A Regular Irish Row

On April 20th, 1858 a ‘scrimmage’ took place in Steelhouse Lane that reportedly lasted several hours. The police had been detained by a violent outbreak at the Workhouse at the same time, which is why the Steelhouse Lane brawl was allowed to carry on so long. The following is a report from the Police Court, reported in the Daily Post of April 22nd 1858.  The presiding justices were Mr Kynnersley and Henry van Wart. As an aside, Henry van Wart had been one of the town’s first town councillors, an American by birth and was married to the sister of Washington Irving, author of Rip Van Winkle and Sleepy Hollow.

Birmingham Police Court

A Regular Irish Row:- On Tuesday afternoon the locality of Steelhouse Lane was for four or five hours a continued scene of turmoil and excitement, consequent upon a scrimmage which took place between the Irish and English residing in Steelhouse Lane, resulting from a summons which had been obtained against a Mrs. MacCarty. A considerable number of heads and one arm were broken, and innumerable bruises inflicted; and it was not until the arrival of a body of police that the “row” was quelled and peace restored. So many of the force were required to prevent a breach of the peace at the Workhouse on the same day that some time elapsed before a force could be collected to proceed to Steelhouse Lane. Two Irish men, named Michael Cotter, London Prentice Street and William Connor, Steelhouse Lane, both shoemakers, were given into custody by Mr. John Brueton, landlord of the Bell public house, as being most active in the affair. The latter deposed that about five in the afternoon of the named there was a great disturbance in the street, near his house. He was standing at the door when the two prisoners came up, and Cotter threw something at witness, which narrowly missed his face, and also used the most opprobrious language towards him. They also challenged him out to fight, and threatened him in beastly language. Witness knew Connor very well, as he lived next door to him. – Sarah Blackham, servant at the Bell, gave similar testimony and then described how Connor rushed at her, caught hold of her by the hair and pulled her down the steps into the street. She would have been much hurt if assistance had not speedily been at hand. Robert Hallam, who lived in Steelhouse Lane, saw Connor “fly” at the preceding witness and ill-treat her as she described. He went to her assistance and saved her from further injury. This witness also deposed to the violent nature of the “row”. – William Oxford stated that the disturbance arose from the circumstance of a summons having been taken out against a Mrs MacCarty, who was a sister of the prisoner Connor, who lodged in her house. – Detective Palmer took the prisoners into custody. – In defence Cotter said Conner was drunk, and he was merely taking him home. They denied being implicated in the disturbance. – Mr. Kynnersley said there could be no doubt the prisoners had committed a very serious offence. They were a disgrace to the neighbourhood and the borough, and must each pay a fine of £5, or go to gaol for two months. The money not being forthcoming, the prisoners were committed. 


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