Licensing and Larceny in Bridport Borough

On Tuesday 7th February 1928 Bridport town hall was crowded, the Bridport News reported the largest attendance at a police court know in the town for many  years.  This was largely due to the fact that a case of larceny … was to be heard.

Superintendent’s Annual Report on Licensing

First the annual Licensing Session for Bridport Borough was heard by the magistrates, Mayor A. R. Travers, Aldermen E. S. Reynolds, W. G. F. Cornick, and G. A. Mabb.  According to Supt. Beck’s annual report there were 32 fully-licenses houses, 11 beer houses (including 2 off license premises), one wine and spirit licence. This was a reduction of one licenses house as the Dolphin Inn had closed at the end of the previous year.

In June 1927, the magistrates, police and owners of the Dolphin Inn, East Street, Bridport, Messrs. J. C. & R. H. Palmer of the Old Brewery, Bridport, agreed that the license should not be renewed. Supt. Beck pointed out that there was 9 other licensed houses within 250 yards of the Dolphin.  He also told the court that that the alehouse was less used than other houses in the borough.

The Supt. said he brought to the notice of the Bench the fact that an unregistered club was being run on the premises of the West Bay Hotel. This was a complex issue concerning a locked cupboard in the skittle alley, the alley was used by the club, which may or may not be licensed. After a discussion the Bench decided to visit the West Bay Arms before granting a renewal of the license to clarify the situation.  The Mayor also said that the Bench was concerned that there was too many licenses in the town and they proposed to visit all of them during the coming year.  When I wrote about the licenses in 1934 there were still 32 licensed houses.

The Superintendent report also read  I am of the opinion that considerable gambling goes on in some of the skittle alleys on Wednesday afternoons. 23 town pubs had extensions for the Wednesday Market day until 6pm.  The Bench tackled the issue of gambling on games of skittles. Mr Roper, who represented the licensees, argued that it was very difficult for either the licensee or the police to stop.  The licensees had turned anyone they discovered gambling off the premises.  Supt. Beck wanted skittle alleys to be closed  during the Market day extension.  He said that the Act under which the extension was granted was for refreshment not entertainment.  “Calf dealers and farmers do not want to put in their time at skittle alleys when they have business to do.”  The Bench decided to grant the extension but for one hour less to 5pm, on condition that the alleys were closed.

Theft of over 60 items discovered

On the same day as the licensing session above, the magistrates spent several hours dealing with a charge of larceny. Larceny is the unlawful taking of another person or businesses property and is now split into specific crimes of burglary, robbery, fraud, theft, and related crimes.  Elizabeth Brooks had been charged with attempting to steal an umbrella the week before,  the case was held over for the police to make further enquires. Elizabeth Brooks was married and lived at 64, North Allington.

When the police searched Mrs Brooks bedroom they found many other items reported missing by various tradesmen in Bridport.  Mrs Brooks pleaded not guilty to all the eleven charges of larceny brought against her.  Mrs Brooks was defending herself and when given the opportunity to ask the witnesses questions, did so in such a way as to make the crowd laugh.  “It is a big mistake. Are you certain it was me?”  to Mr Thomas Hallett, draper and outfitter of Cardiff House, West Street.  Supt. Beck expostulated with the crowd in court.  “If you do not keep quiet the Bench will turn you out. You must not take this as a theatre”, he said.

Elizabeth Brooks was found guilty of stealing, 3 umbrellas:  “I meet a women and she had several umbrellas, she asked me if I wanted to buy one for a shilling. I thought it was cheap so I bought one” was Mrs Brooks answer to one of the charges. Next was a charge of stealing 4 ladies jumpers, 11 pairs of knickers and 2 pairs of slippers identified as stolen from Henry Gower, outfitter, South Street. Defendant said the articles were purchased from hawker who called at her house. 2 door slips were identified as his property by Mr Hy Best, West Street, accused, said she picked up the slips which were lying near the edge of the pavement. Mr Arthur Perkins, outfitter, South Street identified 74 yards of casement, seven cushions and 1 shirt stolen from him. 20 shirts from Messers. Day and Sons, 3 more umbrellas and 5 shirts from Messers. Elmes Ltd.  A rug and hall tidy from Mr Gillham, house furnisher, South Street and 5 pairs of socks from Mr George Conning, draper, West Allington.  One further charge of stolen scents belonging to Mr D Evans, chemist, could not be bought as Mr Evans was not present in court.

After a lengthy deliberation the Mayor announced that he magistrates had decided to send the accused to prison for three months with hard labour.  He said the practice of certain tradesmen exhibiting goods in the streets and door ways was a temptation to some people and he hoped this practice might be discontinued.

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References Quotes in Italics:
Larceny (2016) in Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larceny (Accessed: 29 May 2016)

Bridport News: 1928, February 10 page 7
Western Gazette: 1927, July 1 page 4 Column 2

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