Transport problems in London are nothing new it seems

In October 1877 the Morning Post’s review of the doings of the Metropolitan Police Courts included a number of references to incident on or involving public transport.

John Shaw appeared at Worship Street charged with stealing 5s from Selina Claridge. Ms. Claridge had been traveling on a tram and while she had felt ‘touches at her pocket’ had not suspected the ‘very gentlemanly’ passenger who sat next to her.

However, when she alighted from the tram and checked her pocket she missed her purse. She immediately returned to the tramcar but Shaw had disappeared. She soon found him loitering in a doorway and charged him with the theft, which he denied.

Shaw was arrested and when he was searched the exact sum she had lost was found on him (‘in the same coins’) as was a tram ticket.

Two other witnesses came forward to report thefts by Shaw and in the end the court remanded him but also advised inquiries be made into his mental state as he appeared to be no common thief but a ‘gentleman of large means’.


Meanwhile over at Marlbourough Street the magistrate was presented with on the conductors of the London General Company, John Perry. Perry had been complained of for loitering outside the premises of a haberdasher on on Oxford Street.

The shopkeeper, a Mr. Johnson, was clearly fed up with the number of ‘buses that stopped and waited for fares outside his business. He told the court that in ‘conseqience of the number of omnibuses that congregated at Regent’s Circus, Oxford-street, it was impossible for a carriage to come to his door for a greater portion of the day’. Most of his customers one imagines, arrived that way, rather than by public transport.

Not only was it hard for them to stop but when they did they were subject to abuse by the drivers of the omnibuses. A nearby tobacconist spoke in support of the haberdashers complaint and it certainly seems to have been a problem for the traders on the busy London street.

Two police inspectors now deposed that the ‘buses were allowed to stop at certain places (what we would now describe as ‘bus stops’, clearly not then marked) but ‘only long enough to set down or take up passengers’. They were not supposed to loiter waiting for business and the constables on the beat were there to regulate this and move them on. The justice suggested an extra policeman be detailed to help in this busy area and fined the conductor 2s 6d and an extra 2s in costs.

[from The Morning Post, Wednesday, October 10, 1877]

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