This Day in ... 1885
SERGEANT MATTY LIGHTFOOT GAVE EVIDENCE IN 'DUSTY HARMONIUM PANTOMIME' CASE
Police Sergeant Matthew 'Matty' Lightfoot was one of Waterfurlong's gardeners during the late Victorian and Edwardian years. A month after gaining his Sergeant's rank he was called to give evidence at Stamford County Court in the colourful case of Cade -v- Ward.
Charles Cade was an established Stamford confectioner with a large shop in St John's Street and strong anti-vaccination views. Cade had been fined ten shillings for failing to have his nineteen month-old daughter Amy vaccinated against smallpox and had refused to pay on the basis that fines as low as sixpence had been meted out to others for similar offences. Police Superintendent Richard Ward decided to deal with the non-compliance by sending Matty Lightfoot and another officer to the Cade home to seize the family's harmonium! This resulted in Mr Cade suing Superintendent Ward personally for 'the loss of use of a harmonium and the illegal sale thereof.'
Matty Lightfoot was called to the witness box and gave evidence to Judge Hooper: 'In carrying out the execution I entered the living room and with the plaintiff's consent seized the harmonium. Mrs Cade said, "If I knew you were coming for it I would have had it dusted." Every care was taken of the harmonium while it was in our custody.'
After impounding the harmonium at the police station for a fortnight, Superintendent Ward instructed the Town Crier to announce the instrument's auction. On 14 November more than 500 people gathered by the market to watch - their sympathies lay with Charles Cade and no-one would bid.
The auctioneer, Mr Atton, gave his evidence:'Mr Cade favoured us with a lecture condemning the Vaccination laws. He harangued the people, and intimidated me...Mr Cade instead of helping me was reading the law behind my back. (Laughter!). They said I dare not sell the harmonium but I would not be a coward. The persons were hustling and yelling for Mr Cade. It was quite a pantomime.'
The crowd's mood did not improve when the downtrodden Mr Atton finally sold off the instrument for the knockdown price of 5s to another member of Ward's force at the Stamford constabulary.
After much deliberation as to whether the police had acted
properly, Judge Hooper found in the Superintendent's
favour but decided costs should not be awarded against Charles Cade.
Mr Cade protested this outcome:'They might as well have come into my larder and helped themselves to my food'. The Judge's retort 'Well, if a man went to you to ask for food you might say, "If I had known you were coming I would have had the plate dusted."' only added to the absurd tone of the case.
Matty Lightfoot retired early from the police force to take up the position of Stamford Town Hall Keeper and Mace-bearer, one of his responsibilities being 'to wield the birch on recalcitrant boys'. Read more about him and his family on our website.
SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
(1) The British Newspaper Archive © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © Karen Meadows 2019