Old News


Was Walter Spurr Thrashed?

From the Hemel Hempstead Gazette

 25th July 1914



Hemel Hempstead

 My book, The London Gunners come to Town deals with life in Hemel Hempstead just before, during, and after the First World War. As an example of everyday life in the days just before war was declared it reports the following item from The Gazette of 25th July 1914.



In the Children’s Court two 14 year old boys, named Walter Hemley and Walter Spurr, were summoned for stealing sweets, the property of Alfred George Day.

Hemley pleaded guilty and Spurr not guilty.

Ivor Clinton, newspaper boy, said that he was near Mr. Day’s shop about 7 o’clock and saw the two boys go in. One of them asked for some sweets and the other took some from the window.

Alfred George Day said that Clinton spoke to him and he went after the boys. Hemley handed over the sweets produced and Spurr said he had nothing that morning. Witness had lost a good deal of stuff.

The case was adjourned for a fortnight in order that the parents of the boys might give them a good thrashing in the presence of the Police.

Of course, a fortnight later and war had been declared and the paper was too busy with war news to report on whether the punishment was ever carried out ...


I posted the above on the Old Forum and Derek Bone <derek @t bone257.freeserve.co.uk> responded saying "Walter Spurr WAS thrashed. He was my grand father and his sister Alice Spurr told my Aunt that he had been thrashed for stealing as a child. (This punishment did not 'cure' him; a few more crimes were to follow!!)" As a result I added the following:

I am relieved to hear that Walter SPURR was thrashed - after having included details of a newspaper report in my book The London Gunners come to Town that said that he was going to be.

Another of the stories describing the activities of children in the book concerns Fred PARROT, who was 5˝ and lived in Church Street, Hemel Hempstead. Based on a newspaper article in the following week's newspaper I wrote that he "got so excited watching the soldiers march along the Redbourn Road [in August 1914] that he fell off the stile and broke his arm."

A couple of years after I published the book I was accosted by a customer in an antique shop. "Your book contains an error," he said, "Fred did not fall off the stile - he was pushed by my uncle!" Curses - wrong again.

There is a lesson here. We all look at our present day newspapers and mutter under our breath when they misreport a story. The same happened in the past - and we must always be aware that historical records can contain errors - many of which we will never be able to identify.