A record number of appearances at Victoria Law Court, 1894


Victoria Law Courts; Wikicommons

On Monday, June 25th 1894 no less than 99 cases were presented to magistrates at the Victoria Law Court. The Daily Post reported that the usual number for a Monday morning averaged around 60 and that ‘this week the leap has been a very significant one’.  The cases presented were varied but, the paper declared, could not be ascribed to a recent ‘epidemic of ruffianism which seems to have settled in the city’ as only 11 of the cases involved assault ‘on a Saturday night in the whole of the city’. The report gave a broad outline of the array of cases that were heard, most of which were petty thefts, Sunday afternoon street gambling and ‘many cases of drunkeness’.

Among those who had spent the weekend in the gaol for disorderly behaviour was Mary Ann Bayliss of Price Street who, after getting into a quarrel outside the Green Lamp pub in Dale End had smashed on of its windows with her boot. She had been arrested by constable Connolly and was committed to appear at the assizes.

Thomas Spinks, ‘a well known character’ and an accomplice named as Henry Edwards were also committed to the assizes on charges of burglary. The two had broken into the house of William Thompson in Peel Street and stolen ‘three coats, a pair of boots and a number of other articles’. They were apprehended by constable Kelly at the Black Horse pub on Prospect Row, still in possession of much of the property although Edwards had already sent his young niece off to pawn the coats.

Other cases attracted fines, including ‘an unusually large number of cases before the Bench of men and women charged with being drunk and disorderly on Saturday night’. The fines ranged from five to ten shillings plus costs and it was reported that ‘in most instances evidence was given of the defendants using disgusting language’.

Fines were also issued for gambling on the streets on Sunday, seemingly a prevalent problem in the city: ‘In consequence of the complaints made by residents in different parts of the city of the nuisance caused by boys gambling on the Sunday, police officers have been watching in the neighbourhood where the nuisance is most prevalent. On Sunday several boys were arrested and were now fined in amounts of 1s. and 2s. 6d. according to the age of the culprits.’

It seems that at weekends the police were certainly kept on their toes in later nineteenth-century Birmingham!

Birmingham’s nineteenth-century newspapers are available to view online by subscription to the British Newspaper Archives and free of charge at the Local Studies Centre on the 4th floor of the Library of Birmingham. Our local library and archive services are currently under threat from government funding cuts. Please support our libraries and archives in any way you can. 


The correct time of day for clearing out the bog house

The Birmingham Street Commissioners used bye-laws to regulate the town. These were increasingly important as the population expanded through the nineteenth century.  The list of bye-laws was amended as the commissioners deemed necessary, usually in response to complaints or a recognition that everything was not working quite as well as it could be. The following is an extract relating to sanitation, taken from a short list of new bye-laws introduced at the beginning of the nineteenth century. New regulations were placarded in prominent locations of the town and also published in the local paper – this extract is taken from an edition of Aris’s dated October 5th, 1801. The announcement was signed by Arnold & Haines, a local solicitor’s firm that also acted as clerks to the commissioners and opened with the following warning:

Public Office-
Whereas great mischief and inconvenience hath arisen to the Inhabitants of this Town, and others resorting hereto, from Persons acting contrary to and in disobedience of the several clauses contained in three Acts of Parliament passed in the 9th, 15th and 41st years of His present Majesty’s reign, for the better Regulation and Improvement of the Town and for preventing Nuisances and Obstructions therein – the Commissioners therefore, to prevent the same in the future and that no person or persons could plead ignorance thereof, have caused the following clauses to be inserted for the information of the Public.

The new clauses were mostly concerned with obstruction of the highways by carts, wheelbarrows and occupational tools, including ‘butchers’ gallows’. There was also the following clause relating to the disposal of human and animal waste. That the commissioners felt it necessary to include a bye-law for this suggests that it must have been causing some problems –  likely very smelly ones!


Night soil workers collecting waste from the middens

And be it enacted – that no Necessary-house or Bog-house, Pigstye or Dunghole within the said Town shall be emptied at any other Time other than between the Hours of One and Nine in the Morning; and if any Person or Persons shall empty any such Necessary-house or Bog-house at any other Time, such Person shall for every each Offence, forfeit and pay any Sum not exceeding Twenty Shillings, nor less than Ten Shillings. 

Birmingham’s nineteenth-century newspapers are available to view by subscription through the British Newspaper Archives or free of charge at the Local Studies centre, 4th floor Library of Birmingham. Staff and access hours at the Library of Birmingham are currently under threat from local government cuts – please support our local libraries and archives, once they’re gone they’re gone.