was illegal to do so) and always placed younger boys in positions ‘to watch for the police’.
Henry denied and said he sold fruit and that was why he had the money, he’d only tossed a coin with a man that owed him threepence (for ‘sixpence or quits’). The magistrate was not convince and fined him £1 or 14 days in prison.
[From Daily News , Tuesday, July 24, 1877]