Riot case: Albert Smith

Albert Smith record

  • Assizes record courtesy of Mr John Gillespie, grandson of Insp Fred Janes.

Albert Smith, aged 35, labourer, of Adelaide Terrace, Luton, was charged that: “On the 19th July 1919, together with divers other persons whose names are unknown to the number of at least one thousand then and there being riotously and tumultuously assembled together to the disturbance of the public peace, feloniously did unlawfully and with force begin to demolish and destroy a certain building, to wit a straw hat warehouse belonging to Charles Dillingham, contrary to Section 11 of the Malicious Damage Act, 1861.”



Appearing before magistrates on July 25th, 1919, Smith was said to have been arrested on Market Hill. Sgt John Matsell said the prisoner responded: “I have been expecting you. I heard you were after me. I was knocked down near Dillingham's, and went into Dr Sworder's surgery.” At the police station he again said: “I was taken to the doctor's”

Sgt Matsell said that last Saturday he put prisoner out of the Town Hall and down the steps time after time. The Clerk: “Did he attempt to rush the Town Hall?”. Witness: “Yes.”

It was stated that a constable who would give evidence against prisoner in connection with the second charge of attempting to destroy Messrs Dillingham's warehouse was still on the sick list.

In court on August 1st, Det-Sgt Arthur Bacon said he saw the prisoner outside the Town Hall after the building had been broken into. The man had no cap on and was wearing a red, white and blue flag round his neck.

Inspector Herbert Hunt said Smith, with other men, tried to rush past him to get into the Town Hall. Witness pushed him back several times, and on the last occasion Smith said: “I only want to go in and sit down.”

Prisoner counted the minutes from five minutes to six until six o'clock, and then said: “Now for some beer and over the top.” Prisoner seemed to be the leader of the particular party he was with.

Pc Alec Field said that at one o'clock in the morning Smith threw bottles at the firemen - “for all he was worth” - and one struck Chief Officer Andrew. Other firemen were also struck,and witness himself was truck on the shoulder by a bottle. (These bottles, he explained, were obtained from the chemist's shop at the bottom of Wellington Street).

Prisoner subsequently went into Messrs Dillingham's warehouse, threw cardboard boxes into the street, and finally went out among the crowd, beating a box drum fashion, and shouting “Come on, come on.” Smith, who had no coat on, appeared to be a ringleader, urging the crowd on.

Sgt Edmund Janes corroborated the statements with regard to the prisoner having thrown missiles at the firemen, adding that Smith was knocked through the window of a tailor's shop by a water jet. The window had previously been broken.

Inspector Janes saw Smith in the Town Hall, and followed him into the lavatory and struck him. Smith quickly left the building. Pc Robert corroborated.

On Sunday night, said Sgt Arthur Clark, the crowd was led in Dunstable Place by prisoner Smith, whom he knew well. Witness was inside the gate [of the police station], and he heard prisoner shout, “Let your ------ men out”.

The police charged the crowd, and Sgt Clark reached Adelaide Terrace. In George Street he saw prisoner throw a stone. The stone just missed witness's head and hit the front of the Bell Hotel. Witness chased the man to his house.

Committed for trial of two charges – rioting and demolition of the Town Hall – the charges of damage to Messrs Dillingham's warehouse and stealing a cardboard box, being withdrawn. Bail was refused.



Before Judge Greer, at Beds Assizes, Smith denied he had made several attempts to rush the Town Hall, but said he stopped outside the Town Hall as there were too many people for him to get along. He heard some speech-making and booing, and went on about six o'clock. Then he stopped at a public house till ten o'clock.

In answer to the Judge, Smith agreed he was counting the minutes till opening time. At 10.10 he was again in front of the Town Hall.

The Judge: “Were you quite as well able to look after yourself then as at six o'clock?” Smith: “No.”

Prisoner said he was clouted on the head by somebody unknown, and was taken to Dr Sworder's. Then two lads took him home, and he got home by 10.30.

Cross-examined by Mr Eales (for the prosecution), Smith said he probably had a few drinks during the day. He admitted getting on the steps and counting the minutes to opening time, but did not say anything about “over the top”.

By ten o'clock he'd had a decent drink, but was not drunk. After he was hit, Dr Sworder said it was not serious and told him to go home. His home was in Adelaide Terrace, and he went there and did not come out again.



Prisoner denied being in the crowd without his coat and waistcoat, or going into Dillingham's, or being found inside the Town Hall, or throwing stones and bottles.

Mrs Sarah Gillam, another resident of Adelaide Terrace, said she saw prisoner in his house from 10.15pm. Asked if prisoner was drunk, witness said she had seen him much worse than he was on that night.

Mrs Elizabeth Pugh, sister of the prisoner, said he was with her from six to ten o'clock in Cheapside on Peace night. She did not know what prisoner had meant by saying he was in the Albion public house from 6 till 10. He was in Cheapside with her, not in a public house but in the street from 8 till 10, and she was telling the truth.

Albert Smith was found guilty of rioting. He was stated by Inspector Fred Janes to have been wounded five time in December 1914, and discharged from the Army in December 1918.

Prisoner was an associate of low characters and addicted to drink. His 15 previous convictions included wilful damage, using premises as a gaming house, and assaulting the police.

As he had been in custody three months, the Judge gave him 15 months hard labour.