100-YEARS-AGO: MOUNTED POLICE ARREST POTATO THIEVES IN PENDLEBURY
I came across this story from October 1920 in the pages of the Eccles and Patricroft Journal and was shocked to read of the treatment meted out to these men who appeared at Manchester County Police Court charged with stealing quantities of potatoes from local farmers' fields.
The background to this story is as follows, in October 1920 coal miners went on strike for higher pay, the strike only lasted two weeks but this caused hardship for many families and most of the men who stood in the dock accused of theft were colliers from local pits.
Local farmers had complained to the police that for several nights groups of men had been seen in the early hours of the morning stealing potatoes either from the soil or which had been harvested and awaiting collection in baskets.
The newspaper reported that "scores" of coal miners were in the fields, stealing the crops and at one stage 200 men and boys were seen stealing.
The police were informed and Supt. Keys raised a force of mounted policemen and several dozen policemen who travelled in prison vans were taken to the farms.
They launched a raid on the potato pickers and arrested a dozen men, others scattered leaving half filled sacks and shovels on the ground.
Mounted police along with uniformed policemen patrolled the fields for the next few days to deter any more thefts with a show of force.
Eight men appeared in the dock and a boy aged 11 years of age, they were, George Dale, George Arden, Robert Hodgkiss, Ernest Cullis, Edward Jones, Ernest Vernon, Thomas Atkinson, and Wilson Taylor,
The case of George Dale was heard first, with Mr T. Stuttard The Chairman of the Court and Mr J, Crofton was the Prosecuting Officer.
Crofton alleged that Dale was caught with 56lb of potatoes and that this court case arose from the coal strike and then launched into an astonishing attack on Dale and the other accused by saying that they behaved as if the crop in the ground was theirs was to be taken and eaten and if this kind of behaviour was not stamped out, "the disease would grow and would ultimately lead to, as it has in the past, rioting and the usual accompaniments"
The Chairmen asked him if he was bringing a case of anarchy on the men?
He replied that he wasn't but this is where these things lead to.
Addressing Dale, the Chairman told him that he couldn't behave as the Germans did in Belgium and France and take anything they liked and fined him £5 and 12 shillings Advocate fees and told him he should be happy he wasn't being sent to prison.
Dale asked for a month to pay and was told the decision would come after the trial of the other men.
The other accused were given fines ranging from £1 to 10 shillings plus court costs.
George Dale had his fine reduced from £5 down to £2 in a rare show of leniency and was given a month to pay..
The Chairman then warned the whole district of Pendlebury that if any more men were brought up before him charged with potato theft they would go straight to prison
By Tony Flynn
A rather sad and cautionary tale from the pages of the Salford City Reporter from October 1920 which gives an insight into the way that habitual drunkards were treated at the time and how times have changed.
Violet Whittle a 40 year old woman of no fixed abode appeared at Salford Magistrates Court, charged with being drunk and disorderly on Chapel Street, Salford the night before.
It would appear that Violet was no stranger to the court and was "fond" of a drink as they say.
Superintendent Clarke told the Magistrate that Violet was last before the court on September 16th (less than a month ago) and had been fined £1 for drunkenness and that within the last twelve months had been arrested for the same offence, seven times, giving her a total of 34 criminal convictions.
The previous evening when arrested on Chapel Street she was abusive to the arresting officer, P,C, Nolan. and in the cells she behaved, "in a disgraceful way", then added.
"If she cannot conduct herself properly when sober, I can imagine what she will be like in drink"
The newspaper reported that Violet has, "stood erect and attentive" when the above was read out to the court, the suddenly burst into tears and shouted out,
"I'm cast down!, I'm broken hearted, I only came out of prison yesterday, I don't have a dogs chance, the police are always locking me up"
The Magistrates Clerk tried to reason with her and explained it was because she always went back on the drink.
Poor Violet answered, "I would be better off dead, for I'm always in prison".
Superintendent Clarke then told the court that Violet had been sent to the Langho Inebriates Reformatory in 1906, but had not seemed to have cured her..
Langho Inebriates Reformatory opened in 1904 and housed some 300 women, was situated, seven miles from Blackburn, it later became a hospital for people with learning disabilities and closed in 1992, and have heard some terrible stories about the way the early patients were treated.
Having heard all the evidence, the Magistrates, Alderman Mather and Mr F. P. Nathan in their wisdom saw fit to send Violet to prison for one month with hard labour added for good measure.
How on earth is sending her to prison going to help this poor woman, who by her own admission stated she would be better off dead than in prison, she did need medical help and I'm certain the harsh regime in Strangeways prison didn't extend to this.
By Tony Flynn
The Height and Bolton Road areas of Salford were subjected to a fortnight's rampage of burglary, arson and theft which only ended when two youths aged 15 and 16 appeared at Salford Magistrates Court in October 1920 and the full story unfolded.
Mrs Lewthtwaite owned a supper bar on Broad Street, Salford and on the previous Thursday evening at 10pm, she was in the kitchen of her house, when she heard a loud bang and glass breaking, she saw Cecil Wilkinson drop into her yard.
Her son ran out and apprehended him, only to be told that he was looking for his ball, he then saw another boy nearby, who ran away when approached, the police were sent for and Wilkinson was taken into custody for questioning.
Wilkinson soon told the police the name of his accomplice, Arthur Smith and he was soon arrested and brought into custody.
Superintendent Clarke questioned the boys and they readily admitted that, they intended breaking into the barbers shop next door to the supper bar and were looking for money to steal.
However once they started confessing they couldn't stop and told an astonished Superintendent Clarke a long list of their misdemeanours, they had carried out in the past fortnight.
At the Magistrates Court he applied to have the boys remanded in custody for a week whilst further cases might be investigated, the remand was granted and both boys. despite their age where remanded to Strangeways prison.
One week later the two boys, Cecil Wilkinson of, Saxby Street and Arthur Smith of Bolton Road, Pendleton stood in the dock and a remarkable catalogue of their crimes was read out.
Breaking and entering, 34 Acresfield Road and stealing foodstuffs to the value of £1, 18 shillings and ninepence.
Setting fire to The Olympia Picture Palace, West Street, stealing 10 shillings and a quantity of chocolate. damaging seventeen seats and a piano.
Damaging and spoling five motor cars, a planing machine and a band saw at Messr Thomas Carters Motor Works, Trafford Road.
Setting fire to St Thomas's School, Broughton Road, Salford.
Breaking and entering Messr Lancaster and Tonge's offices, Withington Street, Salford stealing £3 19 shilling and 7 pence, and a box of cigarettes.
Breaking and entering the schoolroom on King Street, the Height and stealing 11 pence.
Breaking and entering into St Anne's School, Brindleheath, damaging six panes of glass, two pairs of curtains and lengths of woodwork.
Breaking and entering Halton Bank School, Bolton Road damaging five electric globes, 38 pound of flour and a water pipe.
The boys pleaded guilty to all these charges.
Superintendent Clarke told the Court that there had been, "a fifteen day scare" as shops, homes, businesses and schools were targeted, in addition over £1,000 worth of damage had been caused by arson and wilful damage.
He asked the Magistrate Mr P. W. Atkin that the boys be sent to the Assizes for sentencing considering the severity of the offences and then dropped the bombshell that at the premises of Messr Thomas Carters Motor Works, Trafford Road, the boys had hung, the workshop cat and killed it.
The boys were defended by Mr Howard Flint, who asked the Magistrate if the boys could not be dealt with on this day by the court, adding that they were both from respectable families and had been influenced by reading "trashy cheap, literature"
The Magistrate turned down his plea for a trial at the Magistrate Court and added that there was no reason why they should be cruel to a cat.
The boys were sent to the Asizes for trial and here is the cliff hanger, I have no idea how they went on there, considering the amount of damage and mayhem they caused I am certain they would be sent to prison and it would that their act of cruelty to a cat ensured they would face the wrath of an Assize Judge.
By Tony Flynn
Another story of love and romance from the pages of the Eccles and Patricroft Journal, October 1920, when love breaks down...
John Henry Robinson who lived at Barlow Street, Patricroft appeared at Eccles Magistrates Court, charged with assaulting May Jackson in her home at Blears Buildings, Eccles and smashing crockery belonging to her mother, Margaret Jackson.
Margaret Jackson told the Magistrate that Mr Robinson had been "walking out" with her daughter until three months ago and on the night of September 27th he called at the house to see, May.
She went to bed but was woken by screams and heard Robinson, cry out,
"I have got you now and I will do you in!"
He allegedly ripped the blouse off her back and threw her over the table smashing the plates, cups and saucers, laid out.
A passing neighbour, Emma Woodhall heard the commotion and rushed in to help, she grabbed hold of Robinson who had forced May to the floor and was twisting her arm and managed to separate them.
Robinson took to the witness box and gave a completely different story.
He claimed he had called at the house to chat with May, when Margaret Jackson burst into the room and threw a glass at his head, and as for the smashed crockery, he said that he had bought it for them, so it was his, furthermore he had spent between £300 - £400 on the pair of them and this was the way they treated him.
Getting into the swing of it, Robinson claimed that May and her sister had been seeing other men behind his back and on one occasion he had been, "brutally assaulted" by the men and had his wallet, containing £7 stolen from him.
With a final flourish he told the Magistrate that the two women should have been in the dock, not him.
However the Magistrate didn't share his views, and he was fined 10 shillings for the assault and five shillings for the damaged crockery, and warned about his future conduct.
Reading between the lines it would appear that Mr Robinson was being strung along by May and her family, showering money and gifts on them. and was better off without them, an unrequited love indeed.