Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Donkey Stealing in Brockley

Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online 1674-1913 is an addictive site which, as the name suggests, includes transcripts of more than 200 years of London criminal trials. You can search by keyword which means you can find lots of trials relating to specific areas of London, or even particular streets. For instance a search under Brockley throws up all kinds of crimes from its rural past.

There was 17 year old William Garrett, convicted of stealing a donkey in 1836 and arrested ‘at Mr. Owen's farm, at Brockley—he said he had stolen the donkey, and sold it to a man in Kent-street’. The following year Thomas Palmer was jailed for six months for stealing from his master’s ‘stack of hay at Brockley Wood’. In 1884 two men were prosecuted for ‘Stealing 10 tame fowls of George James Smith… a builder at Brockley’ who lived in Wickham Road.

One of the more colourful trials related to a punch up at the Maypole pub in 1868 (the address is given as Brockley Lane, but I assume it was the same Maypole that was demolished last year in Mantle Road). Thomas O’Donnell was jailed for nine months for wounding a policeman, Edwin Bridge, who had been called to the pub to deal with an argument between drinkers and the landlord, Frederick Barker. Bridge told the court: ‘ the prisoner rushed out of his house, pulled off his coat, and said, "Where is the b——?"… he rushed at me, and gave me a violent blow on the head and another on the chest, and knocked me down—while I was on the ground I was kicked by the prisoner and others—I got up and defended myself against five—I got some distance back, and said, "The next one that comes up to me I shall knock down with my truncheon"—they came up several times, and after defending myself some time, I became exhausted, and went into an adjoining yard, followed by the prisoner and others—they got me down and kicked me all over the body, and jumped on my head, and the prisoner said, "You b——I will murder you"—the others made use of the same expression—when they had done kicking me, the prisoner said, "I think the b——has got enough now, he will not get up again," jumping on me at the time—I became insensible but subsequently got up, and got to the gate of the yard, and as I went out the prisoner struck at me again—I struggled to get away from him, and my coat was torn to pieces—I ran for protection into Mr. Bond's house’ (1 Foxberry Road, Brockley).

Fighting of a different kind was the subject of a trial in 1885 when John Parker and Alfred Bailey were charged with ‘Unlawfully assembling and taking part in a prize fight’. A policeman, John Boustead, reported that: ‘About 7.30 p.m. on 2nd July I received information, in consequence of which I went along the bank of the Brighton and South Coast Railway at Brockley—in a field adjoining I saw about 250 persons standing round in a ring, and in the centre I saw Parker and another man having a stand-up fight—they were stripped to the waist, with no gloves on, pummelling each other—I climbed over the fence—when I got to within 60 yards Bailey was fanning Parker with a shirt—when I got near to them there was a cry of "Police," the fight stopped, and they all ran away’.

The accused were found not guilty after claiming that rather than a pre-arranged prize fight it had just been a spontaneous punch-up after ‘a glass of ale in the Brockley Jack’, described in court as ‘a public-house and place of amusement where holiday people go—there are sometimes 200 or 300 people outside’.

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