Victorian London - Crime - Violence, Murders and Assaults - Gangs

At CLERKENWELL, JOHN GOODEY, aged 17, a beer bottler, MICHAEL REED, 16, a capsule-maker WILLIAM SPIERS, 16, a bookbinder, and GEORGE ROBERT ROBSON, 17, a van-guard, were brought up and charged on remand before Mr. Horace Smith at Clerkenwell with riotous conduct and with disturbing the public peace at Margaret-street, Clerkenwell. Goodey and Robson were further charged with causing the death of Margaret Jane Smith, aged 12, by shooting her in the head of the 3rd inst. ELIZA WALTERS, aged 15, a factory girl, and JAMES BEAUMONT, 15, a machine boy, who were arrested and brought before the magistrate after the other prisoners were charged, were also charged on remand with riotous conduct and with being concerned in causing the death of the girl. Mr. Ricketts, solicitor, defended Spiers. Mr. Byron prosecuted on behalf of the Treasury, and said that the facts of the case disclosed a most extraordinary state of affairs in Clerkenwell, especially in the neighbourhood of Margaret-street. For some months past the streets in this part of London had been infested by two opposing gangs of young roughs, known as the "Chapel-street gang" and the "Lion gang." Since last Christmas there had been three pitched battles between these gangs, the lads fighting with sticks, belts, &c. Sometimes there would be girls in the gangs. Some of the boys in the Chapel-street faction were known to have possessed pistols and revolvers, which they fired at doors and other objects after the fights were over. On June 3, after the third fight, Robson, who was known as "Baker," fired a revolver in the direction of some of the lads in the "Lion gang." The unfortunate girl Smith, the daughter of a cabdriver, who was crossing Margaret-street at the moment, was shot in the head and died soon afterwards.  The prisoner Eliza Walters, who was standing near Robson, cried out, "Fire, Baker," just before the shot was fired. The lad Spiers, when arrested, had a document in his possession, written in pencil, which was apparently a form of challenge to his gang from the "Lion gang." Fights had taken place between the girls of the opposing factions as well as between the boys. Alfred Smith, a van-guard of Wilmington-street, Clerkenwell, said he knew the deceased girl Smith, but was no relation of hers. He saw the shot fired, and heard Walters say, "Fire, Baker." Some of the lads in Robson's gang also cried out "Fire" before the girl was shot. He say a boy named Steadman, a member of the other gang, some distance down Margaret-street at the time. The "Lion gang" were in the habit of congregating outside the Lion and Lamb publichouse, in Margaret-street. Beaumont was a spy who used to bring intelligence to his comrades of the movements of the other gang. Cross-examined, the witness said he was a member of the "Lion gang," but had never taken any part in the fights. Further questioned, he said he only fought with his fists - "any one who interfered with him, he had a whack at 'em back." He did not see Spiers in Margaret-street when the girl Smith was shot. The prisoners were again remanded.

Times, 18 June, 1897

THE CLERKENWELL SHOOTING CASE

Dr. Danford Thomas held an inquiry on Saturday at St. Pancras into the death of Margaret Jane Smith . . . Alfred Smith, carman, deposed that while he was in Margaret-street, Clerkenwell, at nine on Thursday night, he noticed a gang of boys and girls - about 20 altogether - behaving in a very disorderly manner. A greengrocer's boy, named Joseph Steadman, was wheeling a barrow along the street when a lad named Mark quarrelled and fought with him. A girl shouted to a lad, "Baker, fire," and then the witness say Baker fire a revolver in the direction of the combatants. Witness's belief was that the shot was meant for Stedman. As soon as Baker fired witness saw the deceased girl fall. She was crossing the road between two gangs of boys.
    Inspector Briggs said there were two gangs at feud. At Christmas the police arrested 28 of the lads, on some of whom revolvers were found. The fights between the gangs were renewed on Thursday night. The real name of the lad known as "Baker" was Robson. He knew that he carried a revolver. One of the gangs belonged to Chapel-street, and the other to Margaret-street, Clerkenwell.  Whenever one of the former came across one of the latter a fight ensued. Most of the Chapel-street, gang carried revolvers. They discharged them when they entered Margaret-street to denote their approach. The fights generally originated in quarrels about girls.

The Morning Post, June 7, 1897

At CLERKENWELL, WALTHER SALINGER, 20, merchant, a native of Germany, residing in Newington-green-road, was charged, before Mr. Horace Smith with the murder of Charles Cooper on June 15, by shooting him with a revolver in Pentonville-road. Mr. Frayling prosecuted on behalf of the Treasury; the prisoner was defended by Mr. Biron. Since Salinger was taken into custody, Cooper has succumbed to the injury he received. Evidence at the first hearing of the case was given by a coffee-stall keeper named Buck, who said that Cooper and several companions interfered with a woman who was drinking coffee at his stall. He remonstrated with them, when they threw several cups and saucers at him. the prisoner rebuked the men for their behaviour, when Cooper made a blow at him. Salinger then took a revolver from his pocket and shot his assailant in the abdomen. Mr. Frayling remarked that the prisoner was a respectable man, whereas Cooper was a man of bad character, and had been frequently convicted in that Court. Salinger received a blow before he shot Cooper, and in reply to the charge that prisoner stated that one of his assailants had an open knife in his hand and that he presented the revolver with a view of frightening them. The Treasury proposed to prefer a charge of murder against Salinger. Mr. Horace Smith questioned whether the facts as related by the Treasury solicitor warranted a charge of murder being preferred against the prisoner. Mr. Biron asked the Treasury solicitor to consider seriously before he perferred a charge of wilful murder against Salinger, especially having regard to the evidence given before the coroner. At the inquest the suggestion of murder was at once put aside and the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against the prisoner. After further discussion, Mr. Frayling said he would prefer a charge of manslaughter against Salinger. George Buck, the coffee-stall keeper, was recalled, and subjected to a long cross-examination by Mr. Biron. The witness said that he was pelted with cake, cups, and saucers by the deceased and his companions. After he had been thoroughly abused, Salinger took his part. The deceased aimed a terrific blow at Salinger, who stepped back and pulled a revolver from his pocket. One of the friends of the deceased at the same time flourished an open knife, and shouted, "I'll have a go." The deceased was a member of the "Chapel-street gang," who were a constant source of annoyance to him and other people. Mr. Biron - When the deceased was aiming a blow, did he look violent? The witness - He looked like murdering the prisoner. These gangs over-turn oyster-stalls and attack individuals. They would kick your brains out if they had the chance. They would think nothing of robbing you, and leaving you for dead. Walter Schroeder, deputy coroner, produced a sworn statement made by the prisoner at the inquest, in which the prisoner declared that he had been in this country since October last studying English, and was supplied with money from his father, who resided in Germany. He was attacked by Cooper, who struck him in the eye, and he took a revolver from his pocket to frighten his assailant. The weapon went off accidentally. The prisoner's father is a paper merchant in Berlin. A record of the convictions against the deceased man was handed to the magistrate. The accused was remanded, bail being allowed.

Times, July 1, 1898

CLERKENWELL

George Bliss, 22, described as a member of the Chapel-street gang, was committed for trial on a charge of stabbing Police-constable Stevens, 210 G, behind the right ear on 24th July. James Day, 19, labourer, of Rodney-street, Clerkenwell, was charged with being disorderly. - Police Constable Powell, 415 G, said at midnight on Friday he saw the Prisoner and a number of other lads fighting with sticks and belts in Pentonville-road. He dispersed them, and secured the Prisoner, who had in his hand a heavy buckle-ended belt. It appeared that Prisoner was a member of a gang of lads who arranged to meet another gang in the neighbourhood for the purpose of settling with sticks and belts a grievance which had arisen between them. - Mr. Horace Smith: Yes, I wish I had both gangs here. I must do what I can to stop this kind of thing. The prisoner will be fined 40s., in default a month's imprisonment.

The Standard, August 1, 1898

At CLERKENWELL, HENRY BROWN, 26, WILLIAM SEWELL, 23, and JOHN PHILO, 25, described as costermongers, were charged with assaulting Sophia Willsher. Mr. Ricketts prosecuted. The complainant is a fruit-seller, having a stall in Chapel-street, Clerkenwell, and for some time past she has been annoyed by the defendants. On Tuesday afternoon Philo walked up to the complainant and used offensive language to her. He was joined by the other two defendants, who also abused the complainant. Philo afterwards stooped down and getting his shoulders underneath the complainant's stall overturned it, shooting grapes, cherries, greengages, and other fruits to the value of 6 into the roadway. The other defendants stood by laughing. She seized Philo, when he kicked her in the stomach, and Brown struck her a heavy blow in the chest. Philo ran off, but she gave Brown into custody. He became violent, and Sewell made a determined attempt to rescue him. Sewell afterwards ran up to the complainant and dealt her two vicious blows in the face. almost rendering her unconscious. She gave him into custody. Mr. Ricketts added that the defendants were in the habit of levying blackmail on the complainant. They intimidated her, and for some time past Mrs. Willsher had paid Brown 5s. a week in other that  he should not annoy her. Replying to the magistrate, police-constable 42 N R said the complainant was a most respectable, hard-working woman. The defendants were violent men and members of the Chapel-street gang. There was a long record of convictions against Philo, and alo convictions against the other defendants. Mr. Brow sent Philo to gaol for six months, and ordered the other two defendants to pay 40s. each or to go to gaol for one month.

Times, July 27, 1899