Scuffle at Vicarage 1915



At the Henley-in-Arden petty sessional court on Wednesday, before Mr. J. Booth (in the chair) and other magistrates, James Andrew McLoughlin of Olberrow Manor, was summoned by William Frederick Pelton, Vicar of Ullenhall, for a common assault on complainant at the latter place on the 23rd inst. Defendant was also summoned for willful damage to a pair of spectacles belonging to Mr. Pelton. McLoughlin, on his part, cross-summoned for a common assault at the same time and place. Mr. A. H. Bourne (Messrs Hannay and Bourne, Leamington) appeared for the defence on behalf of Mr. W.A. Coleman (Messrs Wright Hassall and Co.); and Mr. Pelton conducted his own case. The summonses were taken together, and Mr. Bourne entered pleas of not guilty.

Mr. Pelton remarked that his story was a very short and simple one. On Friday afternoon he happened to be near the front door of his house when the bell was violently rung. He went to see who was there, and found himself face to face with defendant. McLoughlin began to ask certain questions with reference to a conversation witness had had with Mrs. McLoughlin two hours previously.

Mr. Bourne: Will you state the exact words used by defendant to you?

Mr. Pelton said he could not recollect everything, but he remembered defendant, asking whether he (McLoughlin) or his wife owed witness anything. He replied that they did not. The conversation which took place on that occasion was, he understood, not relevant to the case under notice, but if the magistrates wished to hear it he had no objection. Upon receiving witness’s reply McLoughlin made use of most objectionable language – language unfit for anyone to hear, especially females in the house. Mr. Pelton said that he tried to soothe him, but his words appeared to have exactly the opposite effect. Defendant seized him by the collar of his coat, and he believed it was then that the collar produced was broken and a waistcoat button wrenched off. Witness warned him that legal proceedings would result from this act, and called upon someone in the house to go for the police. Not satisfied with treating him thus, McLoughlin proceeded to strike him somewhere on the chest. Witness retaliated, and defendant exclaimed, “That is exactly what I wanted you to do”. Mr. Pelton said that he succeeded in removing the man from the door-step, and the skirmish was finished off in the garden. During these proceedings his spectacles were damaged, and he had received a bill for 6s from a firm of opticians to rectify them.

Mr. Bourne: Referring to this conversation with defendant’s wife. Did you, about two hours before, go and see some Belgian refugees in Mr. McLoughlin’s cottage?

Mr. Pelton: Yes; but is that point relevant to this case? If the magistrates think it desirable to hear what took place then I am quite willing they should.

Mr. Bourne: To get to that cottage did you go through his premises?

Mr. Pelton: I did.

Mr. Bourne: And you came back the same way?

Mr. Pelton: Yes.

Mr. Bourne: I suppose you will admit that there is another way leading to this cottage without going through defendant’s premises?

Mr. Pelton: It is not the only way, but it is the obvious way.

Mr. Bourne: Then your contention is that you are entitled to use it when you please?

Mr. Pelton: I do not say that; but there is a notice there to say that when you go through you are to shut the gate, and I have always taken care to do so.

Mr. Bourne: As you came back on Friday Mrs. McLoughlin saw you?

Mr. Pelton: As I was closing the gate she came hastily to me, and, in a very insolent tone, asked me what business I had there. I replied, “If you do not want people to go through the gate you should put a notice up to that effect”.

Mr. Bourne: I suppose you will not deny that your action in going through her kennel-yard, where almost twenty dogs are kept, would rather disturb them?

Mr. Pelton: Yes; they were barking.

Mr. Bourne: What did you say in reply to Mrs. McLoughlin?

Mr. Pelton: My words were, “When you have paid the debts you owe you had better learn to speak decently to other people”.

Mr. Bourne: What right had you to say that?

Mr. Pelton: Because it is a notorious fact. She is a party to her husband’s evasion of the law.

Mr. Bourne: Do you think, then, that she is liable for her husband’s debts?

Mr. Pelton: Morally she is; legally she is not.

Mr. Bourne: What was exactly the meaning of the answer you returned to her?

Mr. Pelton: I meant that she was not likely to study politeness unless they practiced honesty.

Mr. Bourne: Did you say this – “I knew when I came here that I was coming into a den of thieves”?

Mr. Pelton: She turned on me and called me an old hound. I replied, “Just the thing that might be expected from a set of thieves”.

Mr. Bourne: You implied, then, that they were a set of thieves?

Mr. Pelton: I have told you what I said. Imply what you like!

Mr. Bourne: When Mr. McLoughlin came to your place did he say, “You have called at my house, and insulted my wife”?

Mr. Pelton: He might have done so.

Mr. Bourne: I think he also told you that you were a disgrace to the cloth.

Mr. Pelton: He might have done so. However, it is a mild thing to what he said afterwards.

In further cross-examination, witness declared that defendant used the bad language complained of, and that it was he who struck the first blow. He admitted that he had a hazy idea of certain incidents, but he was quite sure of his ground on that point. He did not know it at the time, but he was told afterwards that somebody in his employment took a stick, and struck defendant with it. Roughly speaking, the struggle lasted ten minutes.

Mr. Bourne: After it was over your wife invited him to bathe his injuries?

Mr. Pelton: Yes.

Mr. Bourne: Did you say, “I won’t have him on the premises”?

Mr. Pelton: I did not know at that time that he was injured very much, and I thought it better for him to go home as he was and advertise his escapade.

Maria Smith, in the employ of Mr. Pelton, said that defendant came to the Vicarage, and used very bad language. He asked complainant whether he (McLoughlin) or his wife owed him anything, and followed this up by calling him a thief, rogue, and vagabond, in addition to stronger expressions. Defendant then took the Vicar by the coat, and struck him twice on the chest. Mr. Pelton retaliated, and McLoughlin exclaimed , “That is just what I wanted you to do.” A scrimmage ensued on the ground, and, fearing that the Vicar might get the worst of the encounter, witness took a stick in both hands and gave defendant a sharp rap on the head. McLoughlin’s object was to knock Mr. Pelton’s head against the wall or trip him on the steps.

Amelia Pennell, also in complainant’s employ, declared that defendant struck the first blow, but in the cross-examination of both witnesses there appeared to be some doubt as to whether they witnessed the beginning of the scrimmage.

Mrs. Pelton said she was upstairs when the trouble commenced, and she heard Mr. Pelton call to her daughter to telephone for the police.

Mr. Bourne, in opening the case for the defence, said that Mr. Pelton admitted in cross-examination that he had had some words with Mrs. McLoughlin about going on their premises. Mr. McLoughlin was a man who dealt with dogs, and had previously remonstrated with Mr. Pelton on this subject. Returning home on Friday, defendant found that his wife had been insulted. He went down to the Vicarage to demand an explanation, and his story was that he talked very strongly and straightly to complainant. The whole point was “Who struck the first blow?” McLoughlin declared that after certain words had been uttered on the doorstep Mr. Pelton went into the porch and called for someone to telephone for the police. McLoughlin turned his head and said, “Yes,” and complainant then struck him.

McLoughlin bore out this statement, and added that he then said, “That is just what I wanted you to do. You have a man to deal with now, not a woman.” Complainant seized him by the hair and punched him in the stomach, while Mrs. Smith belaboured him with a stout piece of wood.

Reginald Gallagher said he was staying at Oldberrow House with Mr. and Mrs. McLoughlin. On Friday afternoon he drove with Mr. McLoughlin to Ullenhall, and waited in the road with the trap. A few moments after he heard a commotion, and, looking between the trees, he saw someone with an uplifted stick.

The bench retired, and on their return the Chairman said they considered that in the first case, Pelton v. McLoughlin, there was insufficient evidence to show who struck the first blow. It would, therefore, be dismissed. The cross-summons was dismissed for the same reason, and each party would have to pay their own costs. The magistrates were of opinion that the language used by Mr. Pelton to Mrs. McLoughlin was most unclerical and undignified and, on the other hand, they thought that McLoughlin’s intention in going to the Vicarage was to do something calculated to bring about a breach of the peace. The affair was not creditable to either party.

Mr. Pelton: Can I make any appeal?

The Chairman: No.

Mr. Pelton: All I can say is that I strongly resent your remarks.

[Stratford-upon-Avon Herald 30/04/1915]

Two weeks later the parties were again at the Henley-in-Arden petty sessions. Rev. Pelton had summoned Mr. McLoughlin for “alleged offences arising out of the recent scuffle at Ullenhall Vicarage. In the first place defendant was summoned ‘for that he, in a certain place within hearing of a certain street there situate, did unlawfully use indecent language, contrary to the bye-law in that behalf;’ and, secondly, it was alleged that McLoughlin used abusive and insulting language so as to occasion a breach of the peace”.

Mr. Pelton brought the proceedings as he argued that seven people in the Vicarage had had “this filthy language poured into their ears, and to let a man off who was guilty of using such expressions would be quite unworthy of those who were the custodians of public decency”.

The Chairman dismissed the case as there was “no sufficient proof that language was used to the annoyance of any resident or passenger”.

Regarding the second summons alleging that Mr. McLoughlin used abusive and insulting language so as to occasion a breach of the peace. Mr. Coleman [for the defence] “said that on the last occasion defendant was in peril of going to prison or being fined for an assault, and, therefore the very evidence with which Mr. Pelton sought to prove these threats formed part of the evidence brought forward in the assault case. He submitted that the court had no jurisdiction to go into the present summons with precisely the same set of facts”.

The magistrates agreed with this and dismissed the case.

[Stratford-upon-Avon Herald 14/5/1915]