Domestic violence was commonplace in the 19th century.
Indeed, so common was it in the East End of London at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders that people had long learned to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to violent quarrels that occurred between husbands and wives.
Not wishing to get involved in a domestic squabble was, for example, the reason that Israel Schartz gave for not intervening when he saw Elizabeth Stride being attacked in Berner Street, shortly before her body was found in Dutfield’s Yard, off Berner Street.
CRIES OF MURDER WERE COMMONPLACE
Cries of, “Murder”, were often heard in the district – as, indeed, they were frequently heard in other parts of the Victorian metropolis – but people had long grown used to these being the result of two spouses battling with each other and had long grown used to ignoring them.
In the vast number of cases the violence was perpetrated on a wife by a husband, and was often fuelled by drink having been taken.
But, it wasn’t unheard of for wives to be violent to their husbands, as is evidenced in a case that was heard at Clerkenwell Police Court in February 1899.
THE NEWSPAPER REPORT
In its issue of Saturday 4th February 1899, The Illustrated Police News, reported the case and accompanied the story with a typically sensationalist artist’s impression of what had occurred between the two warring spouses.
A TERROR TO HER HUSBAND
“Florence Deighton, twenty-five, married, was charged at Clerkenwell Police Court on a warrant with assaulting her husband, Thomas Deighton.
Mr. Ricketts, jun., prosecuted.
The complainant, a pianoforte keymaker, said he had been married to the defendant since last June, but he had known her for two years prior to that date.
SHE ABUSED HIM
On Monday, January 16th, when he arrived home from work his wife abused him. He took no notice of her, and got into bed. She then seized a poker and belaboured him with it. With difficulty he wrenched the poker from her grasp, when she tore up several ties and handkerchiefs.
SHE TRIED TO STAB HIM
While he was dressing himself she made a stab at him with a knife. He seized her wrists, when she bit him on the left hand, inflicting a nasty wound.
He afterwards went to the police-station to make a complaint, but she followed him, striking him about the head with her fists.
When he returned home he found the bedroom door locked, and had to sleep all night in a chair.
THREE BLACK EYES
Since he had been married his wife had given him three black eyes, and had often torn his clothes.
On Saturday week she tore his umbrella to ribbons.
SHE TORE UP THE SUMMONS
He took a summons out against her, and when it was served upon her by an officer of the court she tore it up in his face, remarking that she did not intend to answer it.
She failed to appear to the summons, and a warrant was issued for her arrest, which took place at her lodgings.
HE KNOCKED HER ABOUT
Mrs. Deighton said her husband knocked her about, and behaved violently towards her.
The landlady said the parties had lived in her house for five or six weeks, and were always quarrelling.
She could not tell who was in fault.
Mr. Horace Smith bound the defendant over in the sum of £10 to be of good behaviour for six months, warning her that if she was brought to the court during that time he would order her to find sureties.
She would then in all probability go to prison.”