Fatal Affray At The East End

On Thursday, 12th July, 1888, a tragic accident took place in Watney Street, Whitechapel, when two brothers, Henry and John Talbot got into an argument that got out of hand.

The East London Observer, provided a full report of the events that had occurred, in its edition of  Saturday, 14th July, 1888:-


“A peculiarly sad and tragic affair occurred at Watney-street, St. George’s East, on Thursday afternoon at about four o’clock.

From all that can be ascertained, it appears that two brothers, John and Henry Talbot, aged respectively about sixteen and twenty-one, kept a small butcher’s stall on the lefthand side of the street leading from Commercial-road, and nearly opposite the Ebenezer Chapel.


On Thursday afternoon, the brothers were observed to be either quarrelling or playing – but as to whether it was one or the other, opinion is very much divided amongst the stall-keepers in the street. Indeed, it is stated that the brothers had been so much in the habit of “larking” about, that no notice was taken by the adjoining tradesmen.


All, however, are agreed that what happened was this.

John Talbot was engaged in what is technically known as “boning” a piece of meat, an operation, for which a small knife about six inches long, with a very sharp point is used.

His brother Henry, either not heeding, or not hearing his brother’s warning to give up, was making a lunge with his right hand across the upper part of his breast as a guard, and his left hand doubled and extended, when John seeing the blow coming, put up his right hand containing the knife, in order to protect himself.

The pavement at Watney-street is never in the best condition; vegetable and animal refuse trodden by many feet into a pulp, makes the pavement as slippery as a piece of ice, and the rain which had fallen intermittently on Thursday did not serve to improve the condition of things.


At all events, in the opinion of Harry Wheeler, a young fellow who runs about Watney-street doing odd jobs, and of Dan Day, a lad who is occasionally employed as a bootblack, and of other witnesses who were standing near the stall at the time, Henry Talbot seemed to slip and fall heavily towards his brother, whose right hand, unwittingly containing the knife, was slightly extended in order to ward off the blow.

The result was that the sharply pointed knife entered the left breast of the shirt of Talbot.


For a moment all was confusion, and then on the advice of the people around, the wounded man proceeded to start, assisted by his neighbours, for the London Hospital, with his hand over the streaming wound.

He only reached the top of Watney-street, when he fell down exhausted from loss of blood.

He was taken in a cab to the London Hospital, where he soon afterwards died.


John Talbot, who seemed greatly distressed, at once gave himself up to the police, by whom he was taken to the Arbour-square police-station.

He was brought up on Friday before Mr. Lushington at the Thames Police Court, when he described himself as living at 2, Sheridan-street, St. George’s East.


George Edward Veidler, a butcher, of 8, Striling-street, St. George’s, stated that between three and four o’clock on Thursday afternoon he was at a stall in Watney-street. The Witness was minding the prisoner’s brother’s stall.

The accused was sent away by the deceased to his dinner, and the deceased asked the witness to mind the stall until the accused came back.

The Deceased told prisoner not to be long, and then went away.

The Deceased did not come back for quite some hours and while he was away the witness took about four shillings for him.


The accused came back first, and when the deceased returned he said to the former, “I thought I told you to make haste?”

The prisoner replied, “I have been to my dinner, and had to wait in the coffee-shop.”

The Deceased and the accused each had a knife, and both began to cut up the meat.

The Deceased kept on saying to the prisoner, “I thought I told you to make haste?” and the accused said, “Hold your tongue.”


With that, the deceased went to “butt” him with his head.

As he did so, the prisoner’s knife, which was in his hand, struck him on the side. The Prisoner had his quite still.

The Deceased said, “Come to the hospital with me.”

He then walked with the witness to the top of Watney-street, and was then unable to walk any farther.

By Mr. Lushington: He did not notice any blood until he got to the top of Watney-street. When there the prisoner came up, and the deceased said to him, “It’s not your fault. Go back and look after the stall.”

The Witness told him to get 2d. worth of brandy from Mr. Donigan’s house.


The Witness and the deceased then got into a cab and drove to the hospital.

At the latter place, the deceased was not able to get out, and was carried into the institution.

An exterior view of the London Hospital.
The London Hospital.


The Deceased was put to bed, and the witness heard one of the nurses saying that he was dying.

When the witness came back, he told the accused that his brother was dangerously ill, and he then went to the hospital.

Daniel Day, of No. 1, White’s- court, and David Cantrill, a baker, both gave similar evidence.


Mr. Lushington accepted the father’s recognizance for his son’s appearance that day week, and observed that the evidence showed that the fatality was the result of a most unfortunate accident.”