Newspapers report crime as a useful staple when there is little else ‘newsworthy’ going on. Crime has remained high of the agenda of editors since the early days of the press in the 17th century but the amount of coverage ebbs and flows according to other events and to the prejudices and obsessions of the owners and editors of the day and their perception of what interests their readership.
In midsummer 1897 it seems to have been gambling that was exercising the editor of Reynold’s Newspaper. The paper (published weekly on a Sunday) was aimed at the working classes and often championed working-class issues in opposition to the political establishment. Gambling was often depicted as a working-class problem (the rich gambled of course, but they could afford to lose), alongside drink and petty violence. It was seen a moral issue as it destroyed families and took men away from work.
The East End of London c.1882
So on the 20 June 1897 the paper covered a number of prosecutions for gambling at the capital’s police courts. At Thames Police Court a Limehouse photographer named James Curran was fined the princely sum of £70 for allowing his premises to be used for betting. Another businessman, William Chandler was similarly punished, being fined £22 because his tobacconist shop had been a venue for illegal betting.
Over at Worship Street in Shoreditch the court was packed as 22 men (all foreign Jews resident in Spitalfields and Whitechapel) were prosecuted for gaming. The venue was Bernard Green’s bakery on Underwood Street, MIle End and he was deemed the most culpable. All the gamblers were required to enter into their own recognizances against their future behaviour, at £5 each. Green was sentenced to five terms of imprisonment for six months, the terms to run concurrently.
[from Reynolds’s Newspaper, Sunday, June 20, 1897]