Tuesday 28 October 2008

Deptford news 1900 (1)

One of the delights - or problems - with researching in the Newspaper Library is that every newspaper is full of interesting features unrelated to the topic being researched. Thus I was distracted from looking for an article in the weekly Brockley News of 12 October 1900 by various Deptford stories. Even when they were just small bits of local news, they gave a real sense of local life. Let's take a look, then, at Deptford on one random week a century or so ago.

The courts were a major source of news for the local paper, so today we'll start with a few theft-type offences. First, 21-year-old coal porter John Finley of Tanner's Hill was caught with a roll of copper wire belonging to the railway. Unfortunately, he couldn't come up with a good explanation for how he came to possess it - the police didn't believe his claim that he found it in his employer's chaff house.* Eventually, he admitted that he had stolen it and was brought before Greenwich Magistrates' Court who remanded him in custody.

More seriously, homeless Bartholomew Murphy broke into the Walter Arms beerhouse on Addey Street. He woke the occupant, Jesse Skudder, when he went into his bedroom at 1.30am; Skudder asked him, "what are you doing here?" Murphy's answer was an unconvincing "I don't know" - he had had to scale a wall, cross the wash-house roof, and force the kitchen window with an iron bar before reaching the bedroom. Skudder dressed and gave chase, only to be threatened with a knife, before fetching a policeman. Murphy claimed he was drunk that night and didn't know what he was doing. The magistrate committed him for trial at the South London sessions.

Finally, there was the Victorian equivalent of eBay fraud: George Hypolite le Bluff sold greenhouses and chicken houses by mail order from Trundley's Road. However, dissatisfied purchasers apparently found that after they'd sent the money, the goods didn't turn up. His alleged victims included Dr Collins of Aylesford, Kent; rector's wife Mrs Belcher of Frampton Cotterell, Bristol; and an unnamed miner from the Rhondda Valley. He was committed for trial at the Crown Court.

* A chaff-house was an outbuilding used to store animal fodder.

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