Tag Archives: 1910

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


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.

Henry Woods, pig dealer

Henry Woods, and sons, had a large piggery off the west side of Church Road, on the allotments shown in this 1910 OS map, north side of Batsworth Road.

1910 OS map

Although not named as belonging to Henry Woods, that these allotments were used for piggeries can be seen in the swine fever notice from 1915:

Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser – Saturday 27 March 1915
Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

In the 1904-1905 street directory he is listed as pig dealer in Locks Lane, although this may have been his residence as his family later occupied houses in what was later called Eastfields Road.

Henry WOODS, pig dealer

2, Mrs Emma SCHMIDT, laundress
Charles WELLER
Edward THUMWOOD, carman

These photos were taken at the piggeries off Church Road, and, although the date is not known, they were taken before 1922, when Henry Woods senior died.

Henry Woods senior is second from the left, and George E. Woods on far right.

Henry Woods senior is first on the left, and George E. Woods is second from the right, with piglets.

Henry Woods is first on the left, with his hand on he horse, and George E. Woods is second from the right.

The following biographical information is kindly provided by a descendant, who has also supplied photos from the family collection.

Henry Woods was born in Walworth in 1854. His Father Charles was born 1819 in Andover and was an Agricultural worker who moved to London and ended up doing one of the worst jobs in the world working in one of the tanneries along the South of the Thames.

Henry lived with Jane Harriet Billam who was born in 1858 in Lambeth. Jane’s family are listed as possibly Horse Traders. Why they decided to move to Mitcham is not known, but they seem to have become successful quite quickly.

Rose E Woods, born 1910, and daughter of George E Woods had said that Jane Billam ‘Held the Purse strings’ and would hold money in a purse hidden in her petticoats. By all accounts she was a formidable woman who George E Woods had a strained Mother/Son relationship with. At one point he left the family and went to Canada. He came back met and met Rose Bridger who was friends with Elizabeth Woods and they became engaged. In Canada he signed The Pledge and wouldn’t have alcohol in his house.

His extended family lived in Rosemary Villas, Eastfields Road.

Woods family group. Back row, 4th from left Rose Woods with her husband George E. Woods behind her, with his hand on her right shoulder. Third row, 2nd from the right is Elizabeth Hepworth nee Woods, with her husband, 1st from right, George Wheldon Hepworth. Second row, 2nd from right is Henry Woods with his wife, 1st from right, Jane Billam.

News Articles
Islington Gazette – Thursday 03 March 1904


William Hetherington, coachman, 49, St. Helena place, Clerkenwell, v. Henry Woods, farmer, Lock’s-lane, Mitcham.

Claim for £50, as damages in respect of personal injuries received. Mr. Green was counsel for plaintiff, and Mr. Ward for defendant. The case came before a jury. Plaintiff stated that on August 11th last he drove a traveller to the Broadway, Wimbledon. His horse and brougham was standing outside a jeweller’s shop whilst the traveller was making a call, when a drove of pigs belonging to defendant came along the road. On reaching his brougham one of the pigs broke away and rushed underneath his horse’s legs. This caused the horse to take fright, and in trying to prevent it from bolting he was thrown down. – The brougham passed over him, and two of his ribs were fractured, causing his detention in the local hospital for 17 days. John George Field, who witnessed the accident, described the pigs as “a pretty ordinary lot., except one.” This one broke away, and on the drover smacking the whip, the pig squealed and dashed underneath the horse’s legs. He himself bad been a drover, and did not think the right means were used for getting the runaway pig back to the drove. It ought to have been lightly touched on the side of its head instead of being struck on the back with a whip.

Mr. Ward — Are you an expert in pig driving?
— No; I understand driving them.
Is a whip, and not a stick, the proper thing to drive pigs with?
— I have driven them with a whip and stick.
Then it is a matter of taste? Mr. Green
— Not so far as the pigs are concerned. (Laughter.)
Mr. Ward — Which do you think a pig would like best?
— You have asked me something now.
Is it not customary for a drover to use a whip?
— In nine out of ten cases they do.

Mr. Green — Did the cut from the whip make the pig squeal?
— Yes.
Did it sound like “There is nothing like leather? ”
— (laughter)
— No ; it was a short snappy squeal.

For the defence, it was stated that plaintiff had left his horse and was looking in a shop window when the pigs came along. Neither of the pigs broke away as stated by plaintiff. In fact, they had all passed before the horse moved. Defendant said he saw the horse starting off and he shouted to plaintiff. who was still looking in the shop window. Plaintiff made a run for the horse, and caught his foot in the reins, which were partly on the ground. This caused him to fall, and the brougham went over him.

Continuing his evidence, defendant said he worked for his wife, who carried on the business of a pig dealer. He had no interest whatever in the business.

Mr. Green thereupon applied for an adjournment, and asked leave to add defendant’s wife as a defendant. If plaintiff recovered a judgment against the present defendant be would not get the slightest benefit from it.

The Judge said he had no other course than to adjourn and accede to the application.

Addressing the jury, his Honour said :—

” I am sorry to have to bring you here again, but I know you are as anxious as lam for justice to be done. It is one of those cases in which the wife is said to be the owner of this business. I suppose that in a short time all our wives will be carrying on business and we shall be in the position of servants, happy in the fact that we are all free from legal lability.”


The jury then left the box.

Maps are reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.