In this week in 1889

Title page from the first edition of Charles Dickens's A Christmas CarolTo celebrate entering our 125th year, throughout 2013 we have published details of a selection of local court cases and other items of local interest from the year we were founded, 1889.

The cases below, heard before Hastings County Bench and Eastbourne Bench, appeared in the local press in December 1889. To view reports from other weeks of 1889 visit our 125th year section.

This, the final part in our series, is published with Christmas nearly upon us. Statistics show that in 2013 a record number of us have done our Christmas shopping online. But with no internet, where did Hastings folk buy their Christmas turkeys, greetings cards and Christmas spirits in 1889? See the 1889 Christmas ads further down the page to find out.

Week ending 21 December

A well-to-do shoplifter

Horten St. Hyacinth Jenne, described as ‘a well-dressed aged woman’, was charged with stealing various articles, including cards and dolls. The items were valued at 19s. 2d. and the property of Thomas Sutton, draper, of South Street in Eastbourne.

The defendant, who pleaded guilty, was fined £3 including costs. The Bench said it could make no distinction in regard to a person’s social position, but she would only be fined owing to her respectability and this being a first offence.

A light-fingered butler

John Siebenwurst, an assistant butler, was charged, on remand, with stealing nine silver forks, valued at £4 and the property of his mistress, Eliza Robertson.

The evidence showed he pawned the forks at Mr Lamb’s shop in Seaside Road, Eastbourne.

Detective-Sergeant Goldsack deposed that, when he questioned Mr Siebenwurst, the man insisted he did not intend to rob his mistress and only planned to keep the forks for a short time as he needed money. A number of books had also since been handed to the detective, who said they had been found in a pantry used by the prisoner at Mrs Robertson’s house.

John Edgworth, on behalf of the accused, asked for the case to be dealt with under section 16 of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, owing to the previous good character of Mr Siebenwurst.

Mr Edgworth affirmed there had been no attempt to conceal the books found in the pantry and Mr Siebenwurst merely wanted to use them to perfect himself in the English language. As for the pawned silver forks, Mr Siebenwurst only wanted the loan of money to purchase articles for a Christmas tree for the Society of Germans in Eastbourne of which he was secretary.

Several German people present in court gave evidence as to the prisoner’s good character. The Bench sentenced Mr Siebenwurst, who pleaded guilty, to six weeks’ hard labour and in doing so pointed out the responsibility of servants when dealing with the goods of their employers.

Mayhem at Silverhill

John Russell, a labourer, was charged, on remand, with drunkenness, disorderly behaviour and assaulting the police.

On the night of 21 November PC Bruce saw the prisoner intoxicated and disorderly at Silverhill. After refusing to move on Mr Russell struck at the constable, who took him into custody with the assistance of PC Saunders. The prisoner kicked both constables several times.

PC Bruce deposed that during the incident a large crowd gathered and some of those present attempted to ‘rescue’ the prisoner. Consequently the constables took the prisoner into a nearby shop, where they remained until 3am the next morning because of the threat of the crowd outside.

When called upon the make his defence, the prisoner said he had no witnesses. A woman named Martin, living at Shorden Villas, then came forward from the back of the court. She stated that she saw the prisoner and PC Bruce outside her house. The prisoner, who was drunk, was offering to fight the constable. He refused to go away and in a struggle fell, whereupon the constable ‘jumped upon him’. Hubert Ellis gave evidence to the effect that he considered the prisoner was badly treated.

The Bench fined the defendant 10 shillings and costs for drunkenness and sentenced him to six weeks’ hard labour for assaulting the police. The decision was hissed by several people at the back of the hall.

Cases against the crowd

Charles Cruttenden, William Ransom, William Smith, George Upton, Albert Styles, William Gutsell, William Gower and Hubert Ellis were then summoned for obstructing the police. Cruttenden was further charged with assaulting the police. These cases arose from the last.

PC Bruce said he was obstructed by the defendants and others when he had a man named John Russell in custody. With assistance from PC Saunders and Sergeant Brookham he handcuffed Russell and endeavoured to get him to the police station.

The defendants used bad language and several of them called upon Russell to resist. Cruttenden pushed to the front and, ‘using very bad language’, took hold of the prisoner and tried to free him. Cruttenden then put up his fists and, again using bad language, said, “I’ll smash you!” before hitting PC Bruce twice on the chest. Others in the crowd kicked PC Bruce and there were shouts of “jump on him”.

All three officers’ helmets were dislodged and PC Bruce lost his lamp. They had arrested Russell at 11:30pm and around an hour had elapsed before they made it through the crowd and took the prisoner into a shop for shelter.

The other PCs gave corroborative evidence and all three were pushed, struck and kicked by members of the crowd. PC King stated that there were around 200 people in the crowd and a great deal of stone-throwing took place.

Maria Field, wife of Charles Field, the shop owner in whose premises the policemen took refuge, deposed to the shop’s  window being smashed and to seeing all the defendants in the crowd. All the defendants denied the offences alleged against them and called various witnesses.

The Bench sentenced Cruttenden to a month’s hard labour for assaulting the police. For obstruction, the other defendants were fined £5 and costs each or six weeks’ hard labour. Time to pay was refused.

The Chairman said the Bench considered this a very serious case and they were determined to stamp out such incidents. A large crowd at the back of the court hissed the Bench’s decision. The hearing had lasted over three hours.

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Posted: 18 December 2013

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