At Hitchin Petty Sessions on Tuesday, four members of the Salvation Army – namely, Ernest Crawley, George Cowing, William Cawcutt, and John Reuben Newman – were charged with an offence against the county by-laws by playing musical instruments on the highway within a hundred yards of a dwelling-house after being asked to go away. Mr Frost, solicitor, defended.
The complainant, William Disbrey, a railway signalman, stated that while the defendants were playing in the street opposite his house he went out and spoke to Crawley as follows: ”I have got a sick person in my house, and you are making yourself a nuisance”. Crawley said: ”I will not move for you or anyone else; go home and read your Bible”. Witness asked them to go away, but they remained there singing and playing for twenty minutes. His wife had been confined to her bed for some weeks, and had just been able to get downstairs. This happened on the afternoon of Sunday, February 11th. His neighbours in Florence Street swore very much at times about the nuisance caused by the Salvation Army Band.
Cross Examined : He recognised the signatures of fifty persons, neighbours of his, to the produced petition in favour of the band playing in Florence Street. An officer of the Salvation Army called on him afterwards and expressed great regret if a sick person had been disturbed, saying care would be taken that no annoyance would be caused in future. He told the officer he would not withdraw the summons.
Harriet Bertha Disbrey, the complainant’s daughter, gave corroborative evidence.
Mr Frost urged that the complainant came out in an excited state : pushed his way into the circle formed by the band : called the defendants blackguards, and said they were a nuisance. Not a word was said about illness in the house, nor was a request made for them to leave. The regulations of the Salvation Army laid it down in the strongest manner that when the bandsmen heard of there being illness in the neighbourhood they were at once to cease playing and singing. This band had always carefully observed that regulation.
The defendants who were examined on their own behalf, bore out the statement of Mr Frost.
The Justices convicted but only ordered that the defendants pay the costs of 3 shillings each. This they refused to do, and distress warrants were issued.