The Value Of A Mans Jaw

The Illustrated Police News, on Saturday 25th of January, 1879, posed a simple question in the headline to one of its articles that appeared on that day – what is the value of a man’s jaw?

The article concerned a case that had been heard that week at the Middlesex Sessions, which amply demonstrated just how easily an angry exchange could lead to physical violence, especially when the extra ingredient of alcohol was added to the mix!

Although the charge against the prisoner in the dock was a not particularly serious one, the newspaper considered it important enough to devote a panel on its front page to illustrate the even for those who might not be able to picture it!

The fight taking place.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday 25th January, 18979. Copyright, The British Library Board.


“At the Middlesex Sessions, William Coleman, cabdriver, surrendered to his bail to answer the charge of having inflicted grievous bodily harm upon Richard Turrell.

On the morning of the 2nd of December the prosecutor, an elderly man, was in a public- house with two men and a woman, the wife of one of them.

After tossing for drink, a dispute arose because the woman said she had been cheated.

A cab-driver named Evans at that time entered the house with the prisoner, and the woman complained to them of having been cheated. The prosecutor told her not to speak to them, but Evans said, “It is a shame to rob a poor woman.” Angry words and blows then followed, and the parties were turned out of the house.


A little boy by the name of William Butt, who was standing outside, described what took place.

The prisoner challenged the prosecutor to fight, and be replied, “All right, give us time” and he proceeded to take off his coat. While he was doing so, Evans and another pushed him aside, and he then walked away.

The prisoner ran after him and proceeded to strike him a heavy blow on the neck, knocking him down on his face on the pavement, and there left him weltering in blood.


He was taken to the Middlesex Hospital, where Mr. Dixon, the surgeon, found that he was, in fact, suffering from a fractured jaw in two places, a contusion on the temple, and haemorrhage from the ears and the mouth.

Several of his teeth were knocked out, and others loosened – and one fell out in the street.


The jury convicted the prisoner of a common assault.

Mr. Serjeant Cox sentenced him to pay a fine of twenty shillings which was immediately done.