The Victorian East End of London was a district of contrasts. There was poverty and crime; but it also had its fair share of affluent, respectable and well-behaved citizens.
However, it was the criminal classes that attracted the most attention; and their antics were reported, often in great and vivid detail, by the newspapers.
Today’s blog features a rather disturbing report that appeared in The Illustrated Police News on the 28th October 1882.
It shows just how brazen the criminal elements of the East End could be and gives an idea of how horrific it must have been for the ordinary, law-abiding citizens when they came up against and fell victim to the East End n’er-do-wells.
RUFFIANISM IN THE EAST END
“At the Thames Police-court, Patrick King, has been charged with committing a savage and unprovoked assault on Catherine Bouge, a married woman, living at 61, Pennyfields, Poplar.
The complainant was too seriously injured to attend the court.
Between six and seven on Friday evening, Julia Spring, the complainant’s mother, was standing at her door, 63, Pennyfields, Poplar, speaking to a gentleman about business matters, when twelve Chinese seamen came along, and the prisoner and ten other roughs followed them.
On reaching Mrs Spring’s shop, she told them to go away, or they would break her windows, and not to molest the Chinese.
The Prisoner put his hand in her face, as if to strike her, unbuckled his heavy belt, and was about to use it, but a China man came behind him, and wrenched it from his grasp.
HE BROKE THE DOOR OPEN
The Chinese sought protection in the complainant’s house, and the door was closed on the ruffians, but almost immediately afterwards the prisoner burst the door open, and rushed in with several of his companions.
The next moment Mrs. Spring heard her daughter screaming, and she tried to enter the house, but those within prevented her doing so, and she sent her boy for a constable.
While he was gone, the prisoner and two companions ran out of the house and escaped.
On Mrs. Spring entering her daughter’s house she found the latter in a deplorable condition, and she complained that the prisoner had kicked her in the stomach.
SHE WAS PREGNANT
Owing to her being pregnant she was in great agony, and could scarcely move.
She had since been confined to her bed, and was in a very bad state.
William Hines, 48 K, apprehended the prisoner on Friday evening in High-street, Poplar, and in answer to the charge he made no reply, but was very violent, and Hines had to get assistance to take him to the station.
HE WAS REMANDED
Mr. Lushington said he should have to remand the prisoner until the injured woman was able to attend the court.”
On Saturday 4th November 1882, The Illustrated Police News updated its readers on the progress of the case against King:-
“Patrick King, twenty-two, described as a fireman, has been charged on remand with violently assaulting Catherine Bogue , a married woman, of 61, Pennyfields, Poplar.
The prosecutrix, who was too much injured to be at the court last week, was now in attendance.
She, however, still appears to be very ill, and she is scarcely able to stand.
HE BROKE OPEN THE DOOR
She said that on the night of Friday, the 20th, she was kneeling down in the Passage scrubbing, when the prisoner broke open the door and rushed in.
He came in after some China men who had sought refuge there from the violence of a gang of roughs.
HE STRUCK AND KICKED HER
The prisoner called her some dreadful names, struck her about the face, and kicked her very violently in the stomach.
She screamed out, and he then caught her by the hair of the head and tried to drag her down the steps.
Failing to do that, as she clung to the door post, he continued to kick her all about the stomach and body.
HER HUSBAND WAS ALSO ASSAULTED
Her husband at last heard her screams, and came to her rescue, when he in turn was brutally assaulted.
The witness added that she was considerably advanced in pregnancy.
A BRUTAL ASSAULT
Mr Lushington said that it was one of the most brutal assaults he had ever had before him, and the prisoner would go to gaol for six months with hard labour, and find two sureties in £20 each for a further six months.”