1910 Shooting over fair pitches

Music Hall and Theatre Review – Thursday 1st September 1910

Guns at Mitcham.

At Croydon Police Court on Friday Henry Harris was committed for trial at the next Guildford Assizes, having been charged with the attempted murder of Frederick Gray, aged fifty, of Wandsworth-road, and Henry Gray, aged twenty-six, of Kensal-rise, by shooting them with a revolver at Mitcham-green on August 12. The injured men attended the court. Mr. A. A. Strong said it was customary for the showmen to take up their positions on the Thursday before the fair, and the members of the Showmen’s Guild had their places allotted by the Guild, so that everything should be done in order. This year, on reaching Mitcham the showmen found that, owing to the notoriety the fair had gained through the action of the local conservators, the ground was occupied by gipsies. On the Wednesday before the fair the Grays found the site they usually occupied was in Harris’s possession. The prisoner, said counsel, was not a showman. Showmen did not carry revolvers, and were a most orderly and law-abiding folk.

Harris carried on small coal business at Battersea. Occasionally he had gone with shows, and the Grays had helped him. The elder Gray, knowing he had no legal claim to the site, offered Harris £5. On the first day of the fair they had not yet come to an agreement. Frederick Gray was under the impression on Thursday night that Harris had agreed to accept £6 and a use of a portion of the ground. Accordingly instructions were given for the roundabouts to be erected on Friday, but he found Harris was still in possession. About mid-day prisoner asked witness what he was going to do, and witness said, ” I’ve finished,” and Harris then said, ” I haven’t finished with you.” Between 1.30 and 2 o’clock as witness and his son were walking round the fair ground, Harris ran in front of them, and without a word pointed a revolver at them from a distance of eight or nine paces, and fired several shots.

After being treated by a local doctor witness and his son were taken to Guy’s Hospital, remaining until Wednesday last. A bullet was extracted from his chest, and a doctor told him that if it had been half an inch further to the left, the wound would have been fatal.

Harry Gray, the son, denied that he struck prisoner, or that his father threatened him.

The incident was reported in the Croydon’s Weekly Standard – Saturday 20th August 1910

TWO SHOT AT A FAIR

A shooting affray marked the opening of Mitcham Fair on Friday. Two showmen, Frederick Gray and Harry Gray, his son, were shot and Henry Harris, the proprietor of a “Hoop-la” booth was arrested. The incident occurred about two o’clock in the afternoon, when the fair was crowded with people. It is said that the Grays and Harris quarrelled over a pitch. A heated dispute ensued, during which, it is alleged, Harris pulled out a revolver – and fired at the two Grays. The crowd promptly scattered in all directions, and took shelter behind the nearest caravans. Harris, it is said, ran after the Grays with a revolver in his hand, but a young woman named Maria Herrick, in the employment of the elder Gray, ran up to him, and pluckily wrenched the revolver from him. Immediately after the police came up and arrested Harris. Altogether, four shots were fired. In view of the crowded state of the ground, it is remarkable that no more people were hit. Frederick Gray was wounded in the back, and his son Harry in the chest. Both are doing well.

As regards the fair itself, the action of the Mitcham Common Conservators during recent years in attempting to stop it has apparently only resulted in making it more popular. The number of shows is greater this year than ever before. The Conservators took out against twenty-two showmen for taking up places forty-eight hours before the time allowed, which was Thursday noon.

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