George Denton

     We have received a letter from Mr. G Denton of Wolverhampton, who has kindly sent us a photograph and other details of his ancestor George Denton who had a Herbalist shop at 61 High Street. Member James Morgan has confirmed that the shop was opposite the shop owned by his parents at number 90 High Street, and was later run by George’s daughter Annie. Denton’s shop was just to the left of the old Vicarage, and part of a small terrace of houses on the east (hospital) side of the High Street. George came from Levendon in Buckinghamshire and wed Eliza Lee of Corngreaves, Staffs at Trinity Church, West Bromwich on the 25th July 1864.

     George was 25 years old and described as an Iron Turner, and Eliza was 24 years old. George endeavoured to ‘better himself’ and studied herbalism becoming member number 261 of the ‘National Association of Medical Herbalists of Great Britain, Founded A.D. 1864. For The Development & Progress of Organic Medicine’. The 1901 census shows George aged 62, Herbalist; Eliza aged 61; unwed daughter Annie (born in Wednesbury) aged 30, Shop Assistant; and unwed son George (born in Stourbridge) aged 26, Hot Water Fitter. George wed Mary D E Turner in 1905 at Stourbridge Register Office, and became Mr. Denton’s grandfather. George (the herbalist) was born in 1839 and died in 1916, Eliza was born 27th November 1839 and died 29th September 1920.

     

     Denton versus Jackson. By Nick Baker.

     Of all the old pictures of Amblecote, one of the most reproduced in books of vintage photographs and postcards has to be that of Denton’s Herbalist shop in the Holloway. The picture was taken around the turn of the 20th century and shows George Denton (known as ‘Diddy Denton the Pill Mon’) and his wife Eliza standing in the doorway.

     Less well known is the fact that George Denton’s daughter Ann, 35, was, at around the same time, taken to court for assault, or at least a debatable version of it, on a neighbour named James Jackson. At the time the Holloway was rather more densely populated than it is now. On either side of the road, at the point where the old Corbett Hospital wall now stands, was a warren of houses, pubs and shops, interspersed by glassworks and small workshops. Denton’s shop stood, as could be expected, on the main road frontage, whilst a series of alleyways led to ‘back’ properties. In one of these lived the Jackson family, comprising 65 years old Charles Jackson, a labourer, his wife Mary and their two grown up sons Edward, 22, a Coach Builder, James a Glass Cutter aged 40 and two grand children.

     James, it would seem, was the father of the children; although the absence of a spouse would indicate that, for whatever reason, he was living singly with his parents. Also apparent was his relatively well-off working-class status. As a Glass Cutter in work James was probably earning around 35 shillings a week, more than enough in a household with three adult wage earners; two of them tradesmen, to ensure that there was money spare in his pocket at the end of the week.

     We can therefore imagine that when James set off the catch a train (unfortunately we don’t know where to) at around 8am on the morning of Sunday March the 25th 1906, dressed in his best coat and hat, probably a bowler, complimented by a silk scarf, we can guess he was not a little pleased with his own appearance. On negotiating the entry which led past the Denton’s shop, James saw Ann Denton pouring a bowl of greasy looking water down a drain. The pair although aware of each other’s existence, were clearly not especially amicable and James’ remark as he passed Ann that “If she had the drain in the house it would save her all that trouble” were the first words he had spoken to her in six months. That Ann did not reply was therefore hardly surprising; that she threw the remains of the bowl of water over James probably was!

     Just how much water actually landed on James was the matter of debate which ended up in the Stourbridge Magistrates court a couple of weeks later, along with the all important question as to whether the act was deliberate. Both sides had engaged Solicitors, points of principle obviously having escalated the matter to the point where cost became immaterial and lawyers start to make a profit. Jackson’s evidence, that Ann had thrown so much water over him that he was forced to return home and be wiped down, was countered by Ann’s who said that after he made the remark she had simply swung her arm around and a single spot of water had fallen, accidentally, on the defendants coat.

     The Magistrates were inclined to feel that Ann’s action probably was deliberate, but that Jackson – who thought the proceedings maintained he had no feelings of animosity towards her –was probably over-egging the pudding in terms of an assault by dirty water. Indeed they thought – as did Anne Denton’s Solicitor, that the case should never have been brought before them in the first place. Their solution was to order Ann to pay the costs (the amount is not known) but that no conviction was to be recorded against her.

     What lay behind the incident will probably never be determined. Were the Denton’s and the Jackson’s at loggerheads over some other issue that we don’t know about; or did James Jackson simply catch Anne Denton at a bad moment? We don’t know; but we can be pretty certain that James took special care in the future when negotiating the entry in his best clothes!

     

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