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. 


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