Dr Percy Chatterton

On Monday the 1st of July, 1889, The London Evening Standard carried a story that showed that violence in the family was not just confined to the families of the poor, as can seem to be the case when reading accounts of 19th century court appearances:-


Percy Chatterton, 47, physician, of The Mount, Sydenham, was charged, on remand, on a warrant, with assaulting his daughter, Grace. Mr. Pook prosecuted, and Mr. Hodson defended.

Grace Chatterton, 15, said that the Prisoner was thrashing her mother, and she went to her assistance, when the Prisoner struck her several times on the face, and gave her black eyes. He took a piece of wood from the tire and struck her mother.

He said that unless she told him what she had said at the police station he would rip her up, saying that Jack the Ripper would be nothing to it, and telling her that she should kneel down and say her prayers, for she had only five minutes to live.

He got out a knife and sharpened it.


Amy Chatterton, aged 13, another daughter of the prisoner, said that on the day mentioned, the prisoner came home.

She did not see the assault on her mother, but saw the prisoner beating Grace, striking her on the eyes about four times, and telling her not to interfere! Each time he struck her on the eyes.

A policeman was sent for.

The witness corroborated her sister’s statement as to the threat to “rip up” Grace, and as to the sharpening of the knife.

Cross-examined: He did not sharpen the knife for the purpose of cutting the meat at dinner. He did not complain that Grace interfered in the household arrangements. She would swear that the prisoner did not strike Grace with a cane.

The prisoner had told the witness that she must obey her stepmother, but he had not, in her presence, reproved Grace.


Police-constable Price. 92 P, said that on the 7th of May he was sent for to the Prisoner’s house.

He met Grace and Amy in the care of several women. Grace’s face was very much swollen, and her eyes were black.


The prisoner when he came out of the house had a razor in his hand. When the prisoner saw the witness, he went back to the house.

The prisoner’s wife gave him into custody for assaulting her, and he said:- “Take no notice, policeman; these low people want to make it worse than it is.”


At the station, the witness fetched the divisional surgeon, who dressed a severe wound on the wife’s head.

The wife withdrew the charge, the prisoner appealing to her to do so.

The parties then left the station.

On the 9th he saw Grace again, and her eye was very discoloured. On the 21st June the eye was still discoloured.


Mr. Hodson said that he would be able to bring forward evidence which would show that a great deal was to be said on the prisoner’s be- half.

Mr. Marsham again remanded the prisoner, saying he would accept bail in the sum of £50 and his own recognisances in the same amount.


The Lakes Herald, continued the story in an article about the next court appearance of the doctor in its edition of Friday, 12th July:-

At Greenwich, Dr. Percy Chatterton, 47, of Sydenham, has been charged, on remand, with assaulting his daughter Grace, aged 15.

The prisoner is alleged to have struck the girl, and given her severe black eyes, because she went to the assistance of her stepmother, whom he was beating.

She also stated that her father took up a knife and threatened to rip her up, saying that she had only five minutes more to live, and that “Jack the Ripper” would be nothing to it.


A second charge against the accused of assaulting his daughter, Amy, aged 13, was now gone into.

The child said that her father told her to sweep up the fireplaces. She did not understand what he said, and he took up a poker and beat her with it on the back, shoulders, and arms.

She got under the table, and he pulled her out by the hair and dashed her on the floor. She fell, and her father kicked her. She had not been impertinent or given any provocation.


Louisa Smith, stated that Amy Chatterton called at her house, and shewed her 18 to 20 marks, about three inches long, on her back. The skin was not cut, but the arm was black, and she thought the marks were too severe to have been caused by a cane.

The girl begged her not to tell her father she had complained as he would, she said, beat her worse.


Inia Brabham, sister-in-law of the accused, was called for the defence.

She said that Grace was idle and disobedient, and that she was defiant towards her stepmother.

The prisoner had been a kind husband and father.


Percy Harry Chatterton, a child, said that the prisoner was his father.

He remembered his father caning Amy for being disobedient to his stepmother and for stealing threepence. The witness had had the cane himself when he was naughty.

His father had acted very kindly towards the witness and towards his sisters.

Cross-examined, the witness said that he had been caned by his father about once in the last three or four months, and his sisters about twice.


Sergeant Snelgrove said that in 1879 Chatterton was committed at Bromley for assaulting his late wife, and was ordered to find sureties in and himself in £50 to keep the peace.


The magistrate said that he had no doubt that the prisoner had used undue violence towards his children. He ordered him to find two sureties in £25 each to keep the peace for six months, or to go to prison for a month.

The prisoner said that he could not find bail, and his children would starve. He had been in prison for 16 days already.