Barnsley Chronicle Saturday 30th December 1893

Like a Pack of Hounds on to a Fox

After a lapse of three months a case of assault arising out of the recent disturbances at Mitchell Main Colliery, Wombwell, was brought before Messrs. O. Harvey, C. Brady and Captain Ormby, at the Barnsley Court House on Wednesday afternoon, 27th September 1893.

The case which has created considerable interest in the Wombwell district occupied the court for a lengthened period.

The complainant was James Theaker, bricklayer, living in Station Lane, Wombwell, employed at the Mitchell Main Colliery, and he summonsed Henry Lisle, John Beck and William West, all miners belonging to Wombwell, Beck working at the Mitchell Main Colliery, for having assaulted him. Mr. Rideal presented and Mr. W. E. Raley defended all the men for assaulting him on September 4th last at the pit.

In opening the case, Mr. Rideal explained that when the assault was committed the lock-out was going on. Complainant, who was a bricklayer employed at the Mitchell Main Colliery had received the unanimous consent of his branch and was working at some bricklaying during the stoppage. That consent didn't appear to have met with the approval of all the men in the district, and on the day in question, when he was leaving work during the afternoon, he was met at the colliery yard gates by a mob of about 300 or 400 men. Amongst them were the defendants. They met him and asked him to promise not to work again. He refused to give the promise, and thereupon Beck said "You b------, we'll kill you". He rushed at Theaker and threw his arms around him, and the others closed in, Lisle and West being amongst them. Beck, he would prove, got a piece of wood from the railings and struck Theaker a very heavy blow on the head, causing him to fall. While he was on the ground the other two defendants kicked him, as did also others who were unknown. Complainant was rescued by Mr. Neville the undermanager, and Theaker's head was bleeding profusely. His injuries were attended to and the complainant attended his lodge meeting the same evening. The following day he was ill, and had suffered ever since

The complainant gave evidence in support of Mr. Rideals statement. He stated that when Beck knocked him down with the railing, he was in the act of getting up when the other defendants kicked him. He was also kicked many times and struck with sticks by men whom he did not know.

After Mr. Neville had got him to the colliery yard Dr. Millar attended him. Lisle had since been to see if the job could not be settled out of court. He had refused it saying the matter was out of his hands. Questioned as to the delay in taking out the summons witness said he was advised not to take them out before seeing that the minds of the men and the county were in such a state, and that it would endanger his life and property.

Cross-examined, "You had plenty of soldiers down there to protect you?"

Witness "Not then."

"But they did come?"

"Yes but they didn't go up and down the country protecting men."

"But you enjoyed yourself that week?"


"You were well enough to go to the St. Leger?"

"Yes, I went there. I went all the week to get out of the road. I had a home there and I went to get out of the way."

Mr. Rideal, "You would be well looked after there?" - (laughter)

Mr. Raley, "You went to the racecourse?"

Witness hesitated.

Mr. Raley, "Come, there is nothing to be ashamed of. If you are fond of sport you had a perfect right to go."

Further questioned, witness was not aware that West rescued a lad named Hill who was working with him. Witness had no coat on and his sleeves were rolled up - the same as when he was working.

Mr. Raley, "You are very ready with your fists. You are a bruiser, you can do a bit of that?"

Witness, "No sir, I can't. My days are gone for anything of that kind." - (laughter)

In answer to Mr. Raley witness admitted that when Lisle came to see him he had been told by the policeman that he had better do something about it. There was something about that. Witness did not tell him that there had been plenty of time to "square" it. That was not the reason he had not brought the summonses before. Witness further denied that he had been "squared" by a fourth man. Beck was the only one of the defendants that worked at Mitchell Main Colliery.

Thomas Payling, miner, chairman of the Mitchell Main Lodge corroborated as to the attack by Beck. Cross-examined, "West came up to him and asked him to appeal to the crowd not to touch anybody."

Hy. Neville, undermanager of the colliery, spoke to seeing Beck attack complainant. Afterwards witness said there was a regular row � something like a pack of hounds to a fox. West and Lisle were in at the charge.

For the defence Mr. Raley pointed out that only corroborative evidence related to Beck. The other defendants were simply onlookers, and he also denied that it was Beck who attacked the complainant.

Tom Butterfield, miner, Wombwell said he was present when the disturbance occurred. Witness was with Lisle near the canal bridge, and West was on a wall advising the crowd to be quiet. Wm. Butterfield, miner, gave similar evidence.

Robert Blythe, miner, Wombwell, spoke to going to the colliery in company with West and remaining with him. West addressed the crowd advising them to be quiet, and took part in no assault. Complainant came out of the colliery yard, rolled up his sleeves and charged the mob. He did not notice Beck. Wm. Leadley, miner, who was in company with the last witness and Beck corroborated.

Herbert Ogden, Miner, Wombwell, said he went to the pit with Beck. When they got to the pit the crowd were passing a resolution to stop men working. He heard West speak to the crowd. When Theaker came to the gate Beck was with witness, six or seven yards from the colliery gate. On the first occasion Theaker went back but returned when he was assaulted.

Mr. Raley: "Did Beck take any part in that assault?"

Witness: " Not that I saw of him."

"Was he with you all afternoon?"

"Yes, up to 10 o�clock."

Cross-examined: Witness was with him the whole of the time. He never lost sight of him.

Mr. Rideal pointed out that according to him all the other witnesses had committed perjury, but he repeated that he never saw him attack complainant.

Edmund Gledhill, miner, spoke to West and Lisle not taking part in the row, but admitted that Beck was up to the colliery gates when Theaker came out.

The bench consulted in private, and upon returning the chairman said they hoped they had done with these rows. They were satisfied that both West and Lisle were there but the only evidence against them was that of the complainant. They dismissed the cases against them.

As for Beck, he worked at the colliery and would have known all the time the man was a bricklayer. It must have been a sheer desire to have a row that caused him to attack Theaker.

He would be fined 40s and costs, or have to go to prison for one month in default.

Endnote: James Theaker died in 1896, three years after the attack.


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