A ‘hideous noise’ in the street and early concerns about immigration

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If  you have ever been out for dinner when a singer with a guitar has begun to serenade the restaurant, uninvited, then you will have some appreciation of this story from Marylebone Police Court. Similarly if you are trying to work, watch TV or sleep and your neighbours are having a party (loudly) then you can imagine how Mr H. G. F Taylor was feeling on the evening of the 28 June 1887.

At about 7.30 pm Mr Taylor, a private secretary who resided at 17 Manor Mansions, Belsize Park, (a fashionable address that would today set you back a cool £1.5m) heard a noise in the street outside. Peering out of his window he saw a young woman with an accordion.

According to him she wasn’t playing it, but ‘simply pulling the instrument in and out, and making a hideous noise with her mouth, not singing’. Taylor was completing his income tax return and had frequently been disturbed by street musicians. In fact it was getting to his nerves to such an extent that he had even considered going ‘the country’ for a few days to escape it.

Opening the window he leaned out and told her to go away. She ignored him, so he tried shouting at her, and motioning for her to move away. The girl simply crossed the road and moved  little way further up and continued her performance.

Frustrated, Taylor called the police. When PC 79S arrived he arrested the girl (whose name was  Catherine Demassi) and took her to the station. The next day Catherine was up in court before the Marylebone police magistrate on a  charge of ‘playing an accordion to the annoyance of the public’.

In court Taylor complained that ‘these street musicians [were] a great annoyance’ and blighted his life. Catherine spoke no English it seems and a translator was present so she could understand the charges brought against her, her sister was also present. Through the translator Catherine said that she didn’t understand what Taylor was saying to her, something the secretary found incredulous.

The magistrate, Mr Newton, wanted to know how long Catherine had been in England to not understand the language. Her sister explained she had only been here three months, having been sent for by her sibling. This brought the magistrate’s rebuke:

‘Mr Newton told the Prisoner’s  sister that it could not be allowed that children should be brought from foreign countries to England simply to play instruments about the streets’.

He remanded Catherine and sent the translator (M. Albert) to to the Italian consul in London, to arrange the girl’s repatriation to Italy. In the end then what had started as a case of a nuisance in the streets had turned into a discussion about the validity of migration and the ‘right’ to work in the UK. Catherine probably had little choice in whether she came to London or not, she was being used by her family as a means to generate funds to survive.

Her story – as an economic migrant in a foreign country – was replicated tens of thousands of times in the 1880s and 1890s and fuelled a debate which would eventually lead to legislation to restrict immigration into Britain for the very first time. The passing of the Aliens Act (1905) represented the end of Britain’s cherished ‘open door’ policy towards the people of the world, and immigration has remained a contentious issue ever since.

[from The Standard, Friday, July 01, 1887]

If you enjoyed this case you find find these interesting as well.

Two Italian musicians in a row about a monkey

Cruelty to a performing monkey in Marylebone

 

An drunken imposter in Belsize Park exposed in court at Hampstead

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John Davey or George Stubbs (as they were one and the same apparently) was a curious fellow and his appearance at Hampstead Police Courts may well have caused considerable excitement. He certainly did enough to catch the attention the Morning Post‘s court reporter who wrote up his story for his readers.

The Hampstead court was presided over by a bench of magistrates (unlike those in the Metropolis that feature in most of my blogs). Messrs Marshall and Prance, along with Captain Redman, listened to a number of witnesses relate Davey (or more likely Stubbs) ‘extraordinary conduct’ in February 1864.

A merchant named Castle who resided at 3 Buckland Terrace, Belsize Park came to the court to complain about Stubbs’ conduct and the behaviour of one of his servants. Mrs Castle had employed Mary Daley as a ‘house and parlour maid’. On the previous Thursday however both Mary and George had turned up at the Castle’s residence at 10 at night, both quite drunk.

Mary was admitted with her bags because she had a ‘good character’ but Stubbs was refused. The next day he was back at 7 in the morning demanding entrance. Again he was turned away but he persisted and came back later in the morning.

He managed to get in during the afternoon and sat himself down in the kitchen and ‘told the cook she was to do whatever he ordered, and the first thing she must do was make him some tea’.

The servants informed the lady of the house who promptly asked him to leave, which he refused to do. He was still there when Mr Castle got home and gave him his marching orders. Mary followed him out of the house because Mrs Castle had found some items of linen that the careless maid had allowed to singe by the fire.

When they were out both in the street Stubbs started a row, banging on the door and being abusive, until the police were called to take him away.

Back at the Police Station Stubbs first claimed to be Mary’s brother and said he had gone to help her. He insisted he was a coach spring maker called Davey who resided in Portland Town*, before changing his story when pressed. He then claimed his name was George Stubbs and that he lived in Camden Town and made pianofortes. Goodness only knows what the truth was.

As for Mary, when she appeared in court she said first that Stubbs was her brother then her lover. She told the bench the name he had given her was John Sandon and that they were to be married.

Poor Mary, she was as much a victim of deception as the Castles. The policeman involved (Inspector Webb) informed the court that Stubbs was already married. At this Mary said she did not believe it and asked Stubbs to prove it by introducing her to his wife.

Stubbs said he was happy to do so which drew down condemnation from the bench and Mary. ‘You are a wicked young man’ Mary told him, ‘and a gay deceiver’. The justices dismissed his attempts at a defence and fine him 20s plus costs or 14 days imprisonment in the house of correction.

As for Mary nothing was reported and it doesn’t seem she was charged with anything (except with being a poor domestic). She was released from the Castle’s employment without references so unless she was lucky she may have found it hard to pick up work in a similar occupation. She had also been abandoned by the man she claimed intended to marry her, so I fear her life took a downwards turn from here.

[from the Morning Post , Monday, February 15, 1864]

*Portland Town was ‘a metropolitan suburb and a chapelry in Marylebone parish, Middlesex’. [http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/place/23887]