Five go wild in Wardour Street…until the police pick them up

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I can imagine that for some parents making sure their children go to (and stay at) school can be something of a challenge. The Police courts of late Victorian London fairly regularly witnessed prosecutions of fathers who were accused of allowing their sons and daughters (but usually sons) to play truant.  Fines were handed down which did little to help because in some instances parents needed the children at home to help either with piece work or, more often, to care for infants or elderly relatives while they went out to work.

Some tried very hard to ensure their offspring gained an education but this could be hard when the kids didn’t have boots or decent clothes to go to school in. We shouldn’t underestimate the extent to which pride existed in working-class communities where maintaining an image of ‘respectability’ was every bit as important to them as it was to the middle classes with whom the term is often more associated.

There was tremendous poverty in 1880s London but that didn’t mean that families were not striving every day to keep standards up. Mrs Rochford and her neighbours seemed to fighting a losing battle with their collective brood of five youngsters. Walter Rochford (11) and his brother  James (10) appeared in court at Marlborough Street alongside Ernest Flowers (10), Albert Carey (11) and Thomas Copeland, who was just 8. This ‘interesting youthful quintette’ as the paper described them, had been picked up by the police because they were begging in Wardour Street.

Four of them had no boots and they all hailed from Hammersmith, quite some distance away. Their mothers were in court to answer for them and to listen to the story they gave Mr De Rutzen.

The boys said that they often played truant from Board school, preferring instead to hide their boots in an empty house in Shepherds Bush to go begging house to house or in the streets. They slept in empty properties, tramcars and one even admitted to occupying a dog kennel! If they were ‘nice’ children in the countryside the whole episode would have something of Enid Blyton about it.

But they weren’t. They were five ‘little urchins’ and their mothers were at their wits end, not knowing how to control them. Some of them had been absent from home now for a week and so sending them to Board school was clearly pointless.

The magistrate had a solution however, he would have them confined in an industrial school, where they wouldn’t be able to run amok or indeed run anywhere without permission. It would probably mean the five would be broken up and would be separated from their families. I have no idea whether the parents were consulted or merely told this would be happening, but under the terms of industrial schools, they would (if they could) be expected to contribute something to their care.

The five boys were dispatched to the workhouse while the industrial school officer was sent for to determine their fates.

[from Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, Sunday, June 12, 1887]

Of billiards, bribery and champagne

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Sergeant Wills and his fellow police officer had arrived at the Hopples pub in King Street, Hammersmith at a quarter past one in the morning on the 16 November 1876. The public house should have been quiet, all the drinkers gone, and the place closed up, but the police were working on information that an after hours session was underway.

Determined to break it up the two men entered the premises and, sure enough, they found a number of people sat around the landlord’s parlour table. The landlord was a Mr Ward and he explained that an important billiards match had been played earlier and that the four men that remained were his guests, and would be ‘leaving directly’.

William Cook was famous in the 1800s. He had won the World Championship many times, taking his first victory in 1870 and dominating the sport until mid century when he was overtaken by John Roberts (himself the son of another professional billiards player). The game (which today is much less well known that snooker or pool) was popular in the nineteenth century and drew an audience of spectators, including on at least one occasion members of the royal family.

Presumably Mr Ward hoped that Sergeant Wills would be impressed that such an illustrious celebrity had been in his establishment and that it would justify the late night drinking session. But the police weren’t in the mood to be impressed and while the landlord pleaded his case the other officer took down the names of all those present so they could issued with summons to appear in the Hammersmith Police court.

Ward’s last attempt was also his worst. He leaned close and whispered in the police sergeant’s ear:

‘You had better have a bottle of champagne, and say no more about it’.

That was an attempt at bribery and Wills wasn’t about to let that pass.

‘No thank you, I want the names and addresses of the gentlemen and I shall report the case’.

And so he did.

On Saturday 2 December Ward and the four men that had been discovered in his parlour all appeared at Hammersmith in front of Mr Paget the sitting magistrate. The policeman set out his case and the landlord was defended by his solicitor, a Mr Child. The defense was that the pub was shut up and no drinks were being sold; the men were simply there after hours as guests.

Mr Paget accepted this and so he dismissed the first summons, that of running the house out of hours. As that prosecution had failed it followed that those against the four gentlemen would also be dismissed which just left the matter of attempting to bribe an officer of the law.

The magistrate was reluctant to punish the landlord; he kept a respectable house and Paget clearly felt the police had overstepped themselves. There was nothing wrong in a man sharing a few drinks with his friends so long as he wasn’t trading at the same time. It was understandable that the men wished to finish the evening discussing the merits of the two players they had just watched compete.

So he imposed a fine of £5 with costs (for the summons) of 56but said he would not record the conviction, so it would not affect Ward’s attempt to renew his license in future. It was a slap down for the police and a justification of sorts for Mr Ward. Importantly, the four ‘gentlemen’ had their names kept our of the papers as well.

[from Reynolds’s Newspaper, Sunday, December 3, 1876]

‘Lor bless you, 5s indeed! Why there is 18 gallons of Truman Hanbury’s Treble X ale. I wouldn’t take 40s for it’. Mr Selfe’s first day at the office.

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The Truman, Hanbury, Buxton, & Co. brewery, c.1842

Thursday 3 April 1856 was Mr Selfe’s first morning as a London Police court magistrate.

Born in Worcester in 1810 at the age of 24 he had been called to bar and ‘practised [as a barrister] at the Oxford Circuit and Parliamentary bar’ until he took up his position on the London benches.* All Police Court magistrates in London were former barristers and, unlike their equivalents outside the capital, had the power to hear cases on their own. They had a good working knowledge of the law and several years of experience of court practice.

Mr Selfe had bene given Thames Police court in the East End of London. He replaced Mr Ingham who had moved on to the more salubrious environments of Westminster and Hammersmith. Magistrates did move around it seems, and some covered more than one court. In the 1880s there were at least two justices at Thames who sat for a few days each. This probably helped spread the workload but also stopped anyone getting too comfortable and warded off corrupt practice. The Middlesex magistracy in the 1700s had earned an unwanted reputation for venality, being derided by commentators as ‘trading justices’.

Mr Selfe’s first reported case was a beer thief, and quite an ambitious one at that. John Reynolds was 19 and his exploits were relayed to the newly appointed magistrate as he stood in the dock at Thames.

Catherine Driscoll testified that she was working for her employer at 51 Rosemary Lane where, at around 4 in the afternoon she saw Reynolds steal a barrel of beer from a drayman’s cart. She told the court that:

‘after he had launched it on the ground he rolled it along the street and up a court, and deposited in a yard at the back of a house in Rosemary Lane’.

Rosemary Lane had a long history of criminality stretching back into the eighteenth century, as Janice Turner’s work has shown. The drayman – a Mr Bullock – was delivering beer to a public house for his employers, Truman, Hanbury, Buxton, and Co., brewers in Hanbury Street and Brick Lane since 1666. The brewery no longer exists but some of the buildings do, including the iconic chimney and the Truman eagle.

Bullock explained that he had come back to his cart to discover that a kilderkin of ale was missing before someone (perhaps Ms Driscoll) pointed out its whereabouts and the person that took it. Reynolds was nearby and Bullock tried to catch him but he ran off. A policeman (Thomas Britton 161H) was soon in hot pursuit and caught him after ‘a long chase’.

When Reynolds was asked to explain himself he simply denied all knowledge of the barrel of beer. ‘Then why did you run away?’ Mr Selfe asked him. ‘I do not know sir’, was the young man’s reply, adding simply, ‘I am innocent’.

‘If you protest your innocence I shall send the case before a jury’, the magistrate warned him. A conviction before a judge would bring done much more serious punishment than Mr Selfe was able to hand out, as the magistrate knew from recent experience. The clerk of the court asked Bullock the drayman whether the beer was worth at least 5s. The drayman laughed:

‘Lor bless you, 5s indeed! Why there is 18 gallons of Truman Hanbury’s Treble X ale. I wouldn’t take 40s for it’. 

‘I suppose not’ commented Mr Selfe, ‘I shall commit the prisoner for trial’.

In the meantime however he remanded Reynolds as an officer at the court said he believed that the lad had a previous conviction that would need to be taken into consideration.

It was bad news for John. His opportunist theft would most likely end in a fairly hefty prison sentence, especially if a previous record could be shown against him. Mr Selfe might have been minded to show leniency if the lad had pleaded guilty but it was out of his hands now. Either way, his career at the Thames office was up and running and by using a keyword search for Selfe you can look for other cases over which he presided.

‘Disagreeable’ but not quite mad enough to be locked up: a violent husband at Marlborough Street

Two ‘dangerous female thieves’ opt for the best ‘worst case’ scenario

Smallpox brings death and difficult decisions to the Westminster Police Court

[from The Morning Chronicle, Friday, April 4, 1856]

p.s for those wondering, a kilderkin of beer or ale is an old Dutch term for a barrel that contained 18 gallons of liquid at the time. Today CAMRA still prefer to use kilderkin as a measure at beer festivals which equates to 144 pints. Truman’s is brewing again, in Hackney Wick, so you can still sip a local pint in and around Rosemary Lane (although Rosemary lane has gone, knocked down to make way for the railway. Now Royal Mint Street, running from Cable Street, follows much the same route).

*_from A. H. McLintock (ed.), An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand (1966) via [https://teara.govt.nz/en/1966/selfe-henry-selfe]

The magistrate and the ‘omnibus trick’

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The London Police Courts did not sit on Christmas Day but the Boxing Day papers were still published for Victorian fathers and grandfathers to read over their breakfast of devilled kidneys and smoked haddock and eggs. And so the editors included stories from Christmas Eve, to keep their readership amused, entertained and informed about the ‘doings’ of the courts and the thieves, brutes  and loafers that were the staple of most crime news in the mid-1800s.

On Boxing Day 1853 the breakfaster would have opened his paper to read about ‘the Omnibus Trick’.

A Mr Ayres and a Mr Douglas appeared at the Hammersmith Police Court to protect their business and their reputation. The pair were joint proprietors of the Hammersmith Omnibus Association which ran red buses on a variety of routes across the capital. They had turned up because they had heard that the magistrate at Hammersmith had recently complained about the tactics deployed by some of its operators to entice the public to travel with them.

The magistrate, Mr Paynter, had been at Hammersmith, close to the turnpike gate, when a bus passed with a sign attached to the rear which read:

“4d to the Bank”

Underneath this in very small letters was also inscribed:

“from Sloane Street”

His Worship thought that this was rather misleading advertising as it ‘convened the idea that the fare was only 4d from Kensington to the Bank’ whereas that fare only applied when the vehicle reached Sloane Street ‘which was some way off’. In his eyes it was a ‘trick’ to lure unwary passengers on board. And it seems to be working he added, as several of his fellow passengers that day were surprised when the conductor asked them for more than the minimal 4d to travel to the heart of the City.

The owners of the Hammersmith Omnibus Association were equally scandalised by the practice which, they assured Mr Paynter,  was not of their doing. The ‘trick’ was, they insisted, being perpetrated by a rival company (which also used red omnibuses) and was clearly designed to ‘injure the reputation of their association’. Both partners had attended on Christmas Eve specifically to protect their reputation and deny any shenanigans on their part.

When his worship told them that he had seen two buses carrying the same message (the second with the ‘from Sloane street’ script album obscured) Mr Douglas quickly explained that two rival buses did indeed travel one after the other along that stretch of the route so he was sure they were to blame.

The justice seemed somewhat treasured but still unhappy. He told the men that the conductor on the bus he had taken was ‘very impertinent’ and had he not been a magistrate he might well have summoned him to court. He had taken the numbers of the two buses and he handed these over so that Ayres and Douglas could make sure they were not vehicles owed by their company. The men promised to look into the matter  and then thanked the magistrate for his time and left.

I’m a little surprised that the magistrate was using public transport but I suspect it reveals that the relative inexpensiveness and convenience of the omnibus service was something that appealed to Londoners of all classes. The first horse drawn service) in fact running to the Bank from Paddington) had opened in London in 1829 (a few years after a similar scheme started in Paris) but rival firms ran individual ‘buses for many years before larger conglomerates started to appear.

The first of these was the London General Omnibus Company which started business in 1855 (a couple of years after this case came to court). Within a year of opening the LGOC was running 600 of the capital’s 810 omnibuses; this was the real beginning of a London-wide public transport system.

For me this story has echoes of the modern day dispute between private transport operators. The traditional London tax (the ‘black cab’ ) is being squeezed by private hire companies, mostly notably Uber, who seek to operate at lower fares but with less regard for the ‘service’ they provide or the people they employ. While ‘cabbies’ are still required to learn ‘the knowledge’ Uber drivers rely on satnavs and are accused of taking circuitous routes and ramping up fares for passengers. There are other accusations aimed at them and (as this interesting article suggests) plenty of other reasons why a ‘black cab’ is better than an Uber. But you can make up your own minds, just as justice Paynter did in 1853.

[from The Standard , Monday, December 26, 1853]

Jerry-building and brick-burning: public nuisances in early Edwardian London

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Something a little different this morning. I have noted before that the Police Courts of London were not simply concerned with the everyday crimes we might expect (thieving, petty violence and fraud for example), They also served their communities as forums for relegating everyday life. Paupers came here asking for help, or to be punished for their refusal to work; members of the working and lower middle-class came to seek the magistrates’ legal advice on all manner of things from desertion to unpaid wages; and these courts performed many of the functions we now associate with public health boards, consumer protection agencies, or small claims courts.

Early in the reign of King Edward VII (r.1901-1910) Mr Finnis, a clerk (the archetypal lower middle-class professional of Edwardian England*) appeared at the West London Police Court (situated in Hammersmith) to bring a case of jerry-building against Charles Marsh.

Jerry-building was the practice of erecting cheap and poorly built properties for working classes families. The phrase had been in existence since the 1860s and has nothing to do with Germany or Germans. It may be derived from the slang word Jerrycummumble which meant: “To shake, towzle, or tumble about.”**

Finnis worked for the Chiswick Local Board and he complained that Marsh had been ordered to pull down a building ‘that had been erected contrary to the bye-laws’. Marsh didn’t appear in person but sent along his solicitor who told the court that his client was attempting to comply with the order.

He asked for some of the fines that had been levied to be remitted as part of the building (indeed buildings as it seems there were three in total) had already been demolished. Finnis was unmoved, he had sent letters (threatening ones) but had received no reply. He said he would abide by the magistrate’s decision but would not consent to ant reduction in the penalties unilaterally. The justice, Mr Curtis Bennett, said he had no power to lift the fines unless the Board agreed, so the case effectively reached an impasse; either the buildings were taken down or the fines paid and the buildings made good.

Mr Bennett’s next hearing was not about ‘crime’ either. This time he was asked to adjudicate on a case of nuisance. A Mr Augustus Bird was adamant that he had the right to burn bricks at his property in Shepherds Bush. Burning bricks is essential to their strength and durability so this was a case of local manufacturing coming up against the concerns of local residents; the clash of industry with the needs of a growing domestic population in West London.

Bird had been fined £50 for his persistence in burning bricks and causing a  nuisance to locals. He maintained (through his legal representative) that he had every right to do so and asked for the fines to be waived. The magistrate sided with the authorities in upholding the ban on brick-burning but said he would accept a compromise: so long as Mr Bird ceased his noxious activities he would reduced the fine for his previous offence to just £10.

Both these cases reflect the pressure on space that late Victorian and early Edwardian London faced as its population grew and the city expanded. London was not an industrial town (as Manchester was for example), it had grown over the centuries and swallowed up the surrounding countryside and its villages. Inevitably tensions would occur as the demands of industry came into conflict with the desires of residents to live in clean and quiet neighborhoods. When tensions did arise they were often played out in the police magistrates courtroom.

* For example Mr Pooter in The diary of a Nobody by Grossmith & Grossmith

** see http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/211600.html

Four brothers fall foul of the police (and have the black eyes to show for it)

John, Richard, Charles, and Lewis Dunn were all drinking in the Goat, a public house in Kensington High Street in October 1880. John and his brother Charles were painters while Richard was an ordinary seaman in the Navy.

Perhaps Richard was just back from a tour of duty, or the four were celebrating some other occasion, the paper was not clear on this, but it seems they were drinking heavily. It was a Sunday night and their carousing turned into something uglier and the police were called to the pub.

Police sergeant Adams and constables Marner, Brinley and Bass arrived and attempted to eject John and Charles. In the process of trying to get John Dunn to leave PC Bass was hit in the eye and knocked to the floor. PC Brinley managed to get Richard out of the pub but the sailor pulled a knife and threatened him.

Sergenat Adams was attacked by Charles Dunn with a stick and badly beaten before all four were secured and taken back to the station to be charged.

In Hammersmith Police Court Bass gave his testimony with a bandage over his damaged eye and two of the prisoners appeared sporting black eyes.

When the magistrate inquired as to how they had obtained such injuries the police witnesses explained that the pair had fought amongst themselves at the station. Sergeant Adams told him that they had fought ‘like wild animals’ for twenty minutes before they could be separated. The brother claimed they had all been beaten up by the police.

Not surprisingly the justice sided with the coppers, and handed down prison sentences of between a month and three months to all the brothers for being involved in a ‘savage affray’ and assault upon the police.

 

[from The Morning Post, Tuesday, October 05, 1880]

The case of the wallpaper thief

When Mrs Ellen Carpenter employed a young man to wallpaper her nursery she probably expected only to be paying for the paper and his time. Sadly for her (and her maid) she got a lot more than she bargained for.

John Anderson was only 16 but he arrived at the Ladbroke Grove address in late September 1873 and duly papered the children’s room. However, it seems he also helped himself to some of the household’s effects whilst he was at it.

The first person to realise something was wrong was the maid, a German woman who was not named in Anderson’s court appearance at Hammersmith. She noticed a ring of her’s attached to a scarf the lad was wearing and while he denied taking it she wrenched it back from him.

The maid’s discovery now set in motion a series of events. Mrs Carpenter soon discovered that her jewel case had been opened and she was missing a ring, a locket and a watch belonging to her husband. The police were called and Inspector Hocking made inquiries.

He soon found that the watch had been taken to as local shop (to be repaired) and several items of jewelry had ended up in the possession of a young lady named Adelaide Tillier (who was also charged in court with receiving them).

The young man claimed he had bought them for Adelaide but the pair had recently fallen out and ‘quarreled’. Whether he had taken them from the Carpenter’s home hoping to impress his girl or she was part of a more organised crime is unclear. The magistrate remanded them for trial.

 

[from The Morning Post, Friday, October 03, 1873]