Dispute – July 24th – The Riotous Proceedings at Denaby Main

July 1885

The Denaby Main Dispute.
The Riotous Proceedings At Denaby Main.
Magisterial Proceedings.

At Rotherham West Riding Police court on Monday, before Mr. H. Jubb ( in the chair ), Mr. J. Kelwick, and Mr. Robinson, a number of Denaby Main miners were placed in the dock on a charge of having created a riot near the Denaby Main colliery on the afternoon of Sunday, the 12 th inst.

Their names are John Humphrey, William Cooper, Thomas Potts, John Stokes, Alfred Stevenson, Samuel Hadley, Edward Peters, Henry Davies, John M´Hale, Thomas Wood, William Wilson, Daniel Pearce, John Taylor, Enos Dainty, George Shaw, and George Marsden, all of whom, until the trade dispute occurred, were in the employ of the company.

Mr. F. Binney appeared on behalf of the prosecution, and Mr. H.H. Hickmott defended.

The proceedings had evoked exceptional interest, and a very large number of miners watched the proceedings from the gallery of the court.

In opening the case, Mr. Binney said he appeared on behalf of the Denaby Main colliery company to prosecute the sixteen men for creating a riot at Denaby Main, on the afternoon of Sunday week.

The Bench were well aware of the dispute which had gone on between the colliery company and their former workmen, and also of the fact that fresh hands had been brought in by the company. The introduction of colliers into the places of those on strike had led to several disturbances of a more or less serious character. The ill-feeling existing culminated on Sunday, the 12 th inst. That morning a number of the miners on strike met at Conisbrough station. They afterwards proceeded, to the number of one hundred and fifty to two hundred, towards Denaby Main, marching in a compact body, four abreast. Two of the defendants, Cooper and Stevenson, walked in front and appeared to act as ring-leaders. They incited the miners, who were mostly armed with sticks, to march to Denaby Main and when the colliery was reached some of them threw stones at the doors of the houses occupied by the newly-employed men. Others waved their sticks in the air, and Cooper shouted out some threats against the strangers.

Leaving the neighbourhood of the houses Stevenson and Cooper led the mob across the railway lines up to the large gate at which the workmen usually enter. Two of the newcomers who came outside the gate were assaulted, but not very seriously, and an attempt was made at the same time to press through the gates.

Police-sergeant Drake and Constable Woodhead, however, succeeded in preventing the more excited miners getting on to the colliery premises. Cooper said some- thing

to the effect that the crowd had come to fetch the Staffordshire miners out, and Drake remonstrated with him and some of them who were nearby.

Unfortunately just at this point a newcomer named Merrick, who had got out of the colliery yard, was seen and set upon by some of the defendants ; one threw a portion of brick at him, which wounded im severely, and another struck him on the head. He fell down and was then kicked, and his injuries were such that he was now an inmate of the Doncaster Infirmary. Attracted by the disturbance some of the new workmen looked over the wall of the colliery yard, and their doing so was the signal for stones being thrown at them and over into the colliery yard He ( Mr. Binney ) would be able to prove that all the defendants took part in this disturbance, which was of a serious character, and lasted about half an hour. He thought there could be no doubt that the defendants acted in concert and did participate in the riot, the object of which was to intimidate the fresh workmen.

After the evidence he should ask the Bench to commit the accused for trial at the assizes on the charge of creating a riot.

P.c. Webber, stationed at Mexborough, stated that for about a month past he had been stationed for special duty at Denaby Main. There had been a dispute between the owners of Denaby Main colliery and the miners formerly employed there. The miners had been on strike for several months. Miners from other places had been engaged by the company and had been working for some time. On the 12 th of July he was in the neighbourhood of Conisbrough railway station about 2 -30 p.m. There was a number of men on the high road near the station. Potts, Cooper, Stevenson, Davis, M´Hale, Marsden and Stokes were among the party which numbered about one hundred and fifty to two hundred. About 2-20 p.m. the men held a meeting near the station, but what the decision was he did not know. They were talking among themselves in a body. Witness was from ten to twenty yards away from the men. P.c. Nicholson was with witness. Afterwards Marsden, one of the prisoners said,” Come along you ——-`s.” At that time Cooper was talking to witness and P.c. Nicholson. Marsden took hold of Cooper with the left arm and said, ” Come along you ——, and talk to them men.” Cooper then went away with Marsden. When Cooper got about ten yards from witness he turned round again and shouted, ” If you were all of my mind you would buy seven chambered revolvers and blow their —-ing brains out.” That was said in the hearing of the crowd. Cooper seemed rather excited at the time. After that had been said the crowd walked quietly in the direction of Denaby Main. P.c. Nicholson and the witness followed and spoke to the men as they were going along. On their way they had to pass the colliery houses in Doncaster Road. The crowd also passed the houses. He was behind the crowd and when he reached the Reresby Arms he saw the latter part of the crowd make a rush as if something ad occurred at the front. He and P.c. Nicholson ran amongst the crowd which was near the railway gates. The doors of the colliery yard were closed. When he got there, there were stones and sticks being used in all directions. Witness could see “any amount ” of ” black-sheep ” in the colliery yard. The colliery walls in some places were high and in others low. He saw Potts with a stick in his hand ; he was standing in the road. He saw Potts strike with the stick in the direction of the colliery premises where the new workmen stood on the other side of the wall. On the colliery side of the wall the ground was higher than on the road. He saw Stokes, who was throwing stones and half bricks into the colliery premises. Many hundreds of bricks and stones were thrown. He did not know Merrick.

The disturbance lasted for twenty minutes to half an hour. Bricks and stones were flying in all directions. The crowd at the colliery gates were not very well armed ; some had sticks and some had none. The Mexborough men went away quietly at the end of the disturbance in the direction of Mexborough. Stevenson, Cooper, and Potts were apprehended before the men went away.

By Mr. Hickmott : A number of new hands were on the high road about dinner time, on the Conisbrough road. Witness had been at Denaby Main all the morning. When he got to Conisbrough at half past two he did not see any of the new hands there. The crowd did not interfere with him or P.c. Nicholson. He did not see what caused the rush ; he did not notice any new hands in the road, but there might have been some. He did not hear P.s. Drake shout, ” Cooper, keep your men quiet and I´ll try to keep mine.” He did not see Cooper put up his hands, although he might have done so. Both parties were throwing stones when he got to the colliery gates ; he could not tell who started the disturbance. There were a great many bricks and stones in the colliery yard and there was ” any amount ” on the road. He had heard no threats on the part of the men that morning as to the conduct of the new hands. He had not heard that the prisoner Dainty had been assaulted that morning by one of the new hands. Hadley might have said to him, ” How am I to get home,” and he might have replied, ” You must do the best you can.” He did not know what party ceased to throw stones first. Witness did not see any stones thrown after the Mexborough men went away. He did not know whether the Staffordshire men had firearms.

P.c. John Nicholson said he had been on special duty at the Denaby Main colliery for about three months. He was in company with P.c. Webber near to Conisbrough station on the 12 th July. He heard Marsden say,” Come on you ——`s, don´t talk to them chaps,” or something to that effect. The men formed into a procession and went in the direction of Mexborough. Marsden and Steven -son were apparently leading them. When they were going away he heard Cooper shout that he wished they all had pistols, when they could blow the new work men´s brains out. Stokes was among the crowd ; witness could not speak as to anyone else. He saw Stokes at the conclusion of the disturbance throw bricks from the road into the yard at the `black-sheep´. As the crowd was going along Stevenson was brandishing a stick.

By Mr. Hickmott : There were one hundred and fifty persons present and he believed nearly all of the men were from Denaby Main. He did not see the commencement of the stone throwing, and he did not notice in the excitement which party ceased to throw first. He did not see any of the prisoners, with the exception of Stokes, take part in the riot outside the colliery premises. He was present when Cooper was apprehended, and could not hear what Cooper said to the person who apprehended him.

Police-sergeant Drake, who had been stationed at the Denaby Main colliery during the past three months, stated that on the morning of the 12 th inst. he saw a number of the men on strike going through Denaby Main towards Conisbrough, and noticed Cooper, Potts, Stevenson, Humphrey, Hadley, Marsden, Peters, Dainty, Davis, Stokes, and Pearce.

At two o´clock the same afternoon he saw a number of men coming from the direction of Conisbrough towards Denaby Main. Cooper and Stevenson were in front of the procession. Several of the men had sticks, among them being Cooper. All those he had mentioned were among the crowd returning from Conisbrough. He hear Cooper yell out, ” Come out you ——–, or I´ll fetch you ; we are ready for you now,” when he was passing the colliery houses, which were occupied by the new hands. He saw Davis, Potts, and Stokes throw stones at the doors of the houses where the new hands were living. The crowd did not sop in front of the houses, but made it´s way towards the colliery gates, which were closed. When the crowd reached the gates two of the new hands opened the small door and came out about two yards into the road. One of the men who came out was called Routledge. A rush was made at the two men. Cooper, Stevenson, Potts and Hadley were the first four men to reach them. Cooper struck one of the new hands with a stick. Witness and Police-constable Woodhead got the two men into the yard.

Cooper said, ” Stick together lads, we´ll fetch the —-`s out.” Witness went to him and said, ” Whatever are you letting your men go on like this for, cooper ; you´ll be getting somebody killed.” Cooper turned round and he laughed, and said, ” I´ve told you before they would be cleared out some day, and we´re going to do it now.” Witness spoke to him a few minutes after, and while he was talking to him a number of the new men ran towards the yard door and looked over into the road. Cooper called out, ” Let the —-`s have it,” and immediately there was a shower of stones from the men on the road to the men who were looking over the gate. Witness saw a man hit in the mouth with a stone and knocked off the gate into the yard.

As witness was going into the colliery yard he saw a man named Merrick, two or three minutes after he had taken the other two men into the yard, and told him not to go out, but he said he would go out to see what was going on. Merrick was one of the new work men. When Merrick got outside there was a rush made at him. He saw Cooper hit him with a stick, and he also saw Stevenson strike him. Hadley hit Merrick with a stick when he was down. Witness was not five yards from Merrick.

Then Taylor threw a stone at Merrick, which struck him when he was down. Merrick appeared to have been injured greatly about the head ; he was covered in blood. He was immediately pulled into the yard by the police. After Booth was knocked off the gate into the colliery yard a number of stones were thrown by the new workmen. Booth had three teeth knocked out. He saw Humphrey, Potts, Marsden, M´Hale, Shaw, Dainty, Taylor, Stokes, Stevenson, Hadley and Peters throw stones at the new workmen and at the police.

Some of the stones struck the new workmen. Witness saw Pearce, Wilson, and Wood present in the crowd. Several panes of glass were broken in the house of a workman named Cramp, and two of the weigh-house windows were broken by stones from the road. He charged Cooper Humphrey, Potts, Hadley, and Peters when apprehended the same afternoon, with causing a riot. Cooper said, ” Well it can´t be helped now,” and then looked at the other men and said, You lads say now´t,” none of the other men said any -thing. He apprehended Shaw on the night of the 17 th on warrant, Shaw said,

” Yes, I was there ; I can´t get out of that.” On the day following he apprehended Marsden, who made no reply.

By Mr. Hickmott : The strike had lasted about seven months. No serious charge of any kind had been brought against any of the workmen until the arrival of the Staffordshire men, but there had been a great deal of intimidation. He saw Cooper go through Denaby Main that morning, and had some conversation about firearms. The night before that a workman had been shot by one of the new workmen at Mexborough. Cooper asked him whether he had started arming the new workmen with revolvers. Witness said, ” If all that´s reported be true, you´re not without.” He did not know that there had been any act of violence on the part of the Staffordshire men. He did not call the pushing of a miner into the water an act of violence. He did not know all the Denaby Main workmen, and he did not know that there was anyone else but Denaby Main men present in the crowd. He had not heard that a new workman had attacked anyone on that morning, but he had heard of a disturbance at Conisbrough.

He did not see that morning a new workman attack a Denaby Main workman and not interfere. He did not see Merrick that morning attack the prisoner Dainty. He saw a man step out towards Dainty, and say that the latter was the man who had assaulted him the previous night. He did not hear the new workman say, ” I can lick six —-`s as you.” Witness did not see him strike a blow at Dainty. It was not a fact that he was spoken to for allowing the man to go on tat way. He did not know a Mr. Bellamy, a printer at the Times office, and did not know Mr. Scholes, a moulder. Cooper was the man who struck the first blow. Merrick was a small man and Routledge was a tall man. Merrick did not come out of the colliery gates on the first occasion. He did not see a third man come over the colliery wall, as he had his back to the wall. He did not see Merrick take off his hat, throw it on the ground, and say, ” I am ready for any two of you —-`s now.”

Witness pulled Merrick back twice, but he managed to get out of the gate the third time. Witness could not see what Merrick did when he got outside. When Routledge came out of the gate he had his cap in his hand, but witness did not see him throw his hat on the ground and challenge any of the Denaby Main men to fight.. He would swear that the man who came out of he colliery yard did not strike the first blow. The men did not throw their hats down and challenge the Denaby Main men to fight. Merrick said he was going to see what was going on outside.

He did not know what became of Cooper´s stick. He did not see Cooper put up his hands and yell out to his men to be quiet. The first stone he saw thrown was thrown from the men in the road towards the men on the colliery wall. It was not a fact that the men in the colliery yard that the men in the colliery yard continued to throw stones after the strike hands had left off.

The new workmen did not go to the low wall. He saw stones and pieces of brick thrown over the wall as the Denaby Main men were going towards Mexborough, but he saw no pieces of iron thrown. He did not see any pieces of iron such as the one produced thrown over the wall. He saw no men armed with sticks with lead at the end at that time, but he saw them with some in the evening. He did not tell M´Hale to go near to the wall to be safe. He was quite sure that Wilson was present ; when witness saw him it was towards the close of the disturbance ; he was near the weigh-house close to the bridge, and the stone throwing was going on at that time. He did not see Wilson take any part in it. He knew that Wilson was there ; he was in his shirt sleeves. Wood was near Cramp´s house, and witness spoke to him. The stone throwing was actually going on when he saw Wood. He would swear that Wood was there about half past three. But he did not see Wood throw.

By Mr. Binney : No charge of assault on the part of the new workmen was made to him by the Denaby Main men.

Enoch Sheldon, a deputy employed at Denaby Main colliery and residing in Denaby Main, stated that on the afternoon of the 12 th he was opposite the pit houses near Police-constable Randall´s house. He saw a body of men coming from the direction of Conisbrough towards the colliery premises, headed by Cooper and Stevenson.

Police-constable Woodhead spoke as to the disturbance, and added that he heard Cooper say, ” Come out, you —-`s, or we´ll fetch you out,” at the same time shaking the stick which he carried. That was when the crowd arrived at the colliery. Afterwards Cooper said, ” Come on, lads ; let´s fetch the —-`s out,” and a rush was made towards the gates. He saw Cooper raise his stick

and strike one of the new workmen. Whilst he was taking two of the fresh hands into the yard he ( witness ) was struck on the back with what appeared to be a stick.

Police-sergeant Barclay and Police-constables Myers, Todd, Roberts, Marshall, Hughes, Woods, Mearns, and Ackroyd gave evidence much to the same effect as to the disturbance and it´s cause.

James Crosby Holmes, signalman ; Henry Booth, collier, one of the new hands – who had three teeth knocked out by a brick – and Inspector Beilby, gave their evidence, thus concluding the case for the prosecution.

Mr. Binney then asked for the prisoners to be committed for trial at the ensuing Leeds Assizes.

The usual form was read over to the prisoners, all of whom pleaded ” Not guilty.”

Mr. Hickmott, on behalf of the prisoners, said he had twenty five to thirty witnesses to call, their evidence being in the main to show that the riot was caused not by he old hands, but by the conduct of the fresh workmen. In the event of his proving to the satisfaction of the Bench that the prisoners were not the aggressors, that they had not commenced the attack, could the Bench deal with the men, or would they still commit the men for trial ?

If after bringing such evidence the Bench still considered the men should go before a jury it would be useless to waste the time of the court, and he should not do so. As had already been stated, the dispute had now lasted seven months and he thought he was entitled to say, that, until the arrival of the new hands no serious act of violence had been committed. Of course he did not justify the attack. S to the dispute, the master could employ what men they chose, and the men were entitled to say, ” Unless you pay us a certain sum we will leave.” He was glad, however, to say that the dispute was now about to come to a termination. The masters had offered terms which the men had practically agreed to, and the majority of the old hands were about to resume employment. The magistrates had it in their power to bind the men over to keep the peace, and under the circumstances he hoped this would be done, so that the men could have the opportunity of returning to work.

The Chairman : It is a very serious offence, and we shall commit them for trial.

Mr. Hickmott : Whether I can prove they are not the aggressors or otherwise ?

The Chairman ; We should leave it to a jury.

Mr. Hickmott : Then it is useless for me to waste the time of the court, and I reserve the defence.

The prisoner Taylor was discharged, there not being sufficient evidence against him, and the other prisoners were committed for trial.

In reply to the Bench, Inspector Beilby said he had been to the Doncaster Infirmary and ascertained that the man Merrick, who had been attacked severely, was recovering. The house surgeon said the man would be able to attend before the court in a week´s time.

His injuries consisted of a severe cut to the right cheek, the cheek bone being smashed, and part of it had to be removed ; his head was badly cut, and his ribs on the right side were crushed.

The proceedings then concluded.