Battle of the Brickworks

Wallasey Local Board
7th December 1877
Liverpool Mercury

Works And Health Committee

The committee had been in communication with the Wallasey Brick and Land Company with reference to the closing of the footroad between Egremont ferry and Manor Road slip by the company. No terms had been come to, and it was recommended that the opinion of Mr. North, solicitor, should be taken on the subject.

Right Of Way Dispute At Egremont
8th December 1877
Liverpool Mercury

A brick making company, whose workers are situated between the Egremont Ferry and the manor slip, having stopped the footway adjoining the sea wall, the Wallasey Local Board have apparently determined on vindicating the public rights, and on Thursday night, between six and seven o’clock, the obstruction was removed by them. Yesterday morning the brickmaking company re-erected the barrier, which was again pulled down yesterday afternoon on the authority of the local board. It is stated that on both occasions the services of the Wallasey fire brigade were called into requisition, and, having laid the hose along the wall, with a full pressure of water on, they were prepared, if necessary, to meet with a plentiful supply of cold water any attempt interfere with the performance of their duty. We understand that no resistance was made. The attempted obstruction has excited considerably feeling in the locality, and great satisfaction is expressed at the prompt and vigorous action of the authorities.

Storming A Barricade At Egremont

10th December 1877
Liverpool Mercury

The stupid and dangerous course adopted by the brickmaking company of Egremont in opposing by force the determination of the authorities to keep open the roadway abutting the sea wall north of the ferry resulted in a great popular demonstration on Saturday, accompanied by scenes which raised the liveliest apprehensions of a formidable riot.

On Thursday and Friday last the company erected barricades across the roadway, and these, as previously reported, were removed by the authorities. During Friday night, however, the company constructed two formidable barricades, protected by trenches filled with water, and made other preparations which unmistakably indicated that active resistance would be made to any attack upon them. The likelihood of a “row” caused an immense gathering of people in the neighbourhood  early in the afternoon, and the number received large accessions as the fire brigade – in brass helmets and carrying their usual implements – mustered in the vicinity of the ferry between two and three o’clock. At this time Inspector Hindley and a body of fine stalwart policemen; while among the crowd were officials and several members of the local board.   

Some formal requests to remove the barrier having been made to the brickmaker's and refused, the storming party of firemen gallantly rushed to their task, and vigorously assailed the first barricade with axes and levers. What with the trench and the state of the outworks, inches deep in a claysy puddle – their task was no easy or pleasant one, and it was soon rendered much more difficult and unpleasant by hissing jets of steam from pipes connected with the boilers in the brickworks, which were brought to play upon them. The firemen’s response was cold water from the hose in sufficient quantity and force to speedily confound the enemy’s politics; and though enveloped in steam they could be seen now and then plying axe and lever with the utmost vigour, despite numberless unfriendly attentions from the brickmen behind the palisadings. While this excellent public service was being done, some persons inside the works thought it a good joke to utilise the bricks which lay plentifully about them, and a shower of these dangerous missiles were directed against the attacking party. Amongst these were many person who, unfortunately, did not wear helmets, and they speedily betook themselves to a safe distance.  At this critical juncture the police interfered with admirable promptness, and having “spotted” three or four of the men inside the works in the act of throwing the bricks, rushed in upon them and made them prisoners. This action, together with the intimation that such of the directors or shareholders who were egging the workmen on would, if they persisted, be dealt with in the same manner, as inciting to a breach of the peace, at once out a stop to the brick-throwing; and the upshot was the complete and speedy demolition of the barricades, amidst great cheering.    The appearance of many of the besiegers and defenders, covered with clay from head to foot, was a sight not to be forgotten. Our reporter hears that the workmen arrested were taken to the lockup, and subsequently bailed out.  Of course the affair caused intense excitement, and the brick throwing  incident aroused loud cries of indignation, which might have easily resulted in serious damage of property, if not to limb, for there were hundreds of sturdy fellows who were ready, if necessary, to storm the works as well as the barricades, and give the instigators of the obstruction a thorough ducking.

All through Saturday night and yesterday a force was kept ready for immediate action should another endeavour be made to stop the road.

The Right-Of-Way Dispute At Egremont
Magisterial Compliment To The Police
13th December 1877
Liverpool Mercury

At the Wallasey petty sessions yesterday, before Messrs Chambres (chairman), Penny, Bouch, Kerford, Mann, and Bulley, the three men in the employ of the Wallasey Brick and Land Company who, as already reported, were taken into custody for participation in a riot at Egremont on the 6th instant, appeared to their recognisances. Their names are Charles Loder (manager of the company), John Fishwick and Patrick Boyd (labourers), all charged with riotous conduct, and the last named with assaulting Police Constable 162.  Mr Wright, of the firm, Wright, Stockley and Becket, appeared for the accused.

From the full particulars of the occurrence which were published in the Mercury, it will be remembered that on Saturday afternoon, the 8th instant, an effort was made by the Wallasey Brick and Land Company to close to the public a piece of land about eight yards wide, running along the river wall on the Cheshire side from Egremont Ferry Pier to Manor Road or Maddocks slip, which had been used for many years as a footpath between the places >>

named. The company had recently purchased the land in question, public interfered. On Thursday last the company erected a barricade to prevent the public walking along the river wall, but that night it was removed by someone opposed to its existence. A similar barrier was erected on the following day, but a similar fate awaited it, and it was removed that afternoon. In neither of these cases was there any disturbance or opposition. On Saturday, however, the barricade had been again erected by the company and more ingenious appliances brought to bear against its demolition. About three o’clock p.m. on that day another attempt was made to clear the obstruction, the Wallasey fire brigade under Mr. Leather, lending their assistance. A crowd of about 4000 persons collected, and somewhat dangerous proceedings ensued. Fortified with large hammers, picks, &c, the members of the fire brigade commenced the work of pulling down the barrier, but were compelled to desist for a time by the company’s employees turning on steam from the works some distance behind into perforated iron tubes which had been placed on either side of the barricade. The police came upon the scene just in time to prevent a more serious disturbance, but, as it was, several stones and brickbats were thrown by men in the company’s yard as well as by their opponents on the river wall.

The first witness now called was Inspector Hindley, of the Cheshire County Police, who deposed in the main to the facts as already published. When he saw the affair was getting serious, he ordered the policemen present to take anyone into custody who threw stones. Two of the men in custody, Boyd and Loder, were on the company’s fence directing the steam from two tubes upon the people on the river wall. Witness handcuffed and took into custody the manger of the company (Loder). Police Constables 147, 162, 157, and 165 all gave corroborative evidence.

Mr. Wright submitted that the magistrates had no jurisdiction in the matter, inasmuch as it was purely a question of title to land.  An action would forthwith be brought by the company against those who were the instigators of the occurrence, and he would like to say a few words to convince the bench that the company have exclusive rights over the whole of the land referred to. Mr. Wright then went on to explain that the company, early in the present year, bought the land in question, and by the agreement entered into were to pay for every yard of it, including the portion in dispute. The men from whom they purchased it claimed the freehold and fee simple of every portion of the land without the reservation of any right of way whatever. The company erected their works in due course close to the river wall without any desire to prevent the public walking along the strip of land to and from Egremont Ferry. The lapse of time, however, without any interference would give the public a right of way, and as the bench would be aware, for 18 or 20 years the wall had been there. If for 20 years the public had used the passage without the company asserting its rights, a right of way would be established there, and what they considered a most valuable part of their property – namely the river frontage for shipping bricks – would lapse from them. It was only after very mature deliberation that the company had come to the conclusion to assert its right, and they only intended to keep the passage closed for a day or two. The company offered the local board some time ago £2000 worth of land if they (the board) would construct a road 10 yards broad along the river frontage, reserving to the company the right to use it as they otherwise would be entitled to use it for their tramways upon lines level with the road. The local board, however, refused to accept the offer. Subsequently due notice was given to the public that the road would be closed, and as it was their only course, the company erected the barricades, with the result already known. The steam pipe referred to was not concealed at all, and notice was given before the steam was turned on. In conclusion, Mr. Wright quoted from Okes’ Magisterial Synopsis, section 46, to show that the bench had no jurisdiction in the matter.

The Chairman said the magistrates thought they had jurisdiction in a case of riot like the present, but they would retire and consult their law advisor.

After a few minutes’ consultation the magistrates returned into court, and, having taken their seats, Mr. Chambres, addressing Mr. Wright, said that they understood that the brick company contemplated building another barricade. Stronger than those which has been built, and they wanted to ask if there was any truth in that report.

Mr. Wright replied that there was no truth whatever in it; the company did not contemplate any such action. There had been a meeting of the directors of the company since the disturbance, and they came to the unanimous conclusion that, in the face of the violence offered, it would not be right for them longer to hold their own, as owners of the property, but would be forced into bringing an action against the trespassers.

The Chairman - Then as the representative of the company, you can assure the court that no further obstruction will be placed there till the legal rights of both sides can be ascertained?
Mr. Wright – Most certainly.

The Chairman replied that the bench were of opinion that direct excess of force had been used, and that the magistrates had jurisdiction. If it had not been for what had just fallen from the lips of the legal representative of the company they would have felt it their duty to send the case to the sessions for trial, where most likely a severe sentence would have been passed. As it was, the bench could not countenance anything in the shape of a riot. On the occasion in question, the magistrates thought, the police, under Inspector Hindley, had acted in a most admirable manner, and had done exactly that which the law required them to do. The inspector did not lose his presence of mind, but called to many of the people by name, and by that means put a stop to that which most likely would have ended in bloodshed.  The bench were further of opinion that he did not use any excess of force, and that in putting handcuffs on the unfortunate person who was manager of the company (Charles Loder) he did what was perfectly right, because in the sight of 2000 or 3000 people he showed the supremacy of the law, and that it must be obeyed.  The bench were exceedingly sorry for the three men brought before them, in one sense, but they could not reprobate too strongly their conduct from another point of view. They were acting as the agents of the company, the chairman of which was a member of the local board of health, and were advised by a legal man who was, unhappily, a member of the local board, and who was very recently chairman of that board; all of which circumstances aggravated the case. Those men were employed by the company to commit an excess of violence in what they considered to be an assertion of their rights. The court had, however, nothing to do with the rights on one side or the other, but simply to uphold the peace, which must be preserved. In regards to the defendant Fishwick, it was quite clear that he did not throw stones or brickbats, though he had one in his hand, which he dropped, happily for himself, on seeing the police. The defendants Loder and Fishwick would be bound over to keep the peace for six months – themselves in £100 each, and two sureties in £50 each. Patrick Boyd would be bound over in the same amount, and would, in addition, have to pay a fine of 20s and costs for his assault upon the police officer. In conclusion, Mr. Chambres expressed the hope of the bench that a case of that kind would never again occur in the parish.

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