A Railway enthusiast escapes a fine for putting the flags out


Frederick Marriott was the publisher of a contemporary magazine entitled the Railway Bell. Thus far I have been unable to find out much about this paper but it is probably reasonable to say that it carried information about the railways, which, in 1844, would still have been a fairly ‘new’ thing.

London had got its first railway in 1836 (Bermondsey to Deptford) but the 1840s saw a ‘boom’ in railway building. Bradshaw’s Descriptive Guide to the London & South Western Railway (THE guidebook for the Victorian and Edwardian train devotee) was first published in the 1840s so perhaps Marriott’s was an early rival.

Mr Marriott certainly knew a thing or two about publicity and marketing and in late October 1844, when a Royal procession was expected, he determined to make sure everyone had heard of the Railway Bell.

The publisher had a huge flag ‘measuring forty feet by twenty’ suspended from his property on the Strand so that it spanned the road below. The police had been called as several people had complained that the flag (described as merely ‘a puff for the establishment’ –  in other words nothing more than a giant advert for his business) – was flapping in the autumn minds and frightening passing horses.

Not only that but when Queen Victoria’s coach passed under the flag the noise it was making drowned out the voices of the local ‘parish children’ as they attempted to sing the National Anthem.

Marriott was summoned to court where he was defended by his brief, Mr Clarkson. The prosecution were able to bring plenty of witnesses to testify that the flag was a nuisance, and that it had stayed in place for days after the procession – being ripped to threads by the wind. But no one could actually pin the blame on Marriott for installing it.

Much to the obvious dissatisfaction of the prosecuting counsel and the magistrate at Bow Street (Mr Jardine) it seemed there was little that could be done. However Jardine did warn the court that the police would be fully justified in taking into custody ‘any person who suspended it [the flag] again’ and that they would face the full weight of the law if it came before him. He then dismissed the case against Marriott who presumably went back to his office rather pleased with himself.

[from The Morning Post, Friday, November 08, 1844]

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