Disgraceful riots at Waltham Cross

Hertfordshire Mercury, 2nd June 1900


Patriotic demonstrations following the relief of Mafeking turned into violent anti-Boer riots in Waltham Cross on Thursday 24 May 1900.  The story was that “over-zealous, hot-blooded young loyalists” suspected some residents of being Boer sympathisers. 

An unfounded report was that a Mr Allen Foster of Eleanor Cross Road had displayed a Boer flag and spoken out against the British and the youths immediately turned to violence.  A large number of youths gathered at Mr Foster’s house and started to hoot and sing patriotic songs.  A crowd then formed with the hooting increasing.  A stone was thrown through one of Mr Foster’s windows, which was immediately followed by a hail of stones and brickbats until almost all of the windows were broken.  The road was packed with people who egged on the wreckers and who became more incensed when Mr Foster did not appear.

The police were summoned and managed to prevent the crowd from going to the rear of the premises to wreck the house.  Initially the police were the subject of violent verbal and physical attack, but reinforcements managed to avert what would otherwise have been a serious riot.

During the fracas someone turned out the streetlamps and more stones were thrown at Mr Foster’s house.  However a policeman was able to relight the lamps and relative order was restored.  The crowd was so large it could not be moved on initially and some disturbance continued until the loyalist youths organised a procession which moved noisily towards the railway station and then through Eleanor Estate “all singing to the utmost of their lung power” and intending to eventually return to Mr Foster’s house.  However, the police anticipated their intention and created a barrier across the road at the Four Swans PH, and the crowd eventually dispersed.

Mr Foster placed a notice on Friday 25 May, refuting that he was pro-Boer and hoping that Pretoria would fall into the hands of the British.  He also said that his business would be closed until he could repair the damage caused.

On the Friday night a crowd assembled once again near his house but the police, both mounted and on foot, and with reinforcements from Waltham Abbey and Enfield Highway, dispersed the would-be rioters.  Orders were that anyone who threw stones or acted violently would be arrested immediately.  Shortly after 10 p.m. several youths were arrested near the Cross and taken to Cheshunt police station.  There was an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the prisoners and further arrests of some would-be rescuers were made.  Stones were thrown at the police station but no damage resulted.

On Saturday evening two-to-three thousand people visited the Cross, mainly as sight-seers, but the police had no further trouble.

Five cases relating to the riot were brought before the Cheshunt Petty sessions on Wednesday 30 May : Christopher Ballard aged 16, a sawyer of Waltham Cross was charged with disorderly conduct and throwing stones to the common danger at High Street Waltham Cross ; Thomas Everett, aged 20, a nurseryman of Waltham Cross was charged with disorderly conduct and throwing stones at Crossbrook Street ; William Isles, aged 19, a tailor of Waltham Cross was charged with disorderly conduct and using bad language at Turners Hill; Thomas Clulow aged 26, a carman of Waltham New Town was charged with disorderly conduct, throwing stones and damaging the uniform of P.C. Kimber ; and John Cooper aged 20, a warehouseman of Waltham Cross was charged with disorderly conduct and throwing stones at Turners Hill.  All the accused were convicted.

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