The Policeman Lodger – Domestic Misery At Conisborough

May 1907

Mexborough & Swinton Times, May 4, 1907

The Policeman Lodger.
Funny Story of Domestic Misery At Conisborough.
A Midnight Incident.
Blouse as Christmas Box,

Amusing evidence was given at Doncaster on Saturday, in a case in which Joseph Brown, dataller, Conisborough, was summoned by his wife on the ground of persistent cruelty, to show cause why a separation order should not be granted. Jealousy, and a lodger, figured prominently in the case.

Mr F. Allen conducted the plaintiff’s case, Mr Baddiley defending. At the request of the latter, all witnesses were ordered out of court

Mr Allen said during the greater part of their married life the husband had persisted in ill treating his wife. There had been jealousy on the husband’s part, and the wife would tell them that there was not the slightest foundation for it, that any allegation he made was not justified, and that the cruelty had been absolutely unprovoked. Mrs Brown was very ill indeed, and she would say it had been brought on by persistent ill-treatment.

Mrs Brown said they were married on the third February, 1902, at Hadfield church, and had one child, aged four. She left her husband the previous Saturday night, because he struck her on the side of the face and told her to “get out.” He struck her some time in January. During the time they had been married, he had behaved to her cruelly. He had hit her several times. On the last Sunday in September, 1906, he struck her in the face with his hand and gave her a blow on the head. He knocked her down, and she fell with her head against a wall, for a day or two. She complained to the doctor that she did not seem to have her proper memory. A few days later he assaulted her again. He had never made any complaint against her, but told her she had done her duty to him and kept the house clean.

They had Police Constable Thompson lodging with them, and her husband had talked about sending him away. Her husband had called her foul names. He earned about 30s. A week, and gave her 25s. He had told her several times he would allow her 10s a week to leave him.

Mr Baddiley (cross-examining): have you told the magistrates everything of which you complain? – Yes, I think so.

Do you think what you have told them is sufficient to ask them to break the marriage vows? – Yes, I don’t remember anything more at present.

How long have you been taking in lodgers? – A year last February.

Who was the first lodger you had? Robert Harrison.

How long was he with you? – Seven months. She added that she had him present as a witness.

Who followed Harrison? – Mr Thompson. And has he been there up to Saturday last? – Yes.

Questioned as to complaints, she admitted that on Wednesday morning, the 17th April, she went away without telling her husband where she was going. She returned the following day, about 1:30. He remonstrated with her and told her he would hit her.

With regard to jealousy about lodges, has your husband complain to you about them?

No; not until just lately, when he accused me of being up with Mr Thompson. Mr Thompson was very ill, and he asked me if I had some mustard, and I said – do you remember last November, on a Sunday, early in the morning, about 2 o’clock? – Yes.

Were you in bed with your husband? – Yes, sir I was.

Did you get out of bed and leave him there asleep? – He was not asleep when I got out of bed.

He says he was – he was not

Did he come downstairs? – Yes, sir.

Where were you when he came downstairs? – I was sitting at the bottom of the stairs.

What were you doing – I was not doing anything. I thought it was the little boy walking down.

Little boys don’t walk downstairs at 2 o’clock in the morning. Do you really want the magistrates to believe such nonsense?

Did your husband come downstairs? – Yes sir.

Was the lodger downstairs? – Yes sir.

And I think he had his feet in hot water? – Yes.

Were you leaning over the chair laughing at him? – No, sir, I was out.

Did your husband speak to you about being down there at the time in the morning? – Yes.

He was not very pleased about it, was he?

He didn’t seem to be at the time. Don’t you think it was quite proper he should be displeased about it? – I don’t know; I don’t think there was anything in it.

No, not like the; but do you think it was very discreet? You say your husband is jealous, therefore do you think it was a discrete thing to do? – I didn’t think there was any harm in it.

It is not what you think about harm. I am not suggesting any harm. Do you think it was a proper and discrete thing to do with a jealous husband? – I don’t think anything about it.

I am afraid you will when you get older. Do you remember, on a Sunday 19 February of this year, about your husband going to work at 9.20, and coming home at 6 o’clock in the morning? – Yes sir, I do

Did he go to bed at 7 o’clock, after returning from work? – I daresay he did, but I don’t know, I’m not sure.

Did he say anything to you about the bed not having been slept in? – No; he said nothing whatever.

Six weeks ago, did he complain to you about the lodger, and did you pack up your clothes and say you would go? – No; he didn’t say anything about the lodger.

Did you pack up your clothes? – Yes.

Was not that in consequence of him complaining about the lodger? – I don’t know what it was about.

He said something to you, and you said you would go and pack up your clothes? – He told me to clear out; he did not say what it was for.

Do you mean to say he told you to clear out without giving the reason? – He has told me many times.

Hasn’t he complain to you about the lodger? You know whether he has or hasn’t. Now, has he? – He did tell me something about Mr Thompson going. I told him to please himself about telling him to go, and he said he should not.

Last Sunday morning, about 9.30, did he ask you where the lodger was? – No,

Did he say that he wished to serve him with a proper written notice to leave? – No; he didn’t say anything to me about giving him notice.

Did he tell you on the Thursday morning, when returning after being out all night, that he should tell the constable to leave?

He didn’t say anything to me. Did you get the poker to him last Saturday morning? No, sir; I never lifted anything to him.

You know he has been off work for some time? You know he cannot use that right arm in consequence of having been injured for some weeks? – He has been injured three weeks last Thursday.

He says you took the poker to him? – No, I didn’t.

And struck him with your face and knocked him all over the place? – I didn’t.

Did you make his mouth bleed? – No,

Do you know how he got the lump on his head, almost as big as a hen’s egg? – No, sir.

He says you formed it? – No, sir; I struck him on the shoulder when he struck me in the face, with my hand.

How many times have you hit him before with your hand? – I don’t think I have hit him before.

How many times did you hit him this Saturday morning? – I struck him twice.

Where did you strike him? – On the shoulder.

Further questioned, she said her husband served the lodger with notice to quit. She denied that she went out of the house immediately. Her husband was not a man who drank heavily.

You remember a blouse you got once don’t you? – Yes

Who bought it? – Well, Mr Thompson gave me that at Christmas

Do you think it is a proper thing for a married woman to accept from a lodger? – There’s several that I have heard of done it.

Two wrongs don’t make a right I am asking you if you think it is a proper thing for a married woman to get a new blouse from a lodger? – I told my husband Mr Thompson gave me this.

Of course, he would see and get to know; but you think it is a proper thing to do – your husband being a jealous man? – I think Thompson also promised to buy you in your hat? – No, sir.

Well, what was said about a new hat? – Nothing

Did he promise to buy a new hat? – Nothing of the sort.

After the accident, did he want to buy some coals for the house? – Yes, sir. Why was it he wanted to buy coals for the house? – No, sir he don’t want to buy coals

You said he did? – I thought you said, did I want to buy some coals.

Did the lodger? – No, sir.

Re-examined, Mrs Brown denied that she ever had been guilty of any impropriety.

Mr Baddeley: I never suggested that.

Mr Allen: it doesn’t matter what you suggested.

Continuing, Mrs Brown said her husband knew Thompson had given her the money for the blouse, and did not object or make any complaint. He had been on friendly terms with Thompson throughout for anything she knew. She spoke of threats to herself and the little boy on the previous Thursday week.

With regard to this hot water incident, had Thompson been ill with a bad influenza cold ? – He asked me if I had got any mustard and if I would leave it out for him when he came in again. I forgot until I heard him getting the water out of the boiler. He had brought some mustard leaves him with him. He asked me to get water. I heard my husband coming downstairs, thinking it was the little boy, and met him at the door.

Mrs Brown added that her husband questioned her when they got upstairs as to what she had been doing. He had told her many times about it during last week. He asked her on Friday if there was anything wrong done that night, and when she assured him there was nothing wrong he seemed satisfied. She thought four years of ill-treatment was sufficient to justify a separation.

Mrs Mary and Fox, a next door neighbour, said on the previous Saturday she was at her back kitchen door and heard Brown using very bad language to Mrs Brown. He said “go! I am tired of living with a bad woman.” He called her foul names, she also heard him give her a smack. She had constantly heard rows in the house, and he seemed to be constantly beating her. She attributed it to jealousy. She heard him beating her on the Sunday after Christmas day, she put her head over the wall and saw him strike her as she was on the sofa. In the night she had heard the boy say, “Oh, father, don’t hit my mamma,” and had heard Mrs Brown say “Joe, don’t, for God’s sake.” Cross-examining, she did not know that it was funny Mrs Brown had not said anything about this date. They were generally falling out about the lodger.

Elizabeth Lyon, complainant’s mother, said her daughter had come home to stay three times, in consequence of her husband’s treatment of her. She had complained every time she came home.

Robert Harrison, the first lodger, said he told Mr Brown once that he ought to be ashamed of himself, and Brown told him if he didn’t like it he could clear out. He told him he should do so, but on the Sunday morning Brown asked him to take no notice of what he had said, as he sometimes had these fits.

In cross-examination, he said during the four or five months he was with the Browns there was nothing wrong beyond a “few words.”

Police Constable Thompson said he went to lodge with the Browns in the latter part of October, and left on the previous Monday. Some time ago he was suffering from cold, and asked Mrs Brown for some mustard, as he was going to put his feet in water. He got home in the early morning, and the mustard and water were not ready. Mrs Brown came downstairs and got some mustard out, putting it on the table. He never saw her again. It was not true she was laughing at him and her husband came down and complained. He had never heard a complaint until a week ago, when Brown said it was time he was going, and mentioned about the mustard. Brown gave him a week’s notice, but he left on the Monday. He had never been guilty of any impropriety with Mrs Brown, and would not think anyone else had. She was a very careful and respectable and clean woman. Any suggestion of impropriety he should say it was untrue.

Mr Baddeley: did the husband come down that morning when his wife was there? – Yes.

Did he say anything about his wife being there? – I didn’t hear him say anything.

Do you mean to say he never spoke? – He never said a word.

Do you know that he said something afterwards, then? – Yes; that is a week today. I had been seeking lodging before that.

Did you buy her a blouse last Christmas? – No sir; I didn’t.

Did you give her money to buy one with? – No sir; I didn’t.

Did you never give her money to buy anything? – No, sir

And if she comes into that box and says you gave her money to buy a blouse, is it not true? – No. Can you understand why she should come before the magistrates and swear you gave her money? I never did.

Is it imagination on her part? – I don’t know that it is Sir

You surely know whether there is any foundation for the statement about buying a blouse? – I never gave her any money to buy a blouse or anything else. I gave her money to buy a set of blacking brushes. Did you give her money to buy a blouse, or anything else? – No, sir.

Well she has said so. – I have never given her any money.

Mr Allen (re-examination): did you give her 3s last Christmas Eve? – I don’t remember giving her anything.

Did you give her anything for the little boy? – I have given the little boy several small sums of money.

Did you give her 3s for the little boy, and tell her to buy something?

Mr Baddiley: she says distinctly a blouse. Is it a fact that you gave her 3/6 last Christmas Eve? – I cannot say it is. I have given the little boy money. I gave him sixpence when I went away.

Mr Baddiley (addressing the magistrate) said he asked them seriously whether they thought there was any evidence to justify them in granting a separation order in this case. He would start at the finish, as the saying was. Thompson had lodged there from October, 1906, to April, 1907, and not one single word did he say of any act of cruelty or any complaint of any act of cruelty. They would naturally expect that if there was the slightest act of cruelty by this man, a police officer lodging in the house would be aware of it. But there were not a word of assault.

Then Harrison, the lodger, never heard a single complaint of any assault; the only thing was that they had quarrels and used a little bad language. Then they came to the mother, who said her daughter had been home three times. Why she went home they did not know; that was a matter that could not be given in evidence. Then they came to the only evidence of an alleged assault. Mrs Fox the neighbour, spoke of two occasions, one of which was in the previous Saturday – the dispute about the lodger, in which the woman got a smack on the mouth, which they did not attempt to deny, for why they would tell when the time came. The other occasion was at Christmas. It was a most remarkable thing that the complainant never said one single word about any alleged assault on the Sunday after Christmas Day. Where was the corroboration which justified a separation order?

The husband was a sober man, who worked well. Of course, he had been jealous, and he asked the magistrates if they would be jealous if they awoke at 2 o’clock in the morning and expected to find their wife’s there, but discovered them downstairs with the lodger. With reference to the blouse, if the police officer was speaking the truth the woman was lying; if the woman was speaking the truth, Constable was speaking untrue.

The chairman, after a brief consultation with his colleagues, said the bench did not think the charge of persistent cruelty had been proven. They ought not to take in lodgers, and should live together again; there was no reason why they should not do so.

Mr Baddiley: I may say the house is ready, and if there is nobody else there they will live all right.