A man throws his wife out of a window – and she begs the justice for leniency


Mile End, c.1910

Mile End in East London had a reputation as a hard working-class area in the late nineteenth century; indeed it maintained that reputation throughout the twentieth. At Mile End Waste Charles Booth (the founder of the Salvation Army) lectured crowds about the evils of alcohol – not surprising given the proliferation of beer houses and breweries in the area. Mile End  was so-named because of the presence of a turnpike that marked the distance (exactly one mile) from the countries of the affluent City of London; in between lay the less wealthy areas of Whitechapel and Spitalfields, home to so many of London’s poor in the 1800s.

The area was served by the Worship Street Police Court in Shoreditch and Thames Police Court in East Arbour Lane. Both courts were kept busy with police prosecutions for drunkeness, petty theft, and violence – much of it spousal.

In early February 1872 Owen Flynn, a 28 year-old coffin maker, was brought to Worship Street charged with assaulting his wife.

The couple lived on Preston Street which is now part of Hanbury Street, where Annie Chapman was murdered by ‘Jack the Ripper’ in 1888. Indeed there may be another ‘Ripper’ connection because I am working on a theory that may place the killer as living in Mile End at about the time that Flynn appeared at Worship Street (he would have been a small boy then however).

Mrs Flynn testified in court that on the previous Saturday night her husband had come home drunk and demanding his supper. As he ate the meal she had prepared he managed to knock over his glass of beer which sent him into a rage.

He took it out on his poor wife, punching her twice in the face and blackening her eye. She tried to get away from him but he prevented this by grabbing her and throwing her to the floor. He then attempted to strangle her.

She wriggled free and rushed over to the window, throwing it open and leaning out tom yell for help. He came up behind her and toppled her out. As she fell she grabbed at the roofing and tiles and managed to slow her fall down into the yard below.

Flynn was arrested and taken to the police station. There Mrs Flynn, although ‘much bruised’ was able to give the police a statement.

Now she had him in the dock however, Mrs Fynn asked the magistrate to be lenient. Presumably she didn’t want him to attack her again (and I doubt this was the first time, many women put up with a lot of abuse before they called the police) but nor did she want him put away. An abusivee husband that earned enough to pay the rent and put food on the table was better, sadly, than no breadwinner at all.

Flynn missed the mood of the occasion; instead of expressing his regret and promising to behave better in future he decided to brazen it out. He informed Mr Hannay (the justice) that his wife was making it all up, and what she said was untrue. This angered the magistrate who told him that ‘by calling his wife a liar he had made bad worse’.

He sent him to prison for four months, so neither of them would have been happy.

[from Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, Sunday, February 4, 1872]

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