Sunday, 4 August 2013

The riot at 38 Mitford Road

Mitford Road is tree-lined, too narrow to drive down quickly, and a three-bed terrace costs £595,000.

Number 38 (below) is run down, 

but smartened up it would look as villagey (incidentally what is it with the London fixation with make-believing that we live in St Mary Bloody Mead instead of in a great city?) as its next door neighbour: 

In 1866 the landlord of Number 38, backed by rioting railway labourers and coster-mongers, sheltered a man from the police.

It's an odd story, with an odd ending. Here it is in the 30 January 1866 edition of the Islington Gazette:

'On Thursday three navvies named William Stevens Charles Starr and Henry Watson were brought up for final examination before Mr Bodkin and Col. Jeakes the sitting magistrates at the Highgate  petty sesssions, the two former charged with feloniously assaulting and injuring Police Sgt Foster Police Constable Dalton and Police Constable Barnes while in the exectuion of their duty.

Barnes was so seriously injured that his life is despaired of. He has appeard
once before the bench, but in so prostrate a condition that great difficulty was experienced in obtaining his deposition and signature.

The assaults were committed on the 9th of December last, after a fight at the 'volunteer' beer shop in the Hornsey Road. Stevens was one of the combatants.

The police were called upon by the landlord to quell the disturbance, but he refused to give the men into custody.

The three constables endeavoured to 
persuade the men to go away quietly, one of the fighters accepting the good advice given him. 

Stevens, however, refused, and on being taken into custody by Sgt Foster he kicked the officer about the legs with his heavy boots and struck him repeatedly in the face with his fists and bit his litttle finger, taking off a portion of the nail. He had previously stripped to fight the Sgt.  

Starr was lower down the road, creating a disturbance and was also requested to leave quietly. He became very uproarious and struck and kicked the constable Dalton.

Both Stevens and Starr were secured, with the assistance of Barnes, a fellow-constable, when Stevens called on the mob to assist and prevent them from being taken to the station house.

About 200 men, apparently railway labourers and costermongers, hemmed in the officials with their prisoners and hooted and yelled frightfully. 

The prisoner Watson urged on the mob to a rescue, and called out, ' Get the ___ into a dark street and then we'll give it to 'em.' The mob obeyed; and forced the police, with their prisoners, into Hooper-street (a dark street) when showers of brickbats were hurled at the constables, Sgt Foster being struck on the head with a brickbat, and Dalton's cheek being laid open. 

A desperate struggle with the prisoners then took place, Sgt Foster, Constable Barnes and the prisoner Starr falling to the ground. Watson, seeing this advantage, called out, 'don't let our mates be taken'. 

In the confusion Starr got up first and kicked Barnes about the head and body, and then jumped on his chest. Starr was rescued by Watson and others, and escaped but was subsequently apprehended at 38 Mitford Road, Holloway, where the landlord denied the police admission. 

The riot was put a stop to by the arrival of several constables. Barnes, after the violence inflicted upon him by Starr, was unable to rise, and was conveyed in a state of insensibility to the Royal Free hospital, wehre it was ascertained that he had sustained a fracture of three of the lower ribs on the right side, with injuries to the head, chest and back. 

He remained in the hospital a month, out of which he was three weeks in bed. Although it was as believed that Barnes was injured for life and disabled from again doing duty, the poor man, anxious to get out of the hospital, left on his own accord, and during that absence from the hospital made his deposition, but two or three days afterwards he had to return, where he still remains in a very precarious condition. The right lung was injured by the broken ribs.

Mr John Hackney, house surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital, said [...] Barnes had had a fit, rendering it necessary to shave his head. He had lost his sight and hearing on one side of the head. He was in a most dangerous condition.

The prisoners having nothing to say, the Bench said they would be committed for trial at the next Old Bailey Sessions.'

The  odd ending is that Stevens and Watson were acquitted, Starr only got four years and no-one else was even prosecuted. 

If the Gazette's story is true (and for what it's worth it matches up okay with the record of the trail) then rioting, threatening police officers and blocking an arrest weren't taken very seriously.

I am very out if my depth here. Anyone know about Victorian criminal justice? 



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