Summer assizes 1910 - Tipple

Hertfordshire Mercury, 25th June 1910


The Hertfordshire Summer Assizes were affairs of pomp and ceremony, intended to remind the local populace of the State’s ultimate authority. Two pillars of the establishment took part in the commencement of the Assizes ; law and religion.

The Assizes were opened by the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Alvestone. His Lordship arrived on Saturday evening at his lodgings (the home of Mr O.F. Christie). On Sunday morning His Lordship, accompanied by the High Sheriff (Sir Alf Reynolds), the Under Sheriff (Mr C.E. Longmore) and the Sheriff’s Chaplain (Rev. Arthur Athill) attended service at All Saint’s Church in State.

Business of Assizes was opened on Monday at 11a.m. The Lord Chief Justice spoke briefly on affairs of State and the question as to whether the State felt secure enough in itself to have the Assizes based permanently in London. He points to his views being aired separately from the business of the Assizes and refers the jurors to that place. Before the thirty men of the Jury could be sworn in, His Lordship referred to another contentious subject. Most of the men before him were keen to keep to the traditional means of being sworn onto a jury, by means of kissing the bible and His Lordship said he had no qualms with this method; in this way, the jurors were duly sworn in. The Lord Chief Justice briefly outlined the calendar for the Assizes and said there were some serious cases to heard.

The first case to come before court was one of brutal violence. Horace Tipple, 51, a butcher of Watford pleaded not guilty to a charge of wounding his wife, Elizabeth Tipple, with intent to do her serious grievous bodily harm on January 28th.

Forrest Fulton was prosecuting and Mr Turner acted for the defence.

Mr Fulton opened the case by saying that for some time friends of Horace Tipple had been worried by his having “given way to the drink” and on the night of January 27th, he went home “unquestionably the worse for drink and most violently assaulted his wife”.

The prisoner had taken a bottle of whisky home with him and had asked his wife to open it for him. When his wife refused, the prisoner became violent and struck her in the chest knocking her to the floor. A knock at the door halted Horace Tipple’s assault for the time being.

A friend of Horace Tipple was at the door. He was a police officer who had just finished secondment duty at the Watford election and had been invited to stay at the Tipple residence before returning to regular posting at Buntingford. Mr Tipple and the policeman, named Hunt, shared some supper together. Shortly afterwards the policeman retired to bed.

Horace Tipple went back upstairs to his bedroom and found that his wife had hidden the bottle of whisky and refused to tell him where it was. Horace Tipple became infuriated and again struck Elizabeth Tipple to the floor. At this point, Mrs Tipple’s live-in maid, Rhoda Nicholas came to see if her mistress was in need of help.

Horace Tipple threw a lighted paraffin lantern across the room at Rhoda who was standing on the landing. At this point it seems the sleeping policeman awoke from his slumber and went onto the landing to calm things down. However Rhoda was so frightened by the violent behaviour of Mr Tipple that she left the Tipple residence in a half dressed state to stay the rest of the night with neighbours. Rhoda Nicholas testified she was too scared to return to her mistress until noon the following day.

According to Forrest Fulton, it was when the maid had left and the policeman had gone back to bed that Horace Tipple’s sickening assault on his wife began. Mrs Tipple sustained severe injuries “of a very terrible nature, that need not be described here. It was sufficient to say the prisoner had carried out a brutal attack on his wife and she became unconscious”.

Such was the callousness of the prisoner, he left his wife locked up, smothered in blood. Even when the doctor was summoned he was not told of her injuries. Indeed it was not until a full examination took place four days later that the full extent of her injuries were known and the terrible injuries she sustained. Eventually Mrs Tipple was moved to a London hospital where she underwent a lifesaving operation.

Both Rhoda Nicholas and Pc Hunt gave evidence and corroborated the drunken state of Mr Tipple and the course of events; Rhoda Nicholas gave evidence of Tipple’s violent behaviour.

Mrs Tipple took to the stand and gave evidence. She stated that she resided at 6 Woodford Road, Watford and had been married to Horace Tipple for thirty years. She said on the night in question her husband had come home in a drunken state and wanted her to open the bottle of Whisky so that he could continue to drink . When she refused, her husband had become violent and made vile threats. Mrs Tipple’s evidence corroborated that of her maid and the off duty police officer. She said that when her husband had inflicted his final assault on her, she had felt tremendous pain her body and passed out of consciousness.

Mr Turner, acting for the defence questioned her on her friendship with a minister from her local church. The implication from Mr Tipple’s defence was she was being unfaithful with the minister and that had prompted Mr Tipple’s violent actions. it was the first of Horace Tipple’s attempts to smear his wife’s good name. Mrs Tipple denied there was anything other than a platonic friendship with the minister. Her denial was backed up by her maid who had earlier stated she had never seen anything untoward between her mistress and the churchman.

Mrs Beale, a friend of Mrs Tipple, called on the 28th January to see her and was greeted by her husband who said his wife was very ill. Mrs Beale looked in on her friend and could see that she was gravely ill. It was Mrs Beale who asked for a doctor to be sent for. Mrs Beale was also able to testify that she had spent the evening of the 27th January with Mrs Tipple and she hadn’t drank any alcohol. Mrs Tipple was quite sane and sober.

Dr H.A. Rudyard, in giving evidence described in detail the injuries he found had been inflicted upon Mrs Tipple. He also stated in the years he had been Mrs Tipple’s physician she had never displayed any signs of alcoholism.

Horace Tipple took the witness stand in his own defence and stated that foe six years he had been a Guardian, a member of Watford Urban District Council and Chairman of the Watford Trade Association.

He stated that he returned home that evening at 11.20 p.m. and found his wife “dead drunk” on the hearthrug. He called for the servant girl to help him and she knocked the lit paraffin lamp from his hand; he did not throw it. He did not in any way injure his wife that evening. He simply helped her up from the hearthrug and into bed. He had asked her if she wanted a doctor, which she declined so he kissed her goodnight and went to bed.

Tipple said all he had done to his wife that evening was, “slap her in the face when she refused to open the whisky.” He denied threatening to use violence and reiterated his statement that he was not drunk that evening. His wife was drunk but he was not, although he did admit to having a few drinks. He was adamant that he knew what he was doing and was in control of his mental faculties.

Mr Fulton, prosecuting, pointed out that everyone else had evidence that he was the worse the wear for drink and that his wife was sober.

This was Horace Tipple’s final attempt to call his wife’s good name into question. “She drinks at night, secretly. After I have gone to sleep, she creeps downstairs and drinks. I have to get up at three in the morning and carry her upstairs into bed.”

His Lordship asked if Horace Tipple had made a statement to his able defence solicitor about his wife’s alcoholism. Defendant had to admit he had not mentioned this before now.

In his summing up, the Judge said that the jury must decide whether the assault was premeditated and carried out in the cold light of reason or whether Horace Tipple has carried out the attack in a drunken brutal frenzy. It took the jury forty five minutes to reach a verdict of guilty on the lesser charge of Unlawful Wounding.

The Lord Chief Justice held his decision over until the second day of the Assizes to pass sentence. He told Horace Tipple he had tried every means possible to besmirch his wife’s good name and had he been found guilty of the higher offence the sentence would have been severe. He had taken into account the terrible injuries he inflicted and sentenced Horace Tipple to four years’ penal servitude.


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