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

see also Chartist demonstrations, 1848 - click here

see also George Cruikshank in the Comic Almanack (Oc. 1838) - click here

see also 'Socialist Riots' - click here

see also on riots in 'The Police of London' - click here

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A charge of frightful cruelty to a servant-girl has recently been the subject of a most painful magisterial examination at Guildhall by Mr. Alderman Humphery. The person charged with this revolting conduct is Mr. Sloane, a special pleader, residing in the Middle Temple and the servant, Jane Wil bred, formerly an inmate of the West London Union. The report of this case we have reserved until the trial. The committal of the accused, on Friday last (December 27), gave rise to a burst of popular vengeance, which is here illustrated, for the more emphatically conveying our reprobation of a species of "Lynch Law," which, by acts of terrific violence, would pronounce condemnation before trial, The disgraceful incident represented in the Engraving occurred in the conveyance of Mr. Sloane from the police-office, at Guildhall, to the Compter, in Giltspur-street. The details are as follow:- 
    Great difficulty was experienced as to how Mr. Sloane should be removed in safety, as the mob seemed rather to be increasing, with the desire to see a man who had rendered himself so singularly notorious. Various expedients were suggested, and a person was despatched to obtain a cab is some part remote from Guildhall, and to drive round by Moorgate-street and Fore-street into Basinghall-street, and then wait at the church and, in the meantime, it was arranged that several policemen were to guard the magistrate's entrance and keep back the crowd from the hall, while Mr. Sloane made a rush into the hall and effected his escape by the back way to where the cab was waiting for him. The cab was kept waiting at the church for a short time, and then Alderman Humphery thought it advisable to have the cab brought close up to the door, which was accordingly done. An officer was sent down to the Compter with instructions to the governor to have the door open, and everything prepared to afford defendant a ready reception on arriving there. The cab door was opened, and Mr. Sloane (who had only about three yards to go), accompanied by Springate, the gaoler, suddenly rushed out, and was endeavouring to force his way into the cab, when the mob closed upon them, and, had it not been for the able exertions of Mr. Superintendent Hodgson, Mr. Roe, and about a dozen constables, Sir. Sloane would have been torn to pieces by the exasperated mob. One old woman, we noticed in particular, was making most furious lunges at him with an immense umbrella. With great difficulty Mr. Sloane got into the cab, but the crowd all pressed forward, and with such violence, that both the windows of the vehicle ware smashed to atoms, and mud, spittle, and all kinds of filth were showered upon him through both windows, so that in less than two minutes he was so bespattered that it was next to impossible to discover which was the gaoler and which Mr. Sloane. About twenty constables surrounded the cab, and the driver lashed his horse to try and escape the rabble, but they impeded his way so much that he was unable to proceed at any but a rapid walking pace. Two policemen endeavoured to block up the windows by standing on the steps of the cab but, in spite of their exertions, the gaoler received a smart blow on the face, which was intended for Mr. Sloane. Through some mistake, the vehicle was directed to the Old Bailey, where a crowd of some thousands awaited its coming, and, by the time the cab arrived opposite the Compter in Giltspur-street. the road and every place where standing-room was to be obtained was crowded with one mass of human heads. The policemen were bespattered with filth. They were obliged to use their staves very freely on stopping at the door of the prison; and Mr. Sloane, as soon as the cab door was opened, made one bound on to the pavement, three more took him into the middle of the lobby. and the gate closed behind him, much to the disappointment of the people outside. Shouts, yells, groans, and every imaginable expression of disgust and horror were reiterated by the crowd on the way from the court to the Compter ; and even when Sloane was safely inside, they lingered outside, hissing and hooting, and calling upon the turnkeys to turn Sloane out among them, and they would give him what he deserved. Six policemen remained in front of the door for some time, as it was feared that it would not be safe to leave the front door guarded only by the gaoler.

Illustrated London News, January, 1851


The pedestrian and cycle racing grounds at Lillie-bridge presented a sorry sight in the daylight yesterday, as the result of the mischievous riot of Monday evening. The ground was strewed with broken paling, stones, and glass bottles, broken and unbroken, with signs of arson everywhere. What buildings there were upon the ground had been fired or wrecked. Yesterday further details were given with regard to the cause of the riot. One of the competitors came upon the ground yesterday and stated that the dressing rooms where the men were preparing for the race were broken into and threats of violence were used towards both if they dared to appear. An endeavour had been made, so it is alleged, on behalf of those who gull the betting public to cause the race to go one way. Failing success in this endeavour, a gang of roughs, stated to have been engaged by a bookmaker, broke into the dressing-place of the men who were to run and resorted to intimidation in order to prevent the race. Certain it is that before the competitors, Hutchens and Gent, disappeared bookmakers offered to bet "100 to 10 the race does not come off at all." This was heard by the occupiers of the ground, and they made preparations to secure the gate money, which, considering that between 6,000 and 7,000 people had paid a shilling a head, and some four or five shillings in addition for reserved seats, must have been considerable in amount.
    The Lillie-bridge Grounds are spoken of as a place which every one is presumed to know all about; but, as a matter of fact, only a comparatively small portion of the public know it. The area of the grounds may be judged by the fact that the outside track, which covers the full extent, leaving only a bare pathway space, in some parts built up with seats for spectators, is 600 yards. About 230 yards long by 160 yards broad is about the extent of the space in all. At the north end are the stations of the West London and District Railways, some stables, and a meeting hall, and at the south end is the Fulham Fever Hospital of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. One side is covered by the railways and the other by Seagrave-street, Lillie-bridge-road. At the north end stood before Monday the pavilion, a series of low buildings, cheaply run up, comprising, in their length, members' seats and reserve seats in front, with offices and refreshment rooms behind. Cheap seats were erected on the Seagrave-street side. The riot really began, from all that can be gathered, in the corner near the railway. There is an entrance here direct from the railway stations, and a pay-box - another being over at Seagrave-street. When the news went forth, towards dusk, that the competitors had disappeared, and the bookmakers were seen to be making off, a rush was made to the pay office to demand the money back. The place was shut up. The people broke windows and peered in, but could see nothing, though it is said the money taker was there with the money taken at the entrance. He was soon spirited away, however, and the money with him. It is said that the people who began the riot were decently dressed people from the North, such as are to be seen in the Pomona Gardens at Manchester and in the sporting places of Sheffield, with a wonderful amount of time and money to devote to pedestrian and horse racing. They began to shake the places and to break down palings, and they were quickly assisted in the work by the rougher orders, of whom there were a good sprinkling on the ground. A full half of the  people were glad to depart as best they could, but some of the bookmakers were marked, and followed out to the streets. They jumped into cabs, and the angry crowd held on so to the cabs as to lift the horses off their feet. Those within the grounds tore down the hoardings, piled the squab palings and seats on to fires, and set the pavilion on fire. They burnt out completely a pavilion on the railway side, and, as narrated in the Times of yesterday, they sacked the refreshment bar. Then they set the row of buildings on fire at the north-end, and growing more reckless by impunity, they began to fire the buildings behind the Lillie-bridge Grounds.
    The police were at first taken by surprise, as were most other people. Only sufficient police had been detached as for an ordinary occasion, as a forced interference with a race on the part of bookmakers or others had never been dreamt of. The few police who were there did their best to stop the riot, but they were utterly powerless to deal with three or four thousand of the roughest classes. The Fire Brigade men came, and their efforts to cope with the fire were doubly embarrassed, as in the first place the mob stopped the work, and then there was a poor supply of water. The police protected the firemen in their work, amid showers of bottles and palings, injuring not a few, and there is reason to suppose that the assailants did not get off quite free from hurt. On reserves of police having been brought up the fire at the north end was exstinguished before it could extend to property outside. That destroyed within the enclosure was not of very great value. The building was completely destroyed.
    It had been intended to hold an "assault of arms" in the Lillie-bridge Concert-hall, which adjoins the grounds. The hall is under management quite distinct from that of the grounds; but that did not matter to the rioters. They piled together boxes against the wall with the evident intention to fire the property, tore down gas fittings, and bombarded an unfortunate reporter who had made the roof of the hall his places of observation with bottles, parts of chairs, gas pipes and palings. The police came in time to disperse the crowd here. The "sets-to" as a finale to the sports on the ground did not come off. With the exception of the injury to the gas fittings the hall was uninjured.
    The police testimony is to the effect that such a scene has not been witnessed in modern times in London. It is, as already mentioned, attributed to the action of certain bookmakers, who engaged ruffians to stop the race, because its termination one way would have been disastrous to them. Two facts are certain - one that it was known shortly beforehand that the race would not be run, and the other that the gate money was secured before the spectators had the knowledge that they were duped.

The Times, 21 September, 1887