SERIOUS DISTURBANCE AMONGST COLLIERS AT WOODLESFORD.
Leeds Mercury, Tueday 1 March 1870.
Yesterday, at the Wakefield Court-house, the magistrates were engaged from twelve o’clock at noon until between six and seven o’clock in the evening in hearing cases arising out of a row amongst the colliers of Woodlesford and Rothwell, which occurred at the former place on Sunday evening, the 20th.
There were seven cases, and the first two were taken together. The defendants were eleven young men, named Walter Lunn, Richard Berry, Joseph Dobson, Charles Berry, Thomas Smith, George Sidebottom, Joseph Palfreyman, Samuel Calverley, Joseph Rushworth, John Sharp, and Thomas Harrison, charged with having, on the 20th of February, wilfully and maliciously injured the property of Thomas Collin, landlord of the Whitc Hart Inn, Woodlesford, by breaking a dozen jugs, twenty tumbler glasses, a dozen pint pots, four quart pitchers, a longsettle, the gas fittings, and the ale tap. The second charge agaisist them was for refusing to leave the house when requested.
Mr. Barratt appeared to prosecute; Mr. Ferns (of Leeds) defended Lunn, Sidebottom, Richard Berry, Palfreyman, Calverley, and Harrison; and Mr. Gill appeared for the other five defendants – Charles Berry, Dobson, Smith, Rushworth, and Sharp.
Six or seven of the defendants are colliers, in the employ of Messrs. Charlesworth; and the others are forgemen, working at Leeds.
Briefly stated, the facts of the case (which was somewhat singular and serious in its character), were as follows:-
The complainant’s house appears to be the headquarters of Mr. Bower’s colliers, who are at present on strike, and they seem to spend a good deal of their spare time there. On Sunday week, whilst a party of them were in the house, the defendants entered, and, on beieg asked, they subscribed 5s. 4d., and treated the “turn-outs” with drink.
Lunn and Sidebottom began to talk about having a knor and spell match, and the stakes were posted in the hands of Cockell Collin, the landlord’s son, who is married and lives at the house, and assists in the management. Shortly afterwards a man, named George Ramsden, who called the defendants “black sheep,” tried to get possession of the money.
The landlord’s son pulled a chair from under two men who were sat upon it, and threw them upon the floor, and Ramsden pushed another man into the fire, and a new overcoat he was wearing for the first time was burnt.
The defendants, it was alleged, stated that they had gone to the house in order to have a row; and, as it was evident there was going to be something of the kind, the landlord asked the company to leave. They refused to obey his order, and the fire-irons were therefore removed out of the room, to prevent their being used for improper purpose.
Lunn turned the gas out, and a serious fight then commenced. The landlord’s son was very roughly used. His head was struck with what was called a “dummy” or a stick with a loaded knob, his nose was cut, he was rendered almost insensible, and he called out “I”m done.”
The landlord met with somewhat similar treatment, his wrist and arm being very much injured whilst shielding off blows from his face, and he is still in a rather delicate state.
One of the men named Swan seized a poker with which to protect himself, but the defendants swore they would murder everybody in the house, and one of them wrenched fee poker from Swan, and hurled it away with such force that it smashed a piece out of the longsettle.
The floors of the tap room and kitchen, and the tables and walls were covered with blood. The floors were strewn all over with broken pots and glasses, the defendants having made a clean sweep of all the crockery ware both on the tables and on the shelves where the stock is kept.
Several of the company had their heads cut, their eyes bunged up, their faces swollen and discoloured, and one of them retired with a cracked head into the stack yard at the back of the house for refuge, and did not leave the place until Police-constable Riley made his appearance just before ten o’clock. The witnesses called for the prosecution all showed symptoms of having suffered in the fracas, whilst some of the defendants wore patches on their heads.
In defence Mr. Ferns and Mr. Gill contended that it was the landlord’s son and the men in the house when the defendants entered who began the uproar, that the landlord’s son and his wife threw pots and glasses at the defendants, and that the evidence of the witnesses for the prosecution was of such a contradictory nature as to be unreliable.
Witnesses were then called for the defence, after which Mr. W. H. Leatham, the Chairman of the Bench, said that although the evidence was very contradictory, it was sufficiently clear to prove that all the defendants had participated in the row.
The Bench had taken as favourable a view of the case as they could, as they believed there might be things behind, of which they knew nothing, which lied led them into the row.
It would not do for young men to go to a place and kick up such a row and break up all the things in the house, and they would have £5 10s. to pay, or 10s, each. It being now after six o’clock, and there being five other cases to hear, arising out of the same disturbance, it was agreed to consider the evidence as having been heard, and they were all dismissed on the defendants paying the expenses, which amounted to 7s. each for the eight persons implicated.