Two ‘disgraceful’ assaults at Westminster

In early December 1860 the newspaperman at the Westminster Police Court reported two unrelated cases of violence against women. This was a quite common sort of offence for the press to write about as it allowed them to comment on the brutish behavior of working-class males, especially where drink was involved.

The first of these hearings was that of William Becroft who was charged with assaulting Eliza Day. Eliza was a servant living at Leader Street in Chelsea and she was on an errand for her mistress when she ran into Bevrift and another man near the Admiral Keppel pub.

Without any provocation Becroft seized her ‘by the lower part of her abdomen, threw her on the stones, and turned her clothes over her head’. She hurt her back as she was thrown to the ground and dropped the 5s shillings she had been holding in her hand.

She must have cried out because very quickly the landlord of the pub came to her rescue, helping her up as a policeman arrived. She pointed out the two men who were running away and Sergeant Morgan (3B) of the Met ran after them and secured Becroft.

The prisoner’s mate however, tussled with the copper and briefly freed Becroft. Sergeant Morgan recaptured the offender but suffered some bruises and bites in the scuffle. The magistrate issued a warrant to arrest the other man and remanded Becroft in custody for a week.


Next up Abigail Mansfield appeared to complain about an assault at her place of work. She alleged that Henry Miller (‘a big powerful fellow’) had come into her ‘eating-house in Chelsea’, ordered some bread and soup, finished that and had ‘seconds’, and then refused to pay.

When she pressed him he hit her and ran away. Mrs Mansfield’s husband confirmed his wife’ s story and added that as he had tried to stop Miller getting away he had been pushed and a window had been broken by the assailant.

Miller was pursued by a policeman and captured. In court he said the husband had broken the window and claimed he had been drunk at the time so wasn’t responsible for his actions. Mr. and Mrs Mansfield were elderly and her injuries were serious and not surprisingly the magistrate was not inclined to believe Miller’s version of events or excuse his drinking.

‘So you think drunkenness an excuse for going into this woman’s shop, eating as much as you could, and then assaulting her in this way when she asked you for the money for what you had purchased?’

Miller was fined 40s plus 5s costs or offered the alternative of a month in prison. It seems he had no funds so prison it was.

[from The Morning Chronicle, Tuesday, December 4, 1860]

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