Road racing in Stratford

As the Olympics open in Rio, Brazil this weekend the TV has been keen to remind us of the last games, in London 2014. I remember the opening ceremony vividly, with all its nods to British history and of course, the Queen (gaw’d bless ‘er) jumping out of a plane with 007.

Anyway Stratford is now a very upmarket place with all the millions spent regenerating it but in the 1890s it was on the edge of East London, and far from being as trendy as it is fast becoming today.

In August George Proctor (45) a ‘general dealer’ from Stepney was brought before the Stratford Police Court charged with road racing. He had been driving his pony and cart ‘furiously’ along the High Road in South Woodford and beating it with his whip ‘in a most cruel way’.

He was racing another man, named William Watson (who ran a beer shop in Leyton Road, Stratford) , and they were seen by a PC Young of J Division. When Proctor spotted the copper he wheeled his pony around and headed off in the opposite direction. He and his cart were eventually stopped and the poor animal  was ‘suffering from a dozen weals’.

Watson was also captured and the pair taken into custody to appear before the magistrate for their recklessness and cruelty to animals. Watson had been traveling at 10-12 miles an hour but said he was only trying to avoid the other vehicle. Proctor tried to dispute the policeman’s evidence, to no effect.

Proctor received a fine of 40s (20s for cruelty, and the same for the driving) plus costs, Watson was fined 20s and another man was also charged and fined for a similar offence. Now they would be similarly treated for the speeding (but with the addition of points on their licenses)  but the charge of cruelty would have resulted in a heavier fine.

This post is for Charlie & Curtis Spencer, who turn 19 today – happy birthday twins!


[from The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, August 7, 1897]

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