Jarratts Buildings - The Community

Roll of Dishonour - Gambling

Although it was illegal, low-level betting or wagering between the men of a locality was a feature of life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The men of Jarratts were no different to working-class communities the length and breadth of the country in their love of gambling. It would have livened up an existence that revolved around the pit and the pub and may have been fuelled by alcohol.

Official attitudes to gambling by working men hardened in the nineteenth century and the authorities tried to eradicate it. The Gaming Act of 1845 and the Betting Act 1853 suppressed gaming houses, made betting illegal except at racecourses during a race meeting and increased the powers of the police. Rather than deterring the poor from gambling away their income instead of maintaining their families, the new laws simply forced betting outdoors into public places. Most gambling took place on Sunday which infuriated the respectable middle-class as the activity was illegal and ungodly. In the 1880s and 1890s local newspapers recorded plenty of court appearances by working men as attitudes became even less tolerant.

Picture of Coins
Victorian coins used in Pitch and Toss

Pitch and Toss was implicated in the majority of cases. The game involved members of a group each throwing a coin of the same value from the same spot. The coin that landed nearest to a pre-determined mark was the winner and the man who had pitched it then collected all the other coins, shouted heads or tails and tossed them in the air. Those that fell according to his shout were his winnings. The remaining coins were then tossed by the man whose coin had come second. The game would have been attractive to many as it only required a coin to participate. The risk of being out-of-pocket was not a disincentive, given that those who came second, third, and even fourth might have the chance to toss the diminishing pile. Sometimes the only gambling was the coins used in the game. On other occasions an illegal bookmaker turned up and took bets on the outcome. This was risky as the penalties for the bookie and those betting with him were much harsher.

Working men only had Saturday afternoon and Sunday free. This made it easier for the police to round up culprits and they often spent Sunday afternoon, perhaps in disguise, observing one of the many known venues where groups of Worsborough men gathered and tried to approach it without being noticed. There were several semi-secluded spots where a group could play and be reasonably safe from prying eyes.

No-one could predict which place the police had decided to target on a particular day so the gamblers responded by designating one man or teenage boy the look-out or 'crow'. He took no part in the game but kept his eyes peeled for the local policeman on the beat, or any approaching strangers, shouting a warning if someone came in sight. It gave those playing precious seconds to grab any money that was visible and adopt a look of innocence if they were not able get away. A boy who did not participate in any of the rounds would have received a coin or two for his services.

Picture of Coins
Play pitch and toss? Never!

Anyone apprehended would have found himself in court in Barnsley a few days later. Magistrates sometimes imposed a fine that reflected how many times a man had been before the bench for a similar offence. First offenders were treated more leniently than serial offenders and it is noticeable that some names only appear once. The fines also took account of whether a man was participating in the game or whether he was gambling on the outcome with a bookmaker.

Whether a man was fined or had a run of bad luck and lost his stake, the worst impact was on his dependants. When a man's money was depleted, his wife and children would have felt the effects of it more than the man himself who probably handed over a smaller sum for housekeeping. A woman would have coped by reducing her own food intake and that of any non-working children in order to keep the wage-earners in the household properly nourished. If a man was to work underground to earn the family's keep he needed plenty of calories in a good diet that included meat.

The following residents were convicted of illegal gaming.

Sunday 30th July 1871

At 7.00pm, PC Richmond went into a house that overlooked Jarratts and watched out of a back window. He observed a group of twelve gambling in one of the yards. Two of the group were seasoned gamblers. John Gee of Jarratts and former resident William Lomas, were each sentenced to a month in Wakefield jail. The others were discharged on condition that they each paid 10 shillings to the local Ragged School.

Arthur Booth was the only other Jarratts resident amongst the group, which also included two former residents, brothers John and David Winder. The yard had probably been chosen because it was considered safe from prying eyes.

Saturday 7th May 1887

Samuel Beevers (47) Fined 10s and costs

John Harper (40) Fined 10s and costs

Joseph Howson (58) Fined 10s and costs

Henry Ibberson (37) Fined 20s and costs

They were part of a larger group, some of whom were playing pitch and toss whilst others betted on the outcome. A man named William Goodlad pleaded guilty and was jailed for a month suggesting that he was taking the bets.

11th September 1887

Henry Baxter (17) Fined 10s and costs

Walter Grist (19) Fined 10s and costs

Henry Howson (18) Fined 10s and costs

Part of a larger group who were apprehended by PC Grayson for gambling by 'marrowing' in Dark Lane. One of the group acknowledged that the arrests were 'a good catch'.

21st October 1888

Henry Baxter (18) Fined 10s and costs

George McDonald (21) Fined 10s and costs

William Hitchin (21) Fined 10s and costs

James Hitchin (19) Fined 10s and costs

22nd April 1894

Apprehended at Dovecliffe as part of a larger group were:

James Baxter (22)

Alfred Grist (23)

George Grist (27)

Walter Grist (25)

Henry Howson (25)

Squire Howson (40)

They were all fined 10 shillings and costs as magistrates considered that they had been led on by a hardened gambler.

14th June 1896

George Fallis (13)

Henry Howson (16)

Daniel McCarthy (13)

Arthur Whiteley (16)

William Whiteley (18)

They were each fined 5s and costs. This was a lenient sentence because of their youth and the fact this was a first offence.

11th April 1897

John Fallis (18) Fined 5s and costs

Charles Pickard (17) Fined 5s and costs

John Ward (17) Fined 5s and costs

Arthur Whitely (18) Fined 5s and costs

Thomas Winter (17) Fined 5s and costs

This group of pony drivers were apprehended by PC Somerset for playing pitch and toss in Station Road on Sunday afternoon. The level of fine and the public location used for the game suggests that it was the first offence for all those involved.

22nd May 1898

John Henry Bennett (23) Fined 10s

John Fallis (19) Fined 15s and costs

Moses Goodlad (24) Fined 15s and costs

Jacob Pickering (20) Fined 15s and costs

John Pickering (21) Fined 15s and costs

William Prescott (21) Fined 10s. It was his first offence.

Thomas Winter (18) Fined 15s and costs

They were part of a larger group playing pitch and toss on Sunday afternoon in Pinder's Yard. Police constables Somerset and Moffatt, wearing plain clothes, approached the group without being suspected by the lookouts.

18th December 1898

Unknown to the group of 30 men who set off towards Smithley, policemen were already hidden in Worsborough Dale. The police outflanked the path the men were taking and approached the gamblers from the opposite direction whilst they were engrossed in their game. By chance a lady and gentleman were walking along the path and the policemen walked behind the couple. They were unobserved by the look-out, Job Siddons, until they were 25 yards away. Siddons shouted 'Hold on. Here's somebody coming I don't know'. The majority of the group fled in all directions across the fields, but twelve were recognised and summoned to court in January. Those with connections to Jarratts were:

Joseph Baxter (31) fined 20s and costs

Albert Booth (23) fined 10s and costs

Harry Booth (19) fined 10s and costs

Richard Hadfield (32) fined 10s and costs

Aaron Padgett (25) fined 10s and costs

Job Siddons (54) fined 10s and costs

Charles Stanley (46) fined 10s and costs

It is probable that other Jarratts residents were amongst those who escaped.

20th August 1899

Henry Baxter (29) Fined 10s and costs

James Baxter (31) Fined 15s and costs

Joseph Baxter (32) Fined 20s and costs

Albert Booth (24) Fined 15s and costs

Henry Booth (20) Fined 10s and costs

John Fallis (20) Fined 25s and costs

Albert Grist (21) Fined 20s and costs

Henry Howson (29) Fined 25s and costs

Jacob Pickering (22) Fined 20s and costs

George Winter (37) Fined 10s and costs

PC Haigh and a colleague had spotted a group of 15 men going to the old quarry which was just off Station Road. Albert Grist was sent into an adjacent field from where he could observe most of the paths into the quarry. He fell asleep and did not notice the policemen who had circled round and and approached by a path from Darley Hall. Grist's lapse caused much laughter in court and he was convicted of aiding and abetting. He probably had to keep a low profile at Jarratts for some weeks afterwards.

The fine for a first offender was 10s and it was increased by 5s for each additional offence.

The group included colliery deputy Richard Hadfield who had lived at 35 Jarratts in 1871 but whose family moved on. He was also fined 20s. Hadfield's participation indicates that status was not an issue where gambling was concerned.

The Baxter brothers grew up at No 4 but may not have been at Jarratts in 1899.

16th June 1902

Tom Cope (18) Fined 5s

John Ibbotson (22) Fined 5s

John McCarthy (17) Fined 5s

Part of a larger group of youths playing pitch and toss.

8th April 1905

James Fallis (20) Fined 7s 6d

Ernest Ibbotson (16) Fined 7s 6d

Samuel Howson (20) Fined 15s

Richard Stanley (20) Fined 15s

They were amongst a group of six who were caught playing pitch and toss in Green Street on 25th March.

23rd November 1912

Harry Grist (17) Tom Grist (18) Ernest Howson (20) Tom Howson (17) Wilfred Padgett (20) all pit workers, were drinking in the Masons Arms, when a couple of men, James Frederick Cutts and John Boyle arrived from Barnsley. One of the Grist cousins was drawn into playing cribbage with Cutts, who won 10 shillings and 5 shillings from him in two games. Subsequently Cutts played a man named Fallis and won a sovereign in a single game.

Cutts and Boyle left the Masons Arms around 11.00pm, with winnings that represented almost a week’s wages for a miner, and made their way towards the station at Dovecliffe. Shortly after midnight, they met PC Ball close to Blacker Hill and reported that they had been attacked by five men who had rushed at them from Dovecliffe Woods and stolen 37 shillings in silver and copper coins. The constable noted that they appeared dirty, bloodstained and tired.

At 3.30 on Sunday morning, the five young miners were arrested in their homes and taken to the police station. When they admitted that they each had taken a shilling from Cutts they were charged with larceny.

The case came to court a few days later and a different story emerged. Cutts turned out to be a celebrated cribbage player who was reported to have won £7 in Worsborough Dale a few weeks earlier and may have returned to try to resume his winning streak. It was alleged that Boyle was Cutts’ financial backer, standing around and signalling to him which cards to play. No accusations of cheating had been made during the game but the group had repeatedly told Boyle to keep quiet.

After leaving the pub, the five said that they overtook Boyle and Cutts on the Dovecliffe road and asked for their money back. When Cutts threatened to thrash the five of them, Tom Howson put his hand into Cutts’ pocket and pulled out 5s 4d. They took a shilling each and were too tipsy to recall what had happened to the odd coppers.

The chairman of the magistrates said that the young miners “had put themselves in a silly position” and discharged them on payment of the costs.

One curiosity is that only 5s 4d was discovered, out of an allegedly much greater theft. Another is the dishevelled state of Boyle and Cutts when PC Ball found them at Blacker Hill, suggesting that they had been involved in a fight. It seems possible that a second assailant could have been involved and taken the remainder of the money.

There were several discrepancies in the accounts given by the five young men and by Boyle and Cutts and the police inspector who prosecuted seems to have suspected that cheating had taken place. The leniency of the magistrates on this occasion may indicate their belief that the young miners were more sinned against than sinning.

Cutts and Boyle do not feature in any other newspaper reports, but the fact that this incident was reported by the Barnsley press would have put anyone in the surrounding villages on their guard. If, as seems likely, they did cheat at cards, their wings would have been clipped.

Some Jarratts residents may have been involved in different forms of gambling. Arthur Booth had at least one running dog and neighbours regularly went to watch it race. The meetings were probably at Dillington racetrack in nearby Worsborough Common. At a racetrack it would have been possible to bet legally on races.

There were also many informal wagers on the outcome of an event. 1903 Harry Smith and Joseph Fallis laid charges against each other after their bet on a game of bounce ball turned into a vicious fight in the street. The magistrates dismissed both cases, describing it as 'a disgraceful row in which both sides got mauled'.

Illegal gambling continued to be a problem into the twentieth century. The Victorian policy of suppression had moved betting into the streets and in full site of the young or the vulnerable. Meanwhile illegal bookmakers plied their trade in open defiance of the law. In 1906 a new law prohibited betting in the street, but it proved ineffective and laid the police open to charges of corruption as some were thought to accept bribes not to enforce the law.

By the mid-twentieth century public opinion had formed the view that gambling should be made legal but that there should be safeguards to protect the young and vulnerable and that bookmakers should be licensed to eliminate criminals from this activity. This finally happened in 1960.

Compiled from reports sourced from the British Newspaper Archive and from papers held at Barnsley Archive. Information about the ages of the offenders extracted from birth and census records.