Callous violence is punished with a fine

Pall Mall 1842.jpg-for-web-large

Pall Mall, c.1842

This is an unpleasant if unusual case of domestic abuse. It is unusual because of the nature of the injury caused and how, and because it took place in public. It led to the arrest of a man and the hospitalisation of his victim.

James Jones of 9 Claremont Place, Lisson Grove, appeared at the Marlborough Street Police Court in early July 1844 on a charge of assault. His victim was his common-law wife, Mary Ann Drew. There was at least one witness to the attack, which happened in broad daylight on Pall Mall.

Jones had been out friends, dining in Chelsea, but it seems Mary Ann had been concerned that he was up to something else. She had followed him about during the day and had been imploring  him to come home. He had dismissed her and told he would come home when he was ready. Mary Ann was not satisfied however, and continued to dog his footsteps, which clearly annoyed him.

Edward Groom was also strolling on Pall Mall and saw the couple, Mary Ann walking a few paces behind her ‘husband’. It was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and Groom saw Jones stop and turn around. He advanced on the woman brandishing his umbrella. Then he struck.

‘he made a lunge at her with his umbrella, and thrust the ferrule [the sharp metal tip] under her eye, so as to burst the eye-ball, and cause it to protrude from the socket’.

Mary Ann fell to the pavement screaming in agony, where she lay until a policeman came up and helped take her to St George’s Hospital. Meanwhile Jones was seized and arrested. As he was led away he muttered that ‘it served her right, for following him about’.

In court he admitted lunging at her but with no intention of doing her ‘serious injury’. He said he was drunk at the time. The surgeon who had treated her appeared to give the grim news that she would never recover her sight in that eye. She was also far too ill to testify before the magistrate at this time. Mr Maltby, the justice, fined her £5 which he paid straight away and walked free.

Domestic violence was endemic in Victorian London but it usually took place behind closed door and the police often turned a blind eye. No one wanted to get involved in ‘a domestic’. It was often only the actions of concerned neighbours that saved working-class women from their savage husbands and partners. For wealthier middle-class women the abuse was often just as bad but more carefully hidden by them, fearing embarrassment.

This blog is sadly filled with numerous cases of domestic violence meted out by brutish males and I have created a sub-section theme for those interested in learning more about this dark side of Victorian society. Follow this link for similar cases.

Domestic violence

[from The Morning Post, Wednesday, July 03, 1844]

4 thoughts on “Callous violence is punished with a fine

  1. I have often wondered how what might be styled ‘social’ drunkenness in Victorian times seemed somehow more pharmacologically damaging during inebriation. Beer seemed to have effects in the many that are nowadays reserved for the few long-term alcoholics. We are talking psychoactive potency that induced hallucination and behavioural change way beyond that which an evening of drinking beer should.
    A few months ago I wrote about the adulterants which were routinely included in beer to increase its potency. I was indebted to journalist James Greenwood (1831 – 1927) for the answers. In 1869 Greenwood published The Seven Curses of London. The curses included ill treatment of children, gambling, prostitution and of course drunkenness.


  2. I happened upon this just now, from the land of the Rheinheitsgebot no less regarding sulphuric acid:-
    “The law courts have furnished evidence of the adulteration of beer.
    In Upper Bavaria, in I877, a brewer was fined for adding glycerine to
    his beer to improve its taste. Again, in Bavaria (Zeitschr.ft fur das
    Chemisclhe Grossgewerbe, Vol. 4) in one year three brewers were fined
    for adding glycerine, bicarbonate of soda, and sulphuric acid to their beer.”

    But I still reckon the berry cocculus was the psychotropic…


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