Chalgrove Riot

Jackson’s Oxford Journal – Saturday, February 6, 1886

Watlington – Petty Sessions, Jan 30

Before the Earl of Macclesfield, and A.H.C. Brown, E. Hamersley, T. Taylor, & W. Birch-Reynardson, Esqrs.

William Atkinson was fined 12s. 9d., including costs, for being on licensed premises during the prohibited hours on the 23rd of Jan. at Chalgrove.

James Atkins was also fined 12s. 9d., including costs, for a similar offence on the same day.

George White, Thomas Belson, and Eli Broadway, of Chalgrove, labourers, were charged with assualting Supt. Hawtin at Chalgrove on the 22nd of Jan., and Albert Chilton, of Chalgrove, labourer, was charged with assaulting P.C. Morris while in the execution of his duty on the same occassion. White was fined £1., and the other defendants were sentenced to 21 days’ imprisonment with hard labourer each.

Joseph Burton and George King, of Chalgrove, labourers, were charged with being drunk and riotous at Chalgrove on the 22nd of Jan.  Burton was fined 10s. and 11s. 3d. costs, or in default 14 days’ imprisonment; and King was fined 2s. 6d. and 11s. 3d. costs, or in default seven days’  imprisonment.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal – Saturday, April 10, 1886

Oxfordshire – Easter Quarter Sessions

Appeal Case

Thomas Belson, shepherd, of Chalgrove, appellant, v. the Justices of the Watlington Petty Sessional Division, respondents
This was an appeal against a conviction by the Justices in which Mr Gough and Mr Henry Brown, instructed by Mr Augustus Jones, solicitor, Watlington, were for the respondents, and Mr Sim and Mr Spencer, instructed by Mr G F Slade, solicitor, Wallingford, were for the appellant.

Mr Gough said the case was an extremely simple one. It appeared that certain information was given to Supt. Hawtin that a disturbance was apprehended at Chalgrove upon the occasion of a ball being got up by some local people. As he was informed this was a case in which politics had nothing whatever to do with the matter, and what was the reason for the exhibition of this feeling was impossible for him to say, but a feeling did appear to have existed among the people at the time. Acting upon the information he had received, the Superintendent, who was really the prosecutor in the case, and a body of police went to Chalgrove to where the dancing was taking place, and there he found a large crowd of people, whose conduct was most disorderly; they were throwing stones and snowballs, and they made a rush at the police, and one who was prominent, as he was instructed, was the appellant. He was twice cautioned by Hawtin himself, but it seemed to have no effect, as he was seen with an armful snowballs, one of which he threw, and it struck Hawtin. The conduct of the mob was disorderly, and some were taken into custody. Belson was summoned, and while on the way to prison he made a statement admitting the throwing but denying that he threw it at the police. He was sentenced by the Magistrates to 21 days hard labour without the option of a fine, and against that sentence he has appealed. It was for the respondents to call witnesses to show they were justified in passing the sentence they did.

Supt. Hawtin said on the night of the 22nd January he attended at Chalgrove with a body of police at the school, where a ball was taking place. There was a crowd outside, who were shouting, hooting, and hollowing, and throwing stones and snowballs. This lasted from nine to twelve o’clock at night, and stones and snowballs were thrown at the school and the police. He cautioned Belson, and others, several times, but he threw a snowball which struck him (witness), he being then about eight or ten yards off. It was a light night. The mob charged the police, and one of them, named Burton, used a fork. Four or five of them were summoned, and were convicted, among them being Belson. At the time of the disturbance he apprehended a man named Cole, who had struck him (witness) with a stone.

By Mr. Sim – Belson was sentenced to 21 days hard labour without the option of a fine. He could not say whether he did anything more than throw a snowball. There was a great deal of snow on the ground. There were no windows broken. The crowd numbered about 30, some of whom were females, and he saw no snow-balling between the persons composing the crowd. The “body” of police was two at first, and this number was afterwards increased to four. The crowd were outside and tried to get into the school yard by throwing the gates off. The crowd did not assemble to hear the music although a band had a considerable attraction in a place like Chalgrove, but they wanted to get into the school. After Coles was taken into custody the throwing ceased. He would positively swear that Belson threw a snowball at him, but it did not hurt him. He was hurt with a stone. None of the police were injured with the fork. He took it from the man who had it.

My Mr Gough – it was not a good tempered crowd; they said they did not see why they should stand outside, and why they should not go inside and eat and drink the same as the rest of them.

By the Bench – Belson was acting in concert with the rest of the mob. The stone that struck him was thrown by Coles, and that led to his being apprehended.

The following gave corroborative evidence: – P.C. Morris, stationed at Watlington (who was struck by several stones and snowballs, and said that Burton, the man who had the fork, was drunk and disorderly,, and was let off with a fine); P.C. Short, stationed at Great Haseley; P.C. Tipping (who said that whilst taking Belson to prison on the 30th January he said he knew he throw a lot of snowballs but not with the intention of hitting the police); Henry Peedell, labourer, Newington (who said he stood outside the school because he wanted to hear the music); and Percy Dickers, farmer Goulder (who attended the ball, and who said there was a serious attempt on the part of the mob to interfere with the people in the school).

Robert Wood, articled clerk to Mr Jones, the Magistrates’ Clerk at Watlington, said he was present when Belson was tried, and he heard him say that he did throw snowballs but not with any intention of hitting the police.

Mr Sim, for the appellant, said there was no suggestion that the Magistrates did anything but what they considered to be their duty under the circumstances, and although Belson called no evidence before the Magistrates it was because he did not know what the evidence against him would be, and therefore was not in a position to rebut it. The charge against Belson was that he assaulted the police in the execution of their duty, and that consisted in the throwing of the snowball, and with regard to that the evidence of Hawtin was entirely unsupported. He thought he should be able to show that there was no stone throwing when Belson was cautioned, and he submitted that the caution given by the police was general. When a crowd assembled, and there was snow on the ground, it was very natural that they should snowball each other, and that some of the missiles might have struck the police without any intention on the part of those who threw them of striking the police. His contention was that although there might have been rough play, horse play, and snowballing going on, there was no intention to harm the police, and upon an occasion of this sort the very presence of a policeman might have offered an irresistible temptation “to do something with the snow”. He would call nine or ten witnesses to contradict now the statement of Hawtin, and to prove that Belson never throw a stone or snowball at any of the police, and in conclusion he pointed out that the Court had absolute power to deal with the case in any way they thought fit, either to confirm, mitigate, or reverse the decision which the Magistrates had come to.

Walter Phipps, labourer, Chalgrove, said he was outside the School on the night in question, and saw Belson there. He did not see him throw anything, and he saw him go away about 10.30.

In cross-examination he said he saw no stones or snowballs thrown, but there was a little running about. He should not believe that Belson threw a snowball at all, even if he said he did. (Laughter).

William Atkins, groom in the service of the Rev. Mr. Powys, said that most of the crowd were schoolboys, and he saw some snowballing among them, but did not see Belson throw anything.

Cross-examined – He saw no boy or infant charge the police with a prong or fork. The crowd was quite quiet and orderly, although one was taken into custody. He went home at 2.30 in the morning, and was fined for being in licences premises during illegal hours that same night.

Edwin Grant, labourer, Chalgrove, said he did not see Belson throw, but in cross-examination he admitted that he was not in his company the whole of the evening.

Marshall Croxford, Chalgrove, grocer’s manager, said he passed the School several times, and saw a crowd of men, women, and children. A snowball was thrown at him when he was about 100 yards from the School, but he did not summon any one for it. He saw Belson, be he was taking no part in the throwing that was going on. He should think Belson was a very unlikely person to throw at the police.

Cross-examined – Belson might have thrown a snowball without his seeing him do it; the night was very dark. There was very little snow on the ground,

Re-examined – He could not identify any one more than five yards away, as it was so dark.

William Coles, who was apprehended, convicted, and sentenced to 21 days hard labour for throwing on the night in question, said he saw Hawtin struck with a snowball. That snowball was not thrown by Belson, but by him (witness). (Loud laughter) He stood close behind Belson at the time.

Mr Moses Brown, Churchwarden of the parish of Chalgrove, said he had know Belson from his birth, and he was a very quiet steady, young man.

Mr Sim, in summing up his evidence, said he did mean to contend that Belson did not throw a snowball, but he maintained that he did not throw at the police at all, and that, when Coles threw the snowball, Hawtin thought, by mistake that as it came from Belson’s direction it was him who threw it. Belson was not able to call Coles at the Magisterial hearing because he did not know that it was him who threw the snowball, but, even if Belson did actually throw it, he submitted very strongly that the penalty which the Magistrates adjudged against him was very much in excess of what the facts of the case warranted, as he was not allowed the option of paying a fine, even if it were a heavy one.

Mr Gough replied, and said that evidently something was intended by the mob, or five policemen would not have been on the spot to protect a number of young farmers and their friends on the occasion of their holding a ball. They had the appellant’s own word that he did throw snowballs; there was something approaching a riot, and the conduct of the mob was violent, and he submitted that the evidence of Hawtin was to be believed.

Hawtin, re-called, said the Magistrates arrived at the conclusion as to what sentence should be passed on Belson without having heard any evidence as to his character.

The Magistrates retired for consultation, and on their return, The Chairman said the Court were unanimously of opinion that the conviction must be confirmed, but then they discussed the question very carefully as to the amount of sentence – whether it was the duty of the Court in any way to modify the sentence which the Bench arrived at. They found from the statement made by Hawtin that the Magistrates had not before them the evidence as to the appellant’s character which the Court had had that day. They had had very satisfactory evidence as to his antecedents and his general character, and they thought under these circumstances that, if the Magistrates had had this evidence before them, they would not have imposed so long a term of imprisonment as they had. The Court understood that he had already been in prison for five days, and thought that if the Magistrates had had before them the evidence which the Court had now, they would not have imposed a sentence of more then seven days with hard labour. He would therefore, having already served five days in prison, be sentenced to two days more imprisonment with hard labour. With respect to costs, the conviction being confirmed, the appellant would pay the costs.