Shall Velocipedes Be Admitted Into Peel Park? (1869)

Shall Velocipedes Be Admitted Into Peel Park?

Yesterday, at the Bradford Borough Police Court, before Mr C Semon and Alderman Brown, a case was heard which caused considerable amusement. Three police-constables, Bartle and Bowling, of the borough and Whitaker, of the West Riding Constabulary, appeared to answer a charge of assault preferred against them by James Longbottom, a billiard marker at the German’s club. Mr J W Berry appeared for the complainant and the officers were defended by the Town Clerk (Mr W T MeGowen). – Mr Berry opened the case at some length and said the three policemen were charged with an assault upon Longbottom on Sunday last. The assault complained of was not an aggravated assault, but the proceedings had been taken by the complainant to test a rather important question. On Sunday last he went to the park with a velocipede as he thought, for the purpose of having a little enjoyment, and as it was Sunday he did not like to ride his velocipede through the streets, so it was taken there for him. He went into the park through the gate at the Bolton Road end, along the carriage road and from thence on to the terrace, on the velocipede. True it was that there was some regulation in the park to the effect that carriages and horsemen should not be allowed on the terrace; but his (Mr Berry’s) contention was that a velocipede was not a carriage, because it appeared from the interpretation of the word “carriage,” it meant some method of locomotion by which the person was drawn. He thought if they had a dictionary, well furnished with information, they would see that they could not properly call a velocipede a carriage, because it depended entirely for its motive power upon the person who propelled it. It certainly was not a horse (laughter), although it might at one time have been called a hobby-horse and it appears to be the complainant’s hobby to ride it (renewed laughter). It was not a horse, it was not a carriage, but was an instrument which had to be propelled by the person riding upon it – Mr Semon; perhaps you will tell what it is; (laughter). – Mr Berry; it is not a horse, it is not a carriage, – Mr Semon; you have told us what it is not, but you have not told us what it is. – Mr Berry proceeded with his address and said that one class of carriages was allowed upon the terrace and that was perambulators. These instruments were continually allowed there and in order to prevent accidents of a similar kind to that which occurred some time ago, happening to perambulators, railings had been erected at each side of the bridge, in order to prevent them running down into the park. His client went on to the terrace, knowing that perambulators were allowed and he did not see why his instrument should not. While he was there two police officers – three being present – went to him and warned him to go off. At this request he did leave the terrace and went into that part of the park – the carriage road – where he (Mr Berry) was sure there would be no question raised as to his right to go, for at the very same moment there were two or three cabs there. He would show the bench that when the complainant got there, was coming down the road towards the Bolton gate, the officers laid hands upon him and insisted upon his immediately leaving the park. They told him they would not allow him to be in any part of the park. All the officers laid hands upon him – not violent hands, he would not say that – and the charge had been preferred in order to try the question of the right of the complainant to be there, and the right of the defendants to take hold of the velocipede and order him out of the public park. The complainant had certainly a right to drive his velocipede in the streets and surely the carriage drives in the park could not be subject to any different bye-laws and providing he was riding orderly and peacefully along he was justified in doing so. He did not wish the bench to fine the policemen, but to adjudicate upon the question as to whether the complainant and his velocipede was legally turned out of the park. – Alderman Brown said Mr Berry must prove to their satisfaction that an assault had been really committed. – Mr Berry said his client did not come into court to ask for any penalty, he came there solely from a sense of duty, because he said he had a right to be allowed to remain in the park. – James Longbottom was then examined by Mr Berry, and stated that on Sunday last he was in the park with a velocipede. He went to the terrace and when there the police came and wished him to leave the park, and told him he had no right on the terrace. He went off the terrace when requested and went on to the carriage road. The officer then came to him and said that if he did not leave the park they would take him and his machine into custody (laughter). They laid hands upon him, but as there appeared to be a rist brewing he consented to leave the park before he could have a row. When they laid hands on him they said they were going to turn him out. He was in the park on Monday and there saw some velocipedes on the terrace. The complainant was cross-examined by the Town Clerk and said that he was driving the velocipede at about the rate of six miles an hour along the terrace. He went off the terrace when requested. The Town Clerk: Instead of going away, did you not turn upon the park officer and threaten to strike him? Complainant: I cannot remember. Town Clerk: Will you deny it? Complainant: I will not. In re-examination, witness stated that he did not strike the park-keeper and he did not remember whether he threatened him or not: he was excited. – The complainant’s brother and a man named Hamstock was called in support of the case. – The Town Clerk, in defence, said but for the purpose of justice it was a waste of time to go on with the case further. In a public park, a place appointed for the amusement and delight of the inhabitants of the borough and on a Sunday afternoon when there were walking about with their children, a number of persons in their better dress, the complainant had thought proper to go upon the terraces and drive a velocipede up and down at the rate of six miles an hour. That of all the places was the most unsuitable place that could be selected. There were notices along the terrace stating that neither horses nor carriages were allowed on, but any decent man would want to notice at all to make him aware that he was doing that which was improper. The corporation were  the trustees of the park and the conditions on which they held it were – first, that it should be opened to the public at large: and secondly, that it should be used by persons in a peaceable and orderly manner. He would ask the court if they could see anything like peaceableness, or anything more grossly disorderly, than that a man on Sunday afternoon, of all days in the week, should deliberately ride a velocipede up and down the terrace. The man himself had said that he would not do it in the streets, but when he got there he began driving about amongst people, causing them to run among the shrubs and do all manner of harm. The Corporation held the park on the condition that it was kept peaceable and orderly and he contended that nothing could be more disorderly than acts of that description. The complainant himself has stated that as he was coming out of the park there was a crowd and likely to be a row and that induced him to go away. The police were appointed to keep the peace and it was their duty to prevent any disturbance. As the complainant was the cause of the disturbance, he contended that the officers would have been doing no more than their duty if they had taken him into custody and locked him up till Monday morning. They need not wait until a disturbance took place, but it was their duty to prevent it and he contended that the officers were justified in getting the complainant out of the park to prevent a disturbance. Mr Berry, he contended had not proved that the police had gone beyond their duty and the proceedings had only been taken to test whether a man might take a velocipede and drive it up and down the terrace in the park. – Mr Berry said that was not his proposition; the  proposition he laid down was whether the police had a right to eject the complainant from the park when he was on the carriageway with his velocipede. – The Town Clerk continued his remarks and pointed to the fact that the complainant could not remember whether he had threatened to strike the park officer in the face and saying he could not recollect, amounted in his opinion to a confession. With regard to the question as to whether the velocipede could come under the head of a carriage or not, Mr McGowen said one of the borough bye-laws after mentioning various kinds of conveyances, prohibited “a child’s cart, a wheelbarrow and any other vehicle,” being run along a public footpath. Another bye-law prohibited anyone “to roll, draw, or drive” any vehicle along a footpath, and he (the Town Clerk) asked if sitting upon a beam and working a machine with the feet, whereby that machine was propelled, was driving or it was not driving (laughter). – Mr Berry said the park was not in the borough and therefore the bye-laws could not affect his case. – The Town Clerk: then why are we brought here? (to the Borough Court). Mr Berry said he had found out his mistake; he had made inquiry and found that the park was in the borough. – After some further remarks from the Town Clerk, Mr Semon said the opinion of the bench was that the officers were only discharging their duty, therefore the case would be dismissed.

The Bradford Observer, May 22, 1869; pg 4


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