Showmen's quarrel at Rye House

Hertfordshire Mercury, 25 August 1906


Samuel Bilton, showman, of Rye House, was charged on remand with unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grevious bodily harm on George Graham, of Rye House, on August 4th.


The evidence taken last week was read over. Graham alleged that on the Sarturday in question the defendant’s father threatened to knock his brains out with a piece of iron, and he picked up a shovel to defend himself. Thereupon the son rushed up with a piece of wood and struck him on the head. He put up his hand to ward off the blow and sustained a broken thumb.

In re-examination Graham said that Bilton was still residing at Rye House, and had several times threatened him since the assault on August 4th. He denied that he struck the prisoner’s father with a shovel.

Mr. J.G. Watkins, house surgeon at the Hertford Infirmary, said that he saw Graham at the Infirmary at five o’clock on August 4th. On examining him he found that the end joint of the right thumb was dislocated backwards, and that there was a shortening of the thumb owing to the contraction of the muscles. The man was in great pain. He endeavoured to reduce the dislocation, but afterwards had to give him an anesthetic to complete the operation and put the thumb in splints. Graham was still under treatment for the injury. It was a serious dislocation, and the ligaments were torn. He thought the man would be able to use the thumb in about a week’s time.

Strike him

The defendant said he had nothing to say except that he was taking the part of his father because Graham was going to strike him.

P.c. Carter said that on August 11th he heard the defendant say to Graham ”After this case is over I will ______ well kill you”

Defendant was then formally charged, and in reply said ” I stepped up to take my father’s part. If I had not stopped him from hitting my father with the shovel he would have been killed. He struck my father twice, and my father fell under the van to escape the blows. There were a lot of otter hunters present, and they cried shame on him for striking at my father.”

”I’ll knock your _____ brains out”

John Bilton, father of the defendant, said he was staying at the Rye House with shows and swings. On the Saturday in question he went to a shop to buy Graham a pair of trousers, because his were a disgrace. He did not know him by the name of Graham, but called him ”Soldier” having picked him up on the road. When he came across the Rye House grounds he saw him and his son Samuel jangling and having a row. He ran across and said ”What’s the matter with you, Soldier? ”Soldier used a lot of bad language, and he (witness) then said ” Put on your coat, take what you’ve got, and sling your hook.” Thereupon Graham went across to the van where he had been sleeping. Witness followed him, and said ”Have you got any of the other chaps’ things ? ” When he came down the steps witness said to him ”What have you got there?” Graham used more bad language,and taking up a shovel said ”I’ll knock your _____ brains out.” Witness jumped back and fell over the van shafts. Graham struck at him again, and he (witness) slipped down underneath the shafts to avoid the blow and crept out on the other side. In the meantime his son (defendant) had come up with a piece of wood to stop a third blow. Graham then ran way, and in doing so slipped against a tree and fell face downwards. He had been drinking all morning.

In cross-examination by Graham, witness denied that he picked up a piece of iron and threatened to strike him (Graham) with it.

Graham: Yes, you did, and then I took the shovel and said ” If you strike me with that I will hit you with the shovel” You then said ”Put the shovel down ,” and I did so.

In answer to the Magistrates’ Clerk witness admitted that his son picked up a piece of wood, but did not strike Graham with it; his son only held the wood over his head to protect┬áhim from Graham’s blow.He did not see Graham’s thumb injured.

Thomas Bates, in the employ of John Bilton, said he saw Graham strike at his employer with a shovel, and also witnessed defendant pick up the piece of wood to protect his father.

Albert Jennings, of Rye House, said he saw the quarrel, and corroborated the other witness for the defence. The only difference in his testimony was that he alleged that defendant actually knocked the shovel out of Graham’s hand with the piece of wood.

Robert Smith,Emma Bilton, wife of defendant, David Bilton, his brother, Sarah Bilton, his sister, and Victoria Harrington, another little girl, gave evidence of a similar nature.

The defendant was committed for trial at the Quarter Sessions, bail being allowed.




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