March 20th 1885.
The Denaby Main Dispute
Application For Ejectment Orders At Rotherham
On Monday, the Rotherham Police Court was crowded in consequence of an expectation that application would be made to the magistrates for ejectment orders upon some of the miners on strike at the Denaby Main colliery.
About half an hour after the commencement of business a procession, headed by a `tin whistle´ band and the banner of the Denaby Main Miners´ Lodge, and consisting, it was stated, of about four hundred miners and a number of women with children in their arms, arrived in front of the building. They had come from Denaby Main, having walked the distance of six miles to Rotherham as a protest against the proceedings of the Denaby Main Colliery company.
Mr. Barker, Barrister-at-law, instructed by Mr. F. Parker Rhodes, appeared for the Denaby Main Colliery company, and Mr. W.E. Clegg for the miners.
It was agreed to take the first case of Alfred Barnes, whose rent was 4s.6d. per week, and it was understood that it would rule the remainder.
Mr. Barker, in making the application, said he was present to support some complaints which had been made on behalf of the Denaby Main company against a number of their men for not giving up possession of their houses.
There were a number of cases, altogether amounting to one hundred and twelve. He had no doubt that one case would decide the remainder.
The first case was against J. Barnes.
The Magistrates Clerk said they had it Alfred.
Mr. Barker said he dared say there were several Barneses, and it did not make much difference whether he was named Alfred or James. The facts were extremely short. The Denaby Main Colliery company, as the Bench would know, carried on business at Denaby Main, near Conisbrough, and part of the cottages which they had built there for the use of the miners were in the jurisdiction of the Doncaster bench and part within the jurisdiction of the Rotherham bench.
Some time ago, about the beginning of January, a dispute arose between the managers of the colliery and their workmen, the merits of which he need not go into that day, as the Bench had nothing to do with it.
The men ceased to work, and in consequence of that the Denaby Main company wished to get possession of their houses, occupied by those men at certain rents. They, on the 21st of January, gave them notice to quit at the expiration of seven days, under an agreement which he would prove. The tenants of those cottages under that agreement were bound to give up possession after seven clear days´ notice had been given.
Notice was given on the 21st. of January, and since that time the company has been waiting with great patience to get possession of their houses, but could not do so. The Act under which those proceedings were taken provided that, if proved before the justices, that possession had been kept after due notice to quit had been given, the owners of the houses might serve a notice, which he had to read over and explain to the tenant, telling him that application had been made to the justices for possession. That had been done, possession had not been given, and he appeared before the Bench to as them to make an order, which they had the power to do, to give possession at the expiration of from 21 to 30 days.
He called James Cramp, who stated that Barnes signed an agreement, the terms of which were as under :-
( 1 ) The rent to be 4s.6d. per week, and to become due and to be paid every Saturday, and the company to have power to deduct the same from the tenant´s wages.
( 2 ) The tenant to keep the premises ( except the main walls, main timbers, and the roof ) in good repair, and in such repair to leave them at the expiration of the tenancy.
( 3 ) The landlords, their agents, and bailiffs, servants, and workmen to be at liberty, at all reasonable times in the daytime, to enter upon the premises to inspect the same ; also to enter and be on the premises for the purpose of the repairing of the same.
( 4 ) The tenant not to assign or underlet the premises without the written license and consent of the company, or their duly authorised agent.
( 5 ) The tenant of any garden may, previous to his quitting, remove all growing crops from the garden, but no trees or shrubs, and he shall not be entitled to a valuation for any trees, shrubs, or crops left on the demised premises, or for any tenants improvements.
( 6 ) The landlord to repair main walls and main timbers, and to keep the roof dry.
Mr. Barker said the important part of the agreement was that it was a demise to the tenant of No. 2 Annerley Buildings, Denaby, and the garden thereto, ” to hold unto the tenant for one whole week from the date hereof and thenceforth from week to week until the tenancy shall be determined by either party giving to the other one week´s notice in writing to quit, such notice to expire any time.”
In answer to Mr. Clegg, Cramp said he witnessed the signing of the agreement. At the time of signing the agreement he saw no authority in writing, signed by the company, directing Mr. Chambers to let the cottage.
Geo. Watkin, clerk, proved the serving of a notice to quit on Barnes.
Mr. Barker read the notice, which has already appeared in our columns.
Mr. Clegg ( to witness ) : Do I understand you to say that you served this the day before it was publicly dated ?
I served it on the 21st.
It was not dated until the 22nd. Was it dated on the day you served it ?
It is dated the 22nd January, and you served it on the 21st ? Yes.
What did you say to Barnes when you served it ?
I read the notice to him.
What else ?
I told him that in 14 days after that he would have to quit his house.
Is that all ?
Frederick Hughes, storekeeper, said he served a duplicate of the notice on James Barnes, and when serving it, read it over and explained it to him. He served it in March 4th . He could not say whether or no Barnes still retained possession of the house.
By Mr. Clegg : He told Barnes that within seven days from the notice, unless he gave up possession, a warrant would be applied for to eject him from the house.
Roland Gascoigne, surveyor, proved that Barnes still occupied the premises, No.2 Annerley Buildings.
By Mr. Clegg : Mr. Chambers is the manager of the colliery.
Mr. Clegg, in opposing the application, said his friend had complied with all the requisitions of the Act of Parliament, and he had no defence. Mr. Barker had rightly said that the Bench had nothing whatever to do with the dispute at the colliery, and therefore if he had complied strictly with all the requirements of the Act of Parliament, he had nothing else to say.
Mr. Barker commenced by putting in a deed signed by Mr. Chambers, as the duly authorised agent of the company. His ( Mr. Clegg´s ) point, first of all that there was no evidence before the Bench to show that Mr. Chambers was the duly authorised agent of the Company, for the purpose of letting cottages. His friend, in not putting in any document showing Mr. Chambers´ authority, had not complied with the requirements of the Act. The deed was one relating to a house and land, and he submitted, as a matter of law, that an agent who has to deal with the land must be authorised by a deed to carry out the duties as defined under that deed.
As there was no proof before the Bench that Mr. Chambers had been author – ised under seal, to let the cottages, he submitted that there was a strong objection.
The Chairman : You contend that he is bound to be authorised under a seal ?
Mr. Clegg : Yes. Section 7 of the Act under which those proceedings were taken, defined the duties of an agent.
There were three things which could bring Mr. Chambers within the definition of an agent.
Firstly, an agent was defined as signifying any person usually employed by the landlord in letting premises. They had it on oath the Mr. Chambers was the manager of the colliery, so that he submitted, he was not a person usually employed in letting houses.
Secondly, a collector of rents would be considered to be an agent, but there was no evidence that Mr. Chambers collected rents.
Thirdly, a person authorised to act in that particular matter by writing under the hand of such landlord would be an agent.
If a person did not comply with one of the three requirements he was not an agent under the section of the Act. It was a requisite that the appointment should be made under seal, and there had been no evidence before the Bench to show that anyone had been specially authorised to act in the matter by writing. As there had been no writing put in, and he assumed Mr. Chambers had not been specially authorised, Mr. Chambers must comply with one of the two other requirements, either in the matter of collecting rents or in the matter of the person usually employed by the landlord in letting premises.
His defence was purely a technical one. He could not go into the merits and demerits of the case ; his friend had made a technical application, and he felt perfectly justified in making as many technical objections to the proceedings as possible.
Mr. Barker contended that Mr. Chambers was not bringing those proceedings on his own account, and the tenancy was not between him on his own account and the various workmen. It was a deed, the parties to which were the Denaby Co. on the one hand and Alfred Barnes on the other.
It did not matter whether the deed was signed by Mr. Chambers or anyone else, and there was no necessity to prove that Mr. Chambers was authorised to let the cottages.
He pointed out that the Doncaster magistrates had given 21 days´ notice to leave the cottages.
Mr. Clegg said that he understood that smallpox was raging in the neighbourhood and he need not say how dangerous it would be for persons suffering from smallpox to remove from Denaby Main to other places.
Mr. Barker said in no case where any person was sick, or where there was a danger of infection, would the company think of enforcing ejectment orders. He was told as a matter of fact that only three persons were in the hospital.
Mr. Clegg pointed out that one man had left Denaby Main and gone to Wakefield, and carried the disease there ; therefore it as a matter of public importance, not only in connection with the men themselves.
Mr. Barker reiterated the statement that in no case would an ejectment order be enforced where a tenant was suffering from the disease.
The Chairman : You would not turn them out even in 30 days ?
Mr. Barker : Certainly not.
The Chairman : The order must be made.
Mr. Clegg consented to the orders being made in the remaining cases.
The Chairman : Which would you prefer – 21 days ?
Mr. Clegg – I would prefer 30 days.
The Chairman : There would be more likelihood of a settlement in 21 days.
Mr. Clegg : There is a difficulty in getting houses in the neighbourhood. The landlords are chary now that smallpox is about.
The Chairman said the order would be made for 25 days if it were a kindness to the men. He did not think it was himself. It was a great pity the dispute could not be settled without that.
He said there were a great many empty houses in Rotherham.
Mr. Clegg : But there is no work.