Meanwhile, in court a century ago…

Reader Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler has again been ferreting in the newspaper archives, and this time has taken a look at crimes coming before Brownhills Petty Sessions – a magistrates court for the town, that sat regularly and dealt with low-level crime.

I’m not sure when Brownhills stopped having it’s own Petty Sessions – I seem to recall reports of them being held in the Memorial Hall for a while. I certainly think they may have continued up until the Second World War, but I could have that wrong.

The crimes presented here are by turns comical, tragic and surprisingly familiar. Youthful vandalism, drunken aggression and shoplifting seem to be themes along with the rather surprising hauling before the court of William Roberts JP for neglecting health and safety. That must have been embarrassing.

Thanks to Peter for the finding – and transcription – of some real gems.


Loitering Brownhills Yoot seem to have been a perpetual problem – Image from Memories of Old Brownhills, by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.

Brownhills Petty Sessions

July 1901: John Wigley, Samuel Luke, George Bullock and William Luke, youths of Brownhills were charged with gambling in St. James Square, Brownhills on the 19th of May. The case was adjourned a month ago as the defendants failed to appear. Mr Negus told the defendants that if they had appeared at the last Court they would have been fined 2s and 6d, but now they were to pay 5s and 10s costs.

(In 1904 George was again summoned, as a miner, for card playing in the wash house. WE Harrison was one of the Magistrates. The defendants were told that the Bench was determined to put down gambling, and warned they would be severely dealt with if they offended again)

July 1901: A Foolish old Man… Michael McMahon, described as a chiropodist, of no fixed abode, was charged with stealing a pair of boots, value 4s 11d, the property of Thomas James Kingston, shopkeeper Brownhills. Prosecutor deposed to seeing the prisoner at his shop and having suspicion that he had something concealed under his coat. The prisoner dropped the boots from under his coat and admitted that they belonged to the witness. He did not think that the prisoner was sober at the time.

PC McLennan said that from information received he arrested the prisoner and charged him with the offence, and in reply he said that he never saw the boots. On the following night, he admitted that he took them and said that his heart failed him and he turned back. Prisoner now said that the boots pinched him and he took the boots in order to get locked up. In reply to Mr Negus he said that he was 83 years old… sentenced to 7 days imprisonment in the second division.

Dec 1904: Mr William Roberts JP, the Chairman of the Brownhills UDC, was summoned for breaches of the Factories Act at his brewery at Brownhills. The offences related to the inspection and reports concerning boilers. A fine of £2 and costs was imposed. A charge under another section was withdrawn on payment of costs.

Oct 1908: Joseph Whyley, Catshill, Brownhills, miner, pleaded guilty to using bad language in his own house at 6pm on the 5th inst. PC Kellett said the defendant was drunk and using bad language to his wife. He was a respectable man as a general rule… fined 1s plus cost, total 10s

June 1910: Undecimus Parker, Ogley Hay, Brownhills, was summoned for not sending his child regularly to school. fined 5s

Dec 1913: Vincent James, Summer Hill, Brownhills, labourer was summoned by George H Boulter, licensee of the Shire Oak Hotel, for refusing to quit the premises… Emily Edwards barmaid employed at the hotel, said the defendant came into the house and helped himself to beer from the beer pull… fine 5s and £1 8s 6d costs.

April 1914: 5 youths 9 to 12 years old summoned for throwing stones in an attempt to damage telegraph insulators on Chester Road Brownhills… on a particular day a few weeks before 15 telegraph cups had been broken in one and a half hours…6s costs and any future offence would be punished most severely.

Feb 1915: At the Brownhills Petty Session there was no charge of crime for hearing by the Court. The Chairman was presented with a white pair of gloves as a token of the immunity from disturbances or disorder. It the third time in 36 years, and Mr Hodgkins said it was a great pleasure to receive.

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2 Responses to Meanwhile, in court a century ago…

  1. Pedro says:

    Just came across this one from August 1907…

    William Lindsay, farm labourer, Alrewas, was charged with being drunk at Alrewas on July 27.

    Defendant: I was not beastly drunk sir.

    Mr Thomas (magistrate clerk): I did not say beastly drunk, I said unlawfully drunk. Are you guilty?

    Defendant: No sir.

    PC Murphy proved the case, and the defendant said he only had two pennyworth of whisky, but he had some bad water with it.

    Fine 1s and 6s and 6d costs

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