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