From ‘knowledge’ to waste paper, there’s some profit to be had in between

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The publishers of the Penny Cyclopæedia presumably believed they were contributing to public knowledge and entertainment at the same time. From their premises in Ludgate Street and their warehouse in Lambeth they printed and distributed a journal that was sold all over the UK and as far as America. The Penny Cyclopæedia for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (to give it its full title) was published and sold between 1828 and 1843 by George Long and Charles Knight, the publication extended to 27 volumes and 3 supplements in 15 years.*

The owners stored copies intended for distribution at the Lambeth site and in December 1840 they had large quantities of issues 1 and 16 in particular on the shelves. This amounted to something like 30,000 reams of paper. The business had so  much because they were holding issues against some news from their ‘agent’ in the USA (what that news was I’m afraid is not made clear).

Meanwhile London also had a lucrative market in waste paper. This was sold to shops to wrap goods in. We still do this today of course, and while modern health & safety laws don’t allow it, some of us might even remember when fish and chips was sold in yesterday’s newspapers. Among the businesses that profited from this trade, were those belonging to William Pegg in Blackfriars, and Phillip Hathaway, a stationer in the City. Both men bought waste paper (in the form of copies of the Penny Cyclopæedia  a man named Thomas Denny who worked at the Lambeth warehouse.

On the 29th of December 1840 Denny and William Kingate (a former warehouseman and porter at the site) were formally charged at Union Hall Police Court with stealing ‘upwards of a ton weight’ of the encyclopaedia and ‘selling it as wastepaper’.

It was a lengthy hearing, with several witnesses, and I imagine it would have been of some interest to the readership of the Morning Post and other papers, because they would have heard of the Penny CyclopæediaIt transpired that Kingate had been sacked from the publishing firm but had stayed in touch with his former colleague. They had conspired to rob their employers and profit from the huge reserves of paper stored at Lambeth.

The pair were remanded for more witnesses to come forward but eventually they stood trial at Old Bailey in January 1841. There we find out more about the trade in waste paper as one witness, an employee of Pegg’s in Blackfriars, told the court that Denny had come in offering to sell them paper. Denny had been in before and the man deposed that:

he came to us on the 5th of December, about half-past five or six o’clock in the evening with another man, and brought with him some paper as he was in the habit of bringing—he brought some of the Penny Cyclopaedia—I do not know whether there was any other sort—I believe there was some of the Bible—he brought then 4cwt. 2qrs. 14lbs. —I weighed it—it was in the state that these bundles are—(looking at them)—I cannot distinguish which of these bundles it was—it was in this state in quires—it has not even been stitched for the purpose of being sold—we gave him 28s. per cwt., and that lot on the 5th of December came to 6l. 9s. 6d’

Old Bailey, THOMAS DENNY, WILLIAM KINGATE, Theft > stealing from master, 1st February 1841.

So there was money to be made in waste paper, as £6 9s 6d equates to about £285 today. Kingate and Denny had been carrying on this racket for several weeks it seems as one of Pegg’s younger employees recognised them both as regular suppliers. We might ask whether they paid too much attention to where the stock was coming from or why it came without an official docket from the company, but perhaps that was how the trade operated.

The two warehousemen were convicted by the Old Bailey jury and Kingate suffered severely for their conspiracy, as the senior partner and ‘brains’ behind the operation. Denny (aged 30) was sent to prison for 6 months, while Kingate was transported to Australia for 7 years.

                      [from The Morning Post, Monday, December 31, 1840]

*the company also produced the Penny Magazine which also ran until 1845 when its sales (initially very encouraging) dried up.

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Eloping lovers are caught up in the justice system

In the past few years we have rightly been exercised by child abuse and while most of the dreadful stories in circulation have concerned individuals such as Jimmy Saville or the grooming gangs of Rotherham, we have also had examples of older men running away with much younger girls (like the case of Jeremy Forrest in 2015). The question I’m always interested in is whether any of this is new or a product of our modern society? The answer is often, no.

In December 1883 John Carter was presented at the Marylebone Police Court, charged with abducting a girl of 14 from the care and protection of her father.

However, the case here was far from clear cut. Carter was just 19 years old himself and he and the girl, Sarah Ann Terrell, had been ‘walking out’ together for eight months. In other words, they were sweethearts.

Sarah Ann (or Mary Ann as her father gave her name in court), had not been abducted at all she said. Instead she had gone willingly with John Carter, leaving her father’s house in Munster Square at 5 in the morning while he slept. The first William Tyrrell knew of it was when he woke and found her gone. He went to police immediately.

Sarah had tried to go to John straight away but couldn’t find him it seems. She walked the streets all night and was afraid to return home, knowing her father would be angry with her. Eventually she found John at 6 the following evening, ‘quite by accident’. He was on his way to his sisters so the pair went to stay there.

The next day they took a room where they stayed together until the Wednesday  morning. She told the court that John had promised to marry her and that she went to him of her own free will. Her flight was not arranged and John knew nothing about any of it she told the magistrate.

John Carter left her at the room they had rented and went back to see his sister on the Wednesday afternoon. When he got to her house two police officers were there, and they took him into custody. Sarah was again adamant that John had done nothing wrong. Indeed he had urged her to go home to her father but she was afraid of his anger. He offered to get her a room but it was her determination that he stayed in it, not his she said.

The case she presented in court was one that suggested John was innocent of the charge levelled against him; instead it was Sarah, as a young woman of 15 (not 14 and a half as he father alleged) who had been been the instigator of her own actions. In 1883 the legal age of consent was 14, it wasn’t raised to 16 until 1885 with the Criminal Law Amendment Act (passed in the wake of the Maiden Tribute scandal).

So it is unclear what law had been broken here. The magistrate was clearly moved by the girl’s testimony and did not seem to see the young man as a threat to her. Nevertheless while he was fairly sure there was no case to answer regarding abduction, he bound John over on his own recognisances (of £10) for a few days to consider the evidence and allow further witnesses to come forward.

This was not child abuse or abduction in the 1880s but what would we have made of it today? I think John Carter would have had questions to answer, particularly if it had been proved that the couple had been intimate with each other. Sarah Anne was under age (for 2016 if not for 1883) and I imagine he would find himself on the Register of Violent and Sex Offenders.  Clearly this represents an important step forward in the protection of young people even if, in this case, there were two young people who needed to be considered.

[from Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, Sunday, December 30, 1883]

A rough ‘raffle’ in Whitechapel

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One of the things that fascinates me about exploring the reports of cases in the old newspapers is the references to London landmarks (famous and mundane) and to street names. Whenever I am researching for a paper or a book I like to visit the ‘scene of the crime’ so to speak. When I was using the old Corporation of London Archives to read the notebooks of the eighteenth-century magistracy I burned off my lunch tramping the streets of the City, always looking up above the shop fronts and windows. You see much more that way.

Close to the Whitechapel Art Gallery and on the corner of Gunthorpe Street, is the White Hart public house. The pub is next to the archway that leads into what, in the 1880s, was the entrance to the ‘Abyss’ – the dark nether world of alleys, courts, and now lodging houses described by Jack London (1903), and others.

Many of the ‘Ripper’ tours start here and the pub trades on its association with London’s most notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper. A plaque on the side informs customers that a ‘Ripper’ suspect (George Chapman – or Seweryn Klosowski) lived there for a time during the murders. Indeed a murder took place just a few yards from the pub – Martha Tabram’s in August 1888.

Chapman was hanged in 1903 for the murder of three women who he poisoned with arsenic. Apparently Inspector Abberline (one of the lead detectives in the Whitechapel murder case) believed Chapman was the killer because when he had interviewed his wife she had told him her husband was often out late at night for no reason.

Personally I doubt he was the ‘Ripper’ but its interesting to see how suspicions fall and the fact that he lodged at the White Hart certainly fits my belief that the killer was a local man.

The White Hart has clearly been around for a very long time, at least since the eighteenth century. Other pubs come and go and their names change. So when I saw that a fight had started at the White Horse pub in Whitechapel in 1852, I wondered if the court reporter had misheard or incorrectly recorded the details. It wouldn’t be the first (or last) time a journalist got his facts wrong.

In December 1852 John Quin and Julia Haggerty were accused (at Worship Street Police Court) with assaulting Jones Jones, the landlord of the White Horse, Whitechapel.

The assault charge uncovered what seems to have been a mass brawl in the pub, mostly involving members of the large Irish community. There had been a raffle on the Monday night and although (as the paper noted) there ‘could be only one winner amongst the number that stood the hazard of the die’, several of those that lost claimed they had been cheated and started a ‘row.

According to witnesses Quin was the instigator of the brawl and led his fellows in the destruction of glasses and furniture. The landlord was set upon and one witness testified that he feared for the fellow’s life. Haggerty attacked Mrs Jones.

Counter claims from Catherine Ryan and another witness said that the landlord had started it.

She told an incredulous courtroom that Jones attacked the ‘whole of the party (74 in number), and pitched them down stairs, at the bottom of which the witness Ryan said the defendant Quin was lying stone dead, never lifting an arm to man, woman, or child’.

The magistrate didn’t believe a word of it and convicted both defendants. Each was fined 20s, which they paid.

Was the White Horse actually the White Hart? A White Horse pub did exist in the 1800s, but it was at Poplar not in Whitechapel. Now Whitechapel means the area around Leman Street, and either side of Commercial Road and Commercial Street, up to Whitechapel tube in the east and the borders of the City of London to the west. So maybe the reporter got it wrong or perhaps it was meant in a broader geographical sense?

 

[from The Morning Post, Wednesday, December 29, 1852]

 

‘You won’t believe it’s not butter’

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Today we are protected by considerable and complex laws affecting our consumer rights. Food is labeled (albeit confusingly at times) with levels of fat, sugar, chemicals etc. There are directives about weight, sell by and use by dates and governing packaging and advertising. Caveat emptor applies to many things but not really to food.

In was very different in the early Victorian period when all sorts of things were added to food and other consumables to make them cheaper, sweeter, or more attractive. The 1800s saw an attempt to standardise food however, and to remove the poisons that were routinely used to adulterate things such as beer, milk and bread. The ever expanding bureaucracy of the Victorian state passed more and more pieces of legislation and hired inspectors to enforce them.

On occasion we can see the results of this in the Police Courts of the Metropolis.

In December 1876 Charles Theobald , a grocer with a shop at 20 Regent’s Street, was summoned before the magistrate at Westminster for selling butter that was not really butter.

Owen Williams, an officer of the Board of Works, had entered Theobald’s shop and asked for a pat of butter. Theobald’s 12 year-old son served the customer, and sold him a pound of butter.

Mr Williams explained to the court that he wanted the butter it for analysis and that what he thought he had been sold was ‘butterine’, not butter. This, he added, was not supposed to be sold ‘as the natural production from the cow’. Williams took it away for analysis by a Dr Du Pré who found that it was only 10 percent butter and 90 percent animal fats. What the Theobalds were selling was a butter substitute. There seems to have been nothing wrong with doing so so long as it was’t being sold as the superior dairy product.

Buttering seems to have been a successful product in the USA in the Edwardian period, most of the adverts (some of them terribly racist it has to be said) come from across the Atlantic. The first dictionary reference is just before the First World War, so the Theobalds may have been pioneers. It is certainly much older than ‘I can’t believe its not butter’ which has been manufactured by Unilever since the mid 1970s.

Charles Theobald explained that he had recently punched the shop and all its stock just 6 days earlier and his son had no idea that he was doing something wrong. He didn’t know that there was a different product, the buttering looked like butter after all. It was genuine mistake and would not occur again. Both he and his son were ‘perfectly innocent of any attempt at fraud, and any fraud lay with his predecessor’.

The magistrate accepted his word and cautioned him for the future, the summons was then dropped and the grocer was free to return to his new business.

[from The Morning Post, Thursday, December 28, 1876]

NB if you are one of the growing number of regular  readers of this blog I just wanted to say thank you. I started this as an exercise in keeping my research brain active on a daily basis; the fact that hundreds of people seem to find it interesting enough to dip into from time to time helps me keep it going.

‘If you want to know the time, ask a policeman’

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It is fairly unusual to see the police in the dock at the Police Courts, mostly they appear as prosecutors or witnesses. However, from the creation of the Met in 1829 the new force had been subject to complaints about the behaviour of officers, including fraternising with local women, taking bribes from pimps and their prostitutes, corruption, and even petty theft.

The Music hall standard ‘If you want to know the time, ask a p’liceman’ was a gentle send up of the ‘boys in blue’ and makes reference to their shortcomings.

If you want to know the time ask a p’liceman
The proper Greenwich time, ask a p’liceman
Ev’ry member of the force, has a watch and chain of course
If you want to know the time ask a p’liceman.

as sung by James Fawn, composed by E. W. Rogers & A. E. Durandeau – 1889.

Every copper had a ‘watch and chain of course’ because (the accusation went) he had lifted it from a drunk he’d found in the street.

On Boxing Day 1893 a policeman did find himself on the wrong side of the law in the Greenwich Police Court. PC Joseph Muller (of M Division) was 26 years old and married. He had an impeccable record as a serving officer but something must have gone wrong that December.

At 4.25 on the morning of Christmas Eve PC Muller and the landlord of the Dover Castle public house at Rotherhithe presented themselves at the Police Station to report a possible break-in at the pub. PC Muller said that while he was out on his beat he had discovered that the door to the pub was open and unlocked, although he had earlier checked and found it secure.

Inspector Hawkes, Muller and the landlord, Frederick King then returned to the pub and made a search. The inspector concluded that the pub had not been broken into but it had been made to look as if it had. ‘A piece of wood had been cut from the door’ to fool any inspection. The inspector’s conclusion was that someone must have hidden on the premises after closing time and then had burgled the place.

Mr King checked his property and found that a cash box containing £1 in ‘new money’, some cigars, tobacco and cigarettes were missing. The inspector and PC Muller returned to the station.

About an hour later King was at the station levelling accusations at PC Muller. He said he thought he had heard some coins ‘rattling in his pocket’. Inspector Hawkes said that this was a very serious accusation and turned to Muller, asking him to turn out his pockets.

The copper did so, revealing nothing. But then he suddenly gave up all pretence and confessed. ‘It’s no use’, he said, ‘there’s the property’, prodding the cash-box from inside his coat.

In court at Greenwich he pleaded with the magistrate to take pity on him and hear his case summarily (as that way he would received  a lesser sentence and avoid a jury trial). He said he had got into bad company (with a sailor) and they had been drinking. He had no idea what had come over him.

Despite having a good character in his five years with the force Mr Mead (the justice) said it was ‘far too serious an offence’ for him to deal with and he remanded him for a full jury trial.

It didn’t reach the Old Bailey so I imagine it went to the Sessions or to the Surrey assizes. Given that he admitted his guilt there was only really one course of action open for the courts; he would have lost his position, his career and his freedom.

[from The Standard, Wednesday, December 27, 1893]

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]

‘Twas Christmas Eve in the Police court’…

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In the 1860s the Police Courts closed at Christmas but just as we are used to that last minute rush for a present so the Victorian court system (and those caught up in it) were clean to clear the decks and settle down for the goose and the crackers.

At Worship Street in Stepney on Christmas Even 1866 the sitting magistrate was busy. As usual the cells were full of night charges brought in by the police in the evening and small hours, many of them drunk and incapable. The morning visitors were often those seeking the support or the protection His Worship; paupers, the elderly or abused wives.

On the 24 December 1866 the court reporter from the Morning Post noted decided to dispose with the usual reflection on one peculiar or otherwise interesting case and instead give a flavour of the courtroom before the holiday:

‘Mr Newton was engaged for a long time’ he wrote, ‘in hearing applications from the poor-box, and disposing of cases against the incurably drunk and the drunk and disorderly’.

Most of those threatened with incarceration did what they could to avoid being locked up at Christmas, offering ‘all sorts of excuses for their misbehaviour. In most circumstances they were discharged, with the caution, “Don’t come here again”.

However, two men were not so lucky. One (a ‘dirty-looking looking fellow’)  had approached two girls in the street holding a bunch of mistletoe and demanding a kiss from each. When they refused he struck out, hitting one of them in the eye and causing her to faint. The bully was sent to prison for 14 days.

The other man had been conning punters on the Mile End Road with the ‘three-card trick’. His ‘confederates’ had kept an eye out for the police which had almost saved him from arrest. Unfortunately for him an officer in plain clothes infiltrated the crowd and when he witnessed one of the onlookers being cheated out of a sovereign he pounced and the fraudster was now going to spend the Christmas season in gaol.

Happy Christmas everyone and thanks for reading – more tales will continue tomorrow!

Drew

[from The Morning Post , Tuesday, December 25, 1866]