Abraham Woolf Assaulted

19th century Whitechapel could be a dangerous place, even for those who were just going about their everyday business. Street robberies and attacks were commonplace, to the extent that, when you stepped out of doors you, quite literally took your life in your hands.

Even innocent looking street traders could pose a threat, as is revealed by the following article, which appeared in The Illustrated Police News on Saturday the 2nd of March 1867

ASSAULT BY SHOEBLACK

BOYS IN LEMAN STREET, WHITECHAPEL

Patrick M’Quin, a boy who has been for some time a shoeblack with a box and brushes in Leman Street Whitechapel, was brought before Mr. Paget charged with violently assaulting Mr. Abraham Woolf, a gentleman of the Jewish persuasion.

The prosecutor is a traveller and jewel manufacturer, of 13 Everard Place, Backchurch Lane, Whitechapel.

For some time past on leaving home in the mornings he has ben pestered by the prisoner and other boys with boxes, brushes, and blacking to clean his boots. He had told them repeatedly that he did not wish his boots to be cleaned, as they had been done at home.

He was generally received with derision and laughter, his foreign dialect was mimicked, and the boys at last resorted to threats and abuse.

The Assault On Mr Woolf.
Mr. Woolf Is Assaulted by The Shoeblack Boys. From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.

A CRY OF “CLEAN YOUR BOOTS SIR”

On Tuesday morning the prosecutor was assailed by the prisoner with the usual old cry of “Clean your boots, sir, clean your boots, only a penny.”

Mr. Woolf told him that he did not want his boots to be cleaned, on which the prisoner struck him down.

ATTACKED BY A GANG OF SHOEBLACKS

Mr. Woolf was immediately surrounded by a group of other shoeblack boys to the number of six or seven. They hustled him, and the prisoner kicked him on the mouth and cut it.

The complainant immediately seized the prisoner and took him to the station-house.

Mr. Woolf’s mouth was cut, and blood; was issuing from it while giving his evidence.

Mr. Paget:- “When did this take place?”

The prosecutor:- “At ten o’clock this morning – only an hour and a half ago.”

THE PROSECUTOR HAD ATTACKED HIM

The prisoner, whose face was scratched and bruised, said that Mr. Woolf had beat him, and had clawed his neck and face.

Police Sergeant Fry, 653, A, said that the scratches were old ones and were quite dry. They had been made some time ago.

Mr. Paget looked at the prisoner’s face and neck, and said that Police Sergeant Fry was quite correct.

A FLAGRANT AND COWARDLY ASSAULT

He commented on the conduct of the prisoner, and said that he had no right to annoy or molest people who would not have their boots cleaned, but he would allow him and other boys to civilly accost people who wanted their boots cleaned.

A flagrant and cowardly assault had been committed, an he sentenced the prisoner to one month’s imprisonment and hard labour.