Dispute – July 17th – The Disturbances At Denaby Main.

July 1885

The Disturbances At Denaby Main.

At the Rotherham Police Court, on Monday, John Humphrey, Thomas Potts, William Cooper, Alfred Stephenson, Samuel Hadley, and Edward Peters, miners lately in the employ of the Denaby Main colliery company, were charged with having been concerned in the disturbances at Denaby Main on Sunday last.

Mr. F. Parker Rhodes presented, and Mr. H.H. Hick mott defended.

Mr. Rhodes said in that case he appeared to prosecute the prisoners who were charged with a serious offence, and he was afraid it would be necessary to charge at any rate two of them, or perhaps more, with a still more serious offence when they came before the Bench next week. He would ask the Bench for a remand, and it would be sufficient for the purpose of that remand to state that on the Sunday last an attack was made by a large body of men upon the premises of the Denaby Main colliery. A number of police officers who were inside and who were endeavouring to protect the colliery premises were assaulted, stones were thrown, sticks were freely used, and the six prisoners were all taking part in the serious offences which were committed.

A man named Merrick, was knocked down by the crowd, and was lying in a dangerous condition, and two of the prisoners at any rate were persons who struck and took part in the assault on Merrick. At that moment it was doubtful whether Merrick would live or die.

Of course the Court would understand that in case of his death the charge against two of the prisoners would be almost the most serious known to the law. He would simply give formal evidence of the apprehension of the prisoners, and ask the Bench to remand them in custody until next Monday.

Warrants had been issued against a number of other persons, who would also be charged at the same time.

Police-sergeant John Drake was called to give evidence.

Mr. Rhodes : Were all the six prisoners apprehended at Denaby Main yesterday afternoon ? Witness : They were.

At the time they were apprehended were assaults being made on the police by the crowd ? On the `black-sheep´.

And were the police engaged in protecting the colliery premises ? They were.

Were stones thrown at the police ? Stones and sticks were used.

Were these men part of the crowd engaged in the commission of these acts ? They were.

Mr. Hickmott ( to witness ) : What charge are they in custody for now ?

Mr. Rhodes : It not for the witness to answer that question : it is for me.

Mr. Hickmott : Did you apprehend the prisoners, sergeant, under a warrant ?

Witness : Mr. Rhodes says I am not to answer. I was present when they were apprehended.

Mr. Hickmott : Did you c harge them with anything ? Witness : Yes.

What did you charge them with ? Well I considered it was a riot.

What did you charge them with ? You have told me you charged them with some offence.I charged them with taking part in a riot. Assaulting the police ?

With doing the damage they did – breaking windows and assaulting the miners, the `black-sheep´.

Did you charge them with assaulting the police ? No ; not with assaulting the police.

What did you charge them with ? With causing a riot, and with causing an affray.

Mr. Hickmott ( to the Bench ) : Of course I cannot oppose a remand for one moment.

Mr. Rhodes said it was perfectly clear that the actual charge formulated against the prisoners rested with the prosecution. They would be charged with making an affray, with assaulting the police, in case Merrick lived with inflicting grievous bodily harm, in case he died, with wilful murder.

The Chairman ( to the prisoners ) ; You six men stand remanded until next Monday.

Alleged Assault On The Police.

At Rotherham West Riding Police Court on Monday, before Messrs H. Jubb

(in the chair ), G.W. Chambers, E. Robinson, J. Kelwick, H.W. Verelat, and C. Wright, three Denaby Main miners, residing at Mexborough, were brought up in custody, charged on remand with having assaulted the police on the 5 th inst.

The prisoners were Samuel Straw, charged with assaulting Police-constable Randall : William Westwood, charged with assaulting Police-constable Woods : and William Wrigley, charged with assaulting Police-sergeant Drake.

Mr. F. Parker Rhodes prosecuted, and Mr. Hickmott defended.

Mr. Rhodes, in opening the case, said he appeared to prosecute the three prisoners on a charge of assaulting the police at Denaby Main, on 5 th April. For a considerable time past there has been a dispute going on at the Denaby Main colliery, and in order to maintain the peace it has been necessary to have a large force of police permanently stationed there.

The Chairman asked if Mr. Rhodes intended to have the case settled at that court or refer to the assizes ? Mr. Hickmott ( after conferring with the prisoners ) said his clients preferred to be tried by a jury at the assizes.

Mr. Rhodes, in examination said the object of the police had been to prevent the men who chose to work at the colliery, from being assaulted, also to take such steps as might be necessary to preserve the peace and to see that persons wishing to walk on the roads were enabled to do so without being interfered with.

Mr. Rhodes having narrated the points of the case, remarked that the Bench, when they had heard the evidence, would see that the offences were indictable. If. however, they decided to deal summarily with the prisoners, he suggested that the case was not one for a pereniary penalty, but one for imprisonment without a fine.

Police-sergeant Drake, who had been on duty at Denaby Main colliery for some time past, said on the evening of the 5 th inst. he was on duty near the colliery gates. He saw the prisoners Straw and Westwood, and four or five other men. There is a dispute pending at the colliery, and some new workmen have recently begun work there. Two of the new workmen were coming from the houses into the colliery yard. He saw Westwood place his hand on the shoulder of one of the men and stop him. He told Westwood to let the men come and not interfere with them, and that if he did he would get wrong. When he said that, Westwood said, ” We shall do what we like for a —– like these, and we shall not be long before we clear both, the ——- police and the`black-sheep´ out of the place.” About half past ten a number of men collected on the bridge near the colliery.

Mr. Hickmott : Were these men there ?  Witness : No.

Mr. Hickmott : I object.

Resuming, Police-sergeant Drake said he saw the three prisoners about a quarter to eleven. They came from the direction of Denaby bridge. The men on the bridge were armed with sticks.

Mr. Hickmott objected to the statement made by the police officer.

The Bench thought the evidence was admissible.

Resuming, Police-sergeant Drake said the men on the bridge were armed – some with sticks and some with stones. The men who had the sticks were in their shirt-sleeves. When the three prisoners came from the direction of the men on the bridge there were two others with them. Stones were thrown by the men on the bridge. There were some police officers close to the weigh house beside the colliery yard. The stones were thrown by the men at the police officers, who were near the weigh house. The prisoners passed witness and the other officers, and went twenty or thirty yards towards the railway crossing. They then returned and came past the police again. When they passed they were going in the direct -ion of the crowd on the bridge. At that time Police-constables Randall and Woods were with witness. After the prisoners had passed they stopped. Westwood and Straw were on the road and Wrigley on the footpath. He heard a stone whizz passed his head, and saw Wrigley with his arm up in the act of throwing.

Witness at once rushed forward and seized him by the right hand, in which he had a stone. Wrigley dropped the stone as witness seized him. When he had dropped the stone he put his hand into his coat pocket. Witness thought he was going to get another stone out, and put his hand into Wrigley´s pocket and found the stone tied up in a handkerchief. He asked Wrigley what he was going to do with it, and he answered, ” What do you think?” Wrigley then attempted to get away, and witness refused to let him go until he had obtained his name. Wrigley answered, ” Find it out.” Witness told him he would be locked up if he did not give his name and address, but prisoner refused to give it and then witness took him into custody. Prisoner on the way to the colliery offices pushed him about and struck him on the right shoulder with his fist. He was afterwards removed to Conisbrough police station.

He saw Police-constable Woods struggling with Westwood and that Police-constable Randall had Straw. He did not see either of these men do anything to the other officers.

By Hickmott ! He saw Straw and Westwood and four or five other men at Denaby Main at half past six. He also saw them there later on. It was at half past six when he spoke to them. The two prisoners afterwards went towards Conisbrough. Wrigley was not with Straw and Westwood at that time. He did not see them again until he saw them coming from the direction of Denaby bridge ; he saw them at half past seven. There was a number of new hands at Denaby Main, but they had all gone away that ( Monday ) morning. Some of the company´s houses at Denaby Main were occupied by the new hands. He had heard of rough usage on the part of the Staffordshire men towards some other workmen on that particular day. There had also been some on the other side. He saw a miner pitched into the river by some Staffordshire men. The men from Staffordshire were challenged to go across the river and fight. Two of the Staffordshire men swam the river, and afterwards a Manvers Main man was partly pushed into the water.

On the Sunday in question he did not hear of any threats used by the men from Staffordshire to the old hands. From half past ten to a quarter to eleven he could not see all the way up the village, nor could he see as far as the entrance to the Reresby Arms. As far as Wrigley was concerned, if he had given his name witness would not, under the circumstances locked him up. The blow he received on the shoulder did not hurt him. He could only see the shirts of the men who were in their shirt sleeves. He got close up to the bridge just before he apprehended Wrigley. At that time he could see there was a number of men on the bridge, but could not recognise their features. He had been stationed at Denaby Main since April 20 th , and knew a good many of the old hands who were employed at Denaby Main. He was within thirty or forty yards from the men. He had walked up towards the bridge three or four times previously. He could not discern who the men were because it was dark, but he could see that some were in their shirt sleeves. It was Conisbrough feast that day. He did not know Alfred Gaunt, and did not see him there that night. Witness was in the pit offices with Westwood and Straw ; he did not see Westwood searched. He saw a number of men go towards the bridge from the direction of Conisbrough.

Police-constable Woods stated that on the night of the 5 th inst. he was on duty close to the colliery. There was a large number of men throwing stones. At eleven o´clock he saw the prisoners coming along the road from the direction of Conis -brough towards the bridge where the crowd was. They shortly afterwards walked from the direction of the bridge, and passed witness. After they had passed they again returned towards the bridge. After they had passed on the last occasion he saw Westwood throw a stone, which struck witness on the breast. When the stone was thrown he ran forward and seized Westwood, who was in the act of throwing a second stone with his right hand. He had two stones in his left hand. Witness afterwards found two stones in each of Westwood´s pockets. When he was apprehended Westwood tried to get away, but he did not use violence.

By Mr. Hickmott ! When searched 5s. and a large check was found on him. Police-constable Randall and two other constables were present when the stones were found on Westwood. Police-sergeant Drake was not present. Westwood was ten or twenty yards from him when he threw the stone.

Police-constable W. Randall stated that he was on duty near the Denaby Main colliery on the night of the 5 th inst. Police-sergeant Drake and Police-constable Woods were with him near the house of a man named Cramp. He saw the three prisoners with two other men. He saw Straw throw a stone and seized him, when the prisoner struck him on the shoulder with his fist. On being searched the four stones produced were found in the prisoner´s pocket.

Police-constable Myers stated that on the night in question at eleven o´clock the three prisoners passed him, Police-sergeant Drake, and Police-constables Woods and Randall. He saw a stone strike Woods. It appeared to come from the direction on the prisoners. He was assaulted by Straw, who struck him and kicked him after he was apprehended.

By Mr. Hickman ! He was present when Westwood was searched.

Mr. Rhodes pointed out that it was entirely at the discression of the Bench as to whether they elected to deal with the case as a matter to be dealt with summarily. If the Bench elected to commit them to trial it would by under 24 th and 25 th Victoria, under which persons are liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding two years with or without hard labour.

Mr. Hickmott said if the prisoners were committed for bail he would defer his defence.

The prisoners pleaded not guilty, and they were committed to the Assizes.

Mr. Hickmott´s application for bail was refused by the Bench on the grounds that the Assizes would take place in another fortnight.