Sort file:- Canterbury, July, 2020.

Page Updated:- Friday, 31 July, 2020.


Earliest 1861-

Working Men's Music Hall

Latest 1861+

High Street



From the Kentish Chronicle, 8 June, 1861.



John Charles Smith Russell, who described himself as a beershop keeper, was brought up in custody on a charge of creating a disturbance in High Street St. Gregory, on the previous evening.

Mr. Delasaux appeared for the prisoner, and Mr. Fielding attended to watch the case, but, in reply to a question from Mr. Delasaux, declined to say for whom he appeared.

Some months ago Mr. G. H. Curtiss opened a place of entertainment in High Street, St. Gregory, which he named “The Working Man's Music Hall." Mr. Curtiss also obtained a license to sell beer by retail. For some time all went on well. Large crowds of both soldiers and civilians assembled nightly. At length, however, money begun to fail with the proprietor, and creditors, heretofore anxious to obtain the patronage of an energetic and pushing tradesman, grew suspicious and began to press for payments. Arrangements were talked of and attempted, but were found difficult to bring about, and for some purpose which has not been clearly explained, the license was transferred to a to a man named Russell. After this situation of one man for another Mrs. Curtis continued to preside in the bar of the beershop, and Russell though his name was over the door in said to have been content to obey instead of command. At length, however, he grew restless under restraint, and feeling, perhaps, that the man whose name adorned the signboard ought to rule within, he turned Mrs. Curtiss out of the bar and installed himself in her place. The next event in this curious history is that by which Curtiss, assisted by a number of friends, obtained possession of the premises and turned the key upon Russell, whose name was hauled down from over the door. Russell, determined to make a strenuous effort to regain possession of the stronghold, he so much coveted, made an attack upon the door with a crow-bar, thereby creating the disturbance which led to his appearance before the magistrates.

P.C. Holloway, on being sworn deposed. Last night, about half-past eight o'clock, I was sent for to these premises.

Mr. Delasaux:- Whose premises are they?

P.C. Holloway:- I do not know whose premises they are.

Mr. Delasaux:- You know very well. Do not fence with the question.

P. C. Holloway:- I mean the premises in High Street, St. Gregory. I do not know whose they are; they were Mr. Curtiss’s, and the prisoner says they are his, but I do not know anything about their private affairs. When I got there last night I found the defendant Russell, but no one else. Russell put a key in a door of the premises leading to a dancing room in the back yard, but it was locked and he could not open it. He then said to me "that is all I want you for," and immediately walked from me as quickly as he could. Shortly afterwards I met him in Palace-street with a “peeler” (a large iron crow-bar) in his hand. He was then going towards Northgate. I said to him “If you are going towards those premises in Northgate and make any disturbance in the street, you will be taken into custody.” I went off duty about 9 o'clock, and as I went towards home I found High-street, St. Gregory, completely blocked up with people. I and P.C. Groombridge got through the mob as well as we could, and as soon as we got through I saw Russell, who was stripped, and whose nose was bleeding, in the middle of the road, he and others were hurrahing, and some of them were inciting each other to pull the house down, I did not distinguish any one who appeared to be taking an active part in what was going on except the prisoner, who had a crow-bar in his hand, and was making a great noise. He appeared to have been drinking, and was very much excited. I took him into custody for the protection of the public, as several of the neighbours complained to me respecting the disturbance. I should say there were more than 400 persons collected together.

Cross-examined by Mr. Delasaux:- I have seen the defendant acting as waiter on these premises at times, but I have not seen him acting there as landlord. I have seen him there as waiter for Mr. Curtiss, and Mrs. Curtiss who attending to the bar. I have seen the defendant draw beer. I did not see the defendant assault anybody; but he was making a great noise. He did not tell me he was endeavouring to get into his own house. I did not know the premises were his. They had been Mr. Curtiss's and I had heard they had been transferred to the defendant; but I did not know anything about their private concerns.

I saw the defendant’s wife there, attending to the bar, on Monday night.

Mr. Delasaux:- I submit that there is no case whatever against my client. He was doing what he had a perfect right to do, endeavouring to get into his own house.

Mr. Fielding:- There is a lease of the premises which will show to whom they belong.

Mr. Delasaux:- I should like to know in what capacity my friend appears. If he offers himself as a witness I should like to examine him providing he will not take advantage of his position as legal adviser to Mr. Curtiss to answer questions which I may put to him.

Mr. Fielding declined to offer himself as a witness; but remarked that the lease would show who was tenant of the premises.

Mr. Delasaux:- But my client has become the sub tenant, having taken the premises for twelve months as I shall be able to show. The facts are something like these. Mr. Curtiss some time ago, as you are probably aware, opened a place of entertainment in Northgate, and having got into difficulties, he, by a most vile and fraudulent act induced his creditors to accept 5s. in the pound. In order that they might be deprived of what was justly due to them Mr. Curtiss, in a most fraudulent manner, disposed of his goods in different ways, I shall be able to show that Curtiss sent goods to different parties within the city. Among other things he got my client to take the premises from him at a rate of 15 for a year from the 27th April last to 27th April next, and transferred the stock to him for a consideration.

Mr. Aria:- Was there any agreement in writing to that that effect? If so, perhaps you will produce it?

Mr. Delasaux:- I shall call parole evidence.

Mr. Aris:- If there is a written document you must produce it; you cannot call evidence respecting it.

Mr. Delasaux:- I shall call evidence to show that my client is the tenant of these premises. After letting the premises to Mr. Russell, and knowing that a surety was required before the license could be transferred, Mr. Curtiss had the impudence to go with him to the Inland Revenue Office and offer himself as surety.

Mr. Fielding:- But how does that create a tenancy?

Mr. Delasaux:- The letting into possession will create the tenancy. I might have called the officer of Inland Revenue to prove the point that after Curtiss had accepted my client as tenant he became his surety for a year, but perhaps it will not be necessary to do that as I shall prove that he was in possession and acted as landlord. I shall show that we were only getting into our own house, which we had a perfect right to do, and that Curtiss and a number of other parties had broken into the house and stolen the ale for which we had paid.
Minter Austin, plumber and painter, of Palace Street, deposed:- I know the defendant Russell, who is my brother-in-law. Since 27th April last Russell has been the tenant of the premises in Northgate. I did not see him take possession, but I saw him there afterwards acting as landlord. By the defendant's orders I erased Curtiss’s name, and afterwards saw the defendants up. I have seen him paying the musicians who were performing there. I have frequently seen him in possession and acting as landlord. I have no reason to doubt but he was in possession of the premises and carrying on the business.

In cross-examination by the Bench, the witness said he was not present when any arrangement was effected between the defendant and Mr. Curtiss or any one else.

Mr. Fielding:- The fact is that Mr. Curtiss was in peaceable possession of the premises, and this man creates a disturbance by attempting to break open the door. Mr. Curtiss had done what he had a perfect right to do, and Mr. Delasaux knows that if his client claims any right to the premises be must proceed in another court.

Mr. Delasaux:- Mr. Curtiss and other parties who are acting with him have done a very infamous thing. They took forcible possession of the premises, which they had no right to do, and when my client attempted to get in they knocked him down with a hammer. They have drawn the ale and made use of the things which they had no right to. We know who they all are. They are Mr. Curtiss, a man named Browning, and Sneller, and 5 or 6 others. I have a list of them here. These men ought to have been brought before you, and not my client.

Mr. Aris:- The bench cannot take cognizance of any dispute as to the occupancy of the premises. The charge against Russell is of conspiring, with others, to cause a riot and create a breach of the peace.

Mr. Delasaux:- But there is no conspiracy shown. My client was endeavouring to get into his house, and it was the noise he made caused the crowd to Assemble. There was no conspiracy with any one.

Mr. Aris:- It would not be difficult to find out, I suppose, who supplied him with the crow bar.

Superintendent Davies:- O no, Sir. He got it from Mr. Lamb's, in White Horse Lane, and Mr. Lamb went with him from his house into Northgate.

Some one among the crowd here called out that the statement of the Superintendent was not true about Mr. Lamb going with the defendant.

After some further remarks from Mr. Fielding and Mr. Delasaux, Mr. Aris said the course open for the Bench was, if they considered that a breach of the peace had been proved, and if there appeared to be any danger of a renewal of the disturbance, to call upon the defendant to find sureties to keep the peace.

The magistrates consulted for a short time, at the conclusion of which the Mayor said they had decided to bind the defendant over to keep the pence, and to appear at the Quarter Sessions; himself in 40, and two sureties in 20 each.



CURTISS G H to 27/Apr/1861+

RUSSELL 27/Apr/1861+


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