6 February 1889
(Before the RECORDER.)
THOMAS BARRY attended to answer an indictment for a common nuisance, causing large numbers of persons to assemble in front of No. 107, Whitechapel-road, near a public highway called the Whitechapel-road, there making great noises and obstructing the highway.
Mr. Poland, Q.C., and Mr. F.C. Gore conducted the prosecution; Mr. Purcell appeared for the defence.
Mr. POLAND, in opening the case, said that the proceeding was instituted by the District Board of Works for Whitechapel, and at the instance of a number of the ratepayers in that neighbourhood. A memorial was sent to the vestry asking to put a stop to what was considered to be a public nuisance at Nos. 106 and 107, Whitechapel-road; but the vestry not having the control of the highway, the memorial was presented to the District Board of Works. Notice was given to the defendant that unless the nuisance was stopped proceedings would be taken against him, and it had become necessary to prefer the present indictment in order to have the question tried. At the corner of Thomas-street was No. 106, Whitechapel-road, and next door was 107. Up till November, 1887, shows were carried on at the two houses, pictures and placards being exhibited which attracted a large number of people. Since that date the defendant had been working the two houses together. There were waxwork shows, fat women, &c. Pictures were exhibited, and at times the showman would come out and shout and beat the canvas partition with a cane to attract people's attention. It was stated that many thieves used to frequent the crowd outside the premises. In the autumn of last year waxwork effigies of the women who were murdered in Whitechapel were included in the show, and a picture on the subject was exhibited. This picture was, however, considered by the public to be too strong, and the people threatened to tear it down. The defendant took the picture away. A wax effigy of "Jack the Ripper" was added to the exhibition. There was also exhibited a fat Frenchwoman, a female pugilist, and a woman described as being half a gorilla, a midget, &c. Mr. Poland remarked that, whatever might take place on a racecourse or in a country fair, this sort of thing could not be carried on in one of the main thoroughfares in the metropolis. He did not think the jury would consider it a very great evil if the people of Whitechapel should not have the opportunity of seeing these exhibitions. If the defendant carried on his business quietly he might continue to do so, but he must not carry it on in such a way as to collect numbers of people, neither must he make such noises as to disturb the peace of the inhabitants. Mr. Poland added that the case was not one in which it was asked, that there should be any punishment, but it was rather a civil matter, in which it was desired to have the question decided. It was contended on the part of the prosecution that the case came within the rule of law laid down in the case of "The Queen v. Carlisle" (6 "Carrington and Payne").
A number of witnesses were called on the part of the prosecution who stated that the trade in the neighbourhood was interfered with by the show.
Mr. PURCELL, in addressing the jury for the defendant, said the show was one which did not in any way contravene the law. No unnecessary noise was caused and no obstruction created any more than was occasioned by the numerous stalls and shows which lined the Whitechapel-road.
A number of witnesses were called for the defence who gave evidence to the effect that no interference was caused to trade in the neighbourhood by the defendant's show. There were a great number of stalls and shows all along the Whitechapel-road. A number of tradesmen in the neighbourhood had signed a memorial in favour of the show, which was described by one witness as being a benefit to trade, inasmuch as it attracted people to the locality.
The defendant was himself called as a witness and gave evidence in his own defence. He sated that he had carried on the business for some years and paid a rent of £245 for the premises. He had some pictures outside referring to the Whitechapel murders, but when he had notice that they were objected to he took them away, and he had also as far as possible diminished the noise. His object was to attract persons into the show and not for them to remain outside. His men did not allow the people to collect outside and had asked the police to help them.
The RECORDER, in summing up, pointed out that tradesmen who exhibited their goods in their shop windows could not be proceeded against for causing a nuisance if people stood looking in at the windows, but people who collected in the street and caused an obstruction of the thoroughfare might be proceeded against. If it were not so he did not know where proceedings of this kind would stop.
The jury retired to consider their verdict, and after deliberating for a considerable time returned a verdict of Guilty.
A man named LINDLEY also appeared to answer a similar indictment.
The defendant, who is the proprietor of a show in the same neighbourhood, said he admitted causing a little obstruction there once a week.
The RECORDER ordered each defendant to enter into his own recognizances in £100 to come up for judgment if called upon, and said that if the nuisance was not continued they would hear nothing further of the matter.