Extraordinary Scenes – Furniture Wrecked

May 1915

Mexborough Times, May 15 1915

Extraordinary Scenes
Furniture Wrecked

Great excitement prevailed in the neighbourhood of Denaby and Conisbrough on Tuesday. The affair in Mexborough seems to have inspired a similar movement there, and suddenly about 10 o’clock, Mr George Schonhut´s shop at Doncaster road, Denaby Main was attacked. The assistant there (a woman) fled, and a battalion of women soon reduced everything about the premises to atoms.

The police were on the scene, but the damage was done and they could only guard the wrecked premises to prevent looting.

At Conisbrough a much more serious outbreak occurred. Mr A Walters two shops, in Brook square and Church Street, were attacked simultaneously and laid in ruins. This occurred about midday, and the offensive action was commenced by a miner, who before the eyes of five policeman on point duty near the premises, calmly shattered the plate glass window in Brook square with a stone. Then the fun commenced. No harm was offered the assistant, but the crowd rushed to the spot, burst the door open, and wrecked all the glass in the place. The police were able to prevent them from actually entering the shop.

In church Street, Mr Walters shop has a house attached in which he and his family live. The crowd got there before the police could reach it in force, and entering the shop caused Mrs Walters hurriedly to evacuate the premises. They made hay of the shop and its contents in incredibly quick time, while at the same time they raided all the lower rooms, smashed every article of furniture within sight. A piano was reduced to firewood in almost as little time as it takes to say so. All the furniture was ruthlessly flung into the yard and even the canaries cage was thrown outside. Double windows were all splintered, but otherwise the upper rooms were not interfered with, and soon the police were able to expel the raiders and to guard the premises from further attack. This work was carried out almost entirely by women and youths. The few men who were about looked on with broad grins and occasionally offered chaffing encouragement. The women of whom thousands seem to be mobilised, got wildly excited and hilarious, and four hours after the raid in Denaby and Conisbrough they paraded the streets wearing patriotic favours, and exhibiting many symptoms of self-satisfaction. The school attendance in the district must have suffered severely, for the children made of the anti-German demonstrations a regular fete day.

Mr A Walters, whose property was the object of such severe hostilities, is German born as is also his wife. They are naturalised English, and their children are British-born. Then been established in Conisbrough for about 20 years. Until the times seemed to be normal. Mr Walters was popular enough in Conisbrough and his wife little less so. Mr Walters was absent at Doncaster market on Tuesday during the raid on its premises. His wife and children sought safety in flight and whither they went was not then known.

With regard to the attack on the Brook square shop, it should be mentioned that the police promptly arrrested the man who initiated it, but subsequently released him to avoid a further inflammation of public feeling.

Councillor Schonhut´s Statement

Mr Schonhut, interviewed the following morning, said he had not anticipated that the people of the town would turn against him. He had been 20 years in the place, and was a naturalised Englishman. He was bitterly opposed to Prussian militarism as any man could be. He was a native of the state of Württemberg in South Germany, a state which had resented Prussian domination from the first. He himself left Germany at the age of 16 in order to escape military service, which he says is detested in Württemberg. He came to England therefore 40 years ago and had only been in Germany since for an occasional holiday. He had not corresponded with anybody in Germany for four years.

In his earlier days in this country he served for 12 years in the Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons (Yeomanry) and established a Mexborough business 20 years ago. During that time he had identified himself with every worthy movement in the place and had assisted various efforts, social and religious with liberality. During times of distress he had freely given both money and goods, and had scarcely ever refusing a request for assistance. He had also contributed to the local patriotic fund. He had no anti-British sentiment, nor had he said anything in public likely to provoke such hostility to him as had been manifested the previous evening. He was as sorry as anyone could be about the tragedy of the Lusitania. The whole thing (the demonstration) was a complete surprise to him, and he could not say what course intended to pursue, because he did not know.