‘It is really quite dreadful to see young children standing in the dock charged with drunkenness’. Two young girls are led astray

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We might like to believe that children grow up faster these days or lose their innocence at an earlier age than they did in the past, but how true is this? There is a temptation to believe that everything was better in the past when prices were lower, the elderly were respected, and there was less crime. Often this mythical ‘golden age’ is associated with the 1950s the last decade before standards dropped as the ‘swinging sixties’ turned society upside down.

In reality of course the problems we face today are not really new ones just old ones in modern packaging. There were, for example, concerns about youth gangs in the Victorian period, and fears about the feckless nature of working-class youth go back to the end of the Napoleonic wars and beyond, as Geoffrey Pearson showed in his seminal study of youth crime Hooligans in 1983. So it is not at all surprising to find Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper reporting on ‘rival gangs of roughs’ staging pitch battles in the capital in 1887.

Members of ‘gangs’ from Child’s Hill and Hendon fought with ‘lads’ from Maida Vale, Kilburn and Lisson Grove that autumn, arriving in ‘forces of 50 to 100, armed with sticks and belts’. According to the police ‘quite a riot followed’. Two of the combatants ended up before the magistrate at  Marylebone where they were charged with assault on a policeman that intervened in the battle. Edward Martell (17) was sent to gaol for 21 days and Arthur Hillman (19) for two weeks. But it was two other young people that caught my attention in the report of cases heard at Marylebone that week, Mary Ann Cook and Helen Cawthorn.

Mary was 12 and Helen 13 and they were brought in for being found drunk and incapable. The magistrate, Mr De Rutzen, was told that Mary Cook was lying in the gutter late on Sunday night when PC Miles (122S) discovered her as he patrolled Camden High Street. He picked her up and took her to the police station. Helen Cawthorn had already been taken to the Temperance Hospital on Hampstead Road and PC Sinclair (302S) had been called to collect her by officials there. Once they were both at the police station the desk sergeant sent for a doctor to examine the girls and he confirmed that they were both quite drunk.

In court the police deposed that enquiries were made and it had been discovered that the pair had ‘been with some ‘low rough boys’ from the neighbourhood and it was them that had led them astray and encouraged them to drink. They suspected that the boys had taken them to a public house but they couldn’t find out yet which one that was. Presumably they would have brought a prosecution against the landlord if they had.

Both girls’ parents were in court to speak up for their children. Mrs Cook said that her daughter had asked to go out to play on Sunday evening and she had allowed it. The first she heard of any trouble was when the police informed her that Mary was in custody. The mother was clearly shocked as she and her husband ‘were abstainers and encouraged their children in temperance principles’. Mr Cawthorn also said his daughter was usually very well behaved and that this was out of character.

The magistrate addressed the girls and said that ‘really quite dreadful to see two young children standing in the dock charged with drunkenness’. He accepted that the local boys had led them on but they should have known better than to go to a pub with them.  ‘It was the first step down hill’ he declared but fining them would do not good (since they’d have no money to pay)  and prison would ‘only make them worse’. So he discharged them into the care of their parents and hoped the disgrace of a court appearance would serve as sufficient warning for the future.

At this point a Mr Thompson steeped forward. He was a police court missionary, a member of a charitable organization that acted to help defendants if they promised to take the pledge and abstain from alcohol. He stated that it was his belief that both girls had once belonged to a Band of Hope, a temperance organization that had been established  mid century in Leeds. Children could join at the age of six and were taught to avoid the evils of drink. Thompson said he would try to get the pair reinstated in the group so they could be steered away from the dangerous path they had set themselves upon.

The police court missionaries started as an offshoot of the Temperance  movement but established themselves as an important part of the life of the police courts. They advised magistrates who came to trust them, especially where  (as was often the case) the offence the accused was up for involved drunkenness. In 1887 parliament passed the Probation of First Offenders Act which allowed a person charged on a first offence to be released without punishment if the court deemed it appropriate. There was no supervision order at first but this followed in subsequent legislation and eventfully, in 1907, the Probation service was created. Not only did probation offer the first real alternative to a custodial sentence it also signaled a new welfare approach to offenders, once aimed at helping them to reform rather than simply locking them up and hoping they learned the appropriate message.

It was an important breakthrough in offender management so it is deeply troubling that 112 years later probation has been allowed to fall into such a parlous state that the justice secretary has had to admit today that its experiment with part privatization has failed. David Gauke has effectively reversed the 2014 decision of one of his predecessors, the woefully incompetent Chris Graying, and returned the supervision of those on probation to public sector control. Grayling’s mistake has cost the taxpayer close to £500,000,000 and Dame Glenys Stacey (Chief probation inspector) said it was ‘irredeemably flawed’. It is not just the financial cost of course, Grayling’s bungling has had a negative effect on the lives of those realised into supervision and the general public who have suffered because of poor or insufficient supervision.

In May this year Grayling cancelled was forced to cancel ferry contracts he’d sanctioned to ‘ensure critical imports could reach the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit’ costing us £50,000,000. He had already been forced to pay £33,000,000 in compensation for not including Eurotunnel in the bidding for the same contracts. £1,000,000 was paid to consultants in seeking to make a contract with a ferry company (Seaborne Freight) who had no ships.

Chris Grayling is still a minister in Her Majesty’s government.

[from Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, Sunday, September 25, 1887]

If you enjoy this blog series you might be interested in Drew’s jointly authored study of the Whitechapel (or ‘Jack the Ripper’) murders which is published by Amberley Books on 15 June this year. You can find details here:

From point duty to the ranks of the ‘brave 600’: one policeman’s dangerous career move

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The 13th Light Dragoons at the Battle of Balaclava (1854) by John Charlton

Yesterday I wrote about Police Constable Wallington and the problems he encountered as one of the new ‘Peelers’ to hit the streets of London after 1829. Many members of the new force either left or were dismissed in the first year of the Metropolitan Police for corruption, disorderly conduct or because the pressure of the job was too great. The difficulties these new law enforcers faced did not fade away quickly and the police continued to be resented by large parts of the public (wealthy and poor) and had to fight hard to establish themselves as an accepted part of British society.

Charles Bailey was one of those that clearly found that either the strains of the job or discovered that the unsocial hours and dreary repetitive nature of the work was not for him.

In August 1840 he had been detailed to stand on fixed point duty at 2.30 in the afternoon in Camden Town. PC Bailey (74S) was supposed to stand watching out for ‘ominous and cab irregularities’ until 9 o’clock at night. This was, I understand from Neil Bell’s excellent study of the Victorian police in the 1880s, an unpopular task. The officer was not supposed to move from his spot until he was relieved by another policeman.

Yet when sergeant Gladmen (18S) checked on the constable at 2.45 he wasn’t there. Gladman was forced to position a replacement there in his stead. PC Bailey had completely disappeared.

When he was tracked down it was discovered that the policeman had quit his job and joined the army. Bailey had swapped his swallow tailed blue coat and tall hat for the much more glamorous uniform of the 13th Light Dragoons. The sergeant and his superintendent were not impressed and had no inkling of the officer’s intentions. As a result (former) PC Bailey was summoned before the Marylebone magistrate and asked to explain himself.

All that Bailey would say was that he was sorry but he had already enlisted before he went on duty. Presumably he felt unable or thought it unnecessary to inform his station sergeant of his new career. In court he did get some support from his new sergeant (this time from the Light Dragoons) who confirmed his appointment and asked the magistrate for clemency. The Marylebone justice fined the constable £10 for his dereliction of duty and because the new Dragoon didn’t have the money to pay he was sent to prison by default.

This was an odd switch of career for the time; it was probably more common for former soldiers to join the police, as we saw with George Walters, a hero of the Crimean who ended up policing a London park. However, perhaps for PC Bailey being asked to stand and watch (not even direct) traffic was just not what he had signed up for and the temptation to join the army and see the world was just too attractive.

The 13th had seen service in the Peninsula and at Waterloo and would go on to see action in the Crimean. If Bailey was still serving in the Dragoons in October 1854 as it lined up on the right flank of the Light Brigade at the battle of Balaclava I wonder if he wished himself back on point duty in Camden rather than facing the Russian guns, ‘to the left of them’,  ‘to the right of them’ and ‘in front of them’.

[from The Morning Post, Saturday, August 15, 1840]

Trouble at the Tower of London

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The Tower of London stands today as a popular tourist attraction maintained by the Royal Palaces. Almost every day of the year it is thronged with visitors snapping selfies with the Yeomen of the Guard (or Beefeaters) or the ravens. It remains a royal palace and a functioning building but is no longer a prison or a fortress as it once was.

When I used to visit the Tower as a boy my main interest was in the Tower Armouries, then housed in the White Tower. I was fascinated by the arms and armour on display nearly all of which has been moved to an excellent (but sadly distant) museum in Leeds. The Tower was home to the Office of Ordnance (responsible for the stores of weapons held there) from the early 15th century.

In 1855 the Ordnance employed many men to work in different capacities at the Tower, and amongst these was William Handley whose title was ‘foreman of labourers’. He lived in the Tower itself, in one of the houses (no. 41) with his wife and four children. We know this because he appeared on both the 1841 and 1851 census returns.

One of the men that Mr Handley supervised was Patrick Dawson, an ‘elderly Irishman’ who worked as a ‘porter and timekeeper’ on one of the bridges leading over the Moat and into the Tower grounds. Dawson however is not listed amongst the Ordnance’s employees in the RA’s document so perhaps he was casually employed or simply not recorded.

He was certainly there though because on the 27 June 1855 he was controlling the bridge crossing when a house and cart pulled up with a load of iron coal boxes to deliver. The driver, or carman, was called Benjamin Matthie and he was employed by a man named Porter who was a contractor used by the Ordnance. Porter operated out of premises in Camden Town and he had despatched Matthie with his load to the Tower that day.

Apparently there was a small railway on the bridge, ‘to facilitate the traffic’ (which was Dawson’s responsibility to regulate), and the carman duly pulled his horse and van up on it and began to start unloading his cargo. He removed the boxes from the van and was lowering them in to the dry moat below when another vehicle arrived.

This cart was going directly into the Tower and so Dawson called down to Matthie and asked him to move his van out of the way so the other could pass. Now without wishing cast aspersions or generalise too wildly, delivery drivers do tend to be a bit grumpy when asked to stop unloading or to move out of the way when they are busy in their work. A Victorian carman was the equivalent of the modern day white van man, and they enjoyed a similar reputation.

Matthie looked up at the old porter and told him that the other van would have to wait. Dawson insisted he move and the carman again refused. The porter went to fetch his boss, Mr Handley who also asked Matthie to move his van.

He too was refused.

At this Handley called over another man to take hold of the horses’ reins and move them back over the bridge. Seeing this Matthie threw down the box he was holding and declared that he ‘would be ______ if he unloaded any more’.

You can fill in the blanks from your imagination.

Once the other driver had passed over the bridge Matthie attempted to move his cart back onto it, so he could continue to unload at a convenient point. Dawson was having none of it however. His duty, he said, was to keep the bridge clear and Matthie had already demonstrated that he wouldn’t do as he was asked to.

Matthie seized him by the collar and said he didn’t ‘give a ____ for his duty’ and that he would ‘throw him over the bridge and break his ______ neck’ if he did not let him place his van back on it. A scuffle ensued and Dawson was indeed pushed over the bridge, falling nine feet down to land on the boxes below.

The poor old man was badly hurt. He was taken to the London Hospital in Whitechapel where he was treated for broken ribs, ‘a contusion of the leg’ and other injuries. The police were called and Matthie was arrested. When he was charged he told PC Josiah Chaplin (124H) that he admitted shoving Dawson. ‘I told him to stand away from me three times’, he added, before pushing him over the edge.

The case came before the Thames Police Court several times from late June to late July 1855, partly because it was initially feared that the porter would not recover from his injuries and was too ill to attend court. He was kept in  the hospital for two weeks but continued to be a day patient right up until the case again came up in late July.

When Mr Yardley reviewed the case on July 26 he listened to various witnesses for both the prosecution and defence.

Mr Porter, on behalf of Matthie, told him that his employee had a good record of employment previously and was the sort of person to deliberately set out to harm anyone. He was, he told him, ‘very civil, industrious, and sober’. Two other witnesses vouched for the carmen. But there were also other labourers working for the Ordnance who saw what happened and heard Matthie threaten Dawson.

Mr Porter was continuing to plead for his servant when the magistrate interrupted him. As far as he could see, he said, there was such a disparity in strength between the defendant and the victim that ‘he would not be doing his duty if he did not commit the prisoner for trial’. A jury could decide on intent or provocation he added.

He bound over the various witnesses to appear and give their evidence. Porter asked him to bind Handley over as he felt he could affirm that his man had the right to unload his vehicle on the bridge (perhaps suggesting that Dawson had overstepped his authority). Mr Yardley didn’t really see why that was necessary given the evidence he had heard but he agreed, and insisted Porter turn up for the trial as well. Having completed all the paperwork he committed Matthie for trial (at the Middlesex Sessions I imagine since there is no record of it at Old Bailey) and released him on bail.

[from The Morning Post, Friday, July 27, 1855]

A Mancunian tea-leaf is nabbed by the volunteers

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A volunteer from the 29th Middlesex Rifles, c.1870

A just after six on a Saturday evening in early 1878 Mr Walters was watching the Volunteer Corps band parade in Camden Town. The Volunteer Corps (or Force) was formed in 1859 in the aftermath of the Crimean War. The war with Russia had drained the nation’s services and the Volunteers were created to plug a gap in the home defences. By 1862 the Volunteer Force had a collective strength of just over 162,000 men.

As Walters listened to the band he felt a tap on his shoulder. As he turned round to see who it was he felt a ‘tug at his [watch] chain’.  He reacted quickly but not quickly enough because his watch was missing, stolen by a young man in the crowd who was now making his escape.

Unfortunately for the thief one of the volunteers had also seen the ‘daring robbery’. He grabbed hold of the  man and between them Walters and the part-time soldier, John Sachesman, took him into custody.

The young man – Thomas Jones, a 23 year-old hawker from Manchester – handed over the watch but there was damage to the clasp and chain. He apologised and said he would pay for the damage. He also begged Walters not to take him to court: he said ‘he would allow the prosecutor to beat and kick him if he would not lock him up’.

The case came before the Marylebone Police Court where Jones pleaded guilty to the charge of stealing a silver watch valued at £6 6s. The magistrate, Mr Cooke, sent Jones to prison for six months at hard labour.

[from The Standard, Tuesday, February 19, 1878]

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]

The police keep the pit at Sadlers Wells punters under surveillance

The Pit, Sadler's Wells Theatre, 1850

 

On the morning of the 6th January 1847 there were two cases at the Clerkenwell Police Court that the Morning Chronicle’s court reporter thought worthy of note. Neither were particularly heinous and I suspect they reflect the normal comings and goings of the London summary courts. The first case ended in a conviction and sentence, the second in a committal to a jury court.

Frederick Black was ‘a well-known thief’ and so when PC 179 G saw him making his way through the pit at Sadlers Well theatre he watched him carefully. As he attempted the pockets of a number of members of the audience the policeman moved in and tried to arrest him.

But Black was ready for him and got his retaliation in first, thumping the copper and hitting him with a stick. Although the policeman did secure him a ‘gang of fellows rescued him’ on the way to the station. With some help PC 179 G recaptured him but his ‘companions’ escaped. When presented in court the magistrate sent him to the house of correction for a month at hard labour.

Fred Black’s age was not revealed but I doubt he was a child, unlike the next two prisoners to be brought before the ‘beak’.

William Bailey was 14 and his co-defendant, John Pulley just 9 when they were charged with theft. William Harris, the ‘keeper of a fruit and vegetable stall’ was charged with receiving stolen goods.

The boys were accused of taking three ‘scent, or smelling bottles’ (valued at just 4s) from a  chemist in Camden Town. The chemist was named as Benjamin Major Ayres, surgeon of 66 High Street. The boys turned ‘Queen’s evidence’ and admitted stealing the bottles and selling them to Harris for three half-pence (much less than their value of course).

The justice committed Harris for trial; the youngsters may have been relased with a promise that they gave evidence against the receiver, and  warning about their future behaviour. No one of Harris’ name was tried at Old Bailey but he may have gone before the sessions instead. Whether the lads’ brush with the law was enough to shock them into changing their behaviour is another unanswered question.

[from The Morning Chronicle, Thursday, January 7, 1847]

A beggar who was not so ‘armless after all

Joseph White was a charlatan who pretended to be disabled when in reality he was as able-bodied as many another working-class man in late Victorian London.

In October 1885 White had positioned himself on Camden High Street so as to beg money from the many passer-by. He wore no boots and one sleeve of his jacket was empty, suggesting that he had lost a limb in an accident or while serving his country.

However, White was not all he seemed (or was in fact, more!) His begging attracted the attention of the local beat constable, PC BOxall of Y Division, who was reacting to complaints made by several pedestrians nearby.

PC Boxall asked him how he had lost his arm. ‘In an accident’ the man replied. Regardless of his injuries the constable decided that he ‘was imposing himself on people’ and so made to arrest him. As the policeman pulled him along towards Somers Town police station White slipped his (entirely healthy) arm from inside of his trousers and attempted to wriggle free of his captor.

PC Boxall called for help and a second copper appeared to convey the fraudulent beggar to the station. Once there it was discovered that far from having nothing to wear on his feet White had secreted his boots in ‘in the seat of his trousers’!

The magistrate asked White what he had to say for himself. All he could do was deny it and say the policemen had made it all up. The beak was falling for that; ‘you are a regular imposter’ he told him, before seeing him to prison for 21 days.

[from The Standard, Tuesday, October 20, 1885]