"The Flying Dustman," convicted at the Middlesex Sessions, September, 1812, for an Assault, and sentenced to Three Months' Imprisonment
THIS prosecution commenced at the instance of Mr Lacock, whom the defendant injured in his contract with the parish of St Mary, Islington. Mr Lacock was a cowkeeper to a large extent, generally milking several hundred. He was also scavenger to the said parish, paying for the liberty of taking away the dust (coal ashes) from the houses of the inhabitants the enormous sum of seven hundred and fifty pounds a year!
The parish obtained an Act of Parliament for the regulation, among other things, of the duties of scavengers, which provided that any person offending therein might be taken into custody to answer charges made against them. On the 24th of June, the day laid in the indictment, the prosecutor, who was a carter in the employ of Mr Lacock, saw the defendant come out of a house in King Street, Islington, with a basket of ashes on his head, which he emptied into a cart that was standing at the door, and was proceeding to drive away when the prosecutor went up and stopped him. He swore, however, that all the men in Islington should not stop him; and, on the prosecutor attempting to detain him till a constable could be sent for, he struck him several times, and at length broke from him. He was afterwards taken by a constable.
The defendant was what was termed a "Flying Dustman," who had no contract; and, paying nothing to anyone, went round the parish collecting all the ashes he could, to the great injury of the contractor.
It further appeared that this was the fifth time of his thus offending. The jury found him guilty of the assault, and the Court immediately sentenced him to three months' imprisonment in the house of correction.
Country readers could hardly suppose that a man gave seven hundred and fifty pounds a year, and employed several carts and a number of men, to empty his neighbours' dust-tubs, wherein all manner of filth was thrown. Yet this was the case in every parish in and about London, the officers giving the contract to the best bidder, and to obtain which there was sometimes as great a struggle as to get elected churchwarden. Lacock cleared a few hundreds a year by his contract. In a part of his extensive premises he employed several score of poor women and children to sift the ashes. First they produced cinders, which sold for about half the price of coal, to forges, kilns, etc. The next siftings, becoming each finer than the last, were used as manure, and in the making of lime, brick, etc. Thus the collecting of house ashes, which formerly the inhabitants were obliged to pay people to take away, produced a clear income, sufficient of itself for the decent maintenance of a family.
The regular dusty squad, fired with indignation at this usurpation of their rights and privileges, and fearing a forestalling of their Christmas presents, issued the following cautionary handbill to their employers:--
TO THE WORTHY INHABITANTS OF ST MARY, ISLINGTON.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
We, the regular Dustmen of this parish, humbly present our respects to you, and beg that you will not give your Christmas Box but to such men as deliver one of these bills, and show a medal with the following inscription:-
WILLIAM DUKE OF CUMBERLAND, BATTLE OF CULLODEN; with a Badge -- "R. Lacock, No. 1 and 2, Islington."
Men having been found going about dressed like dustmen, under false pretences -- to defraud the regular men of what little you may please to bestow.
Please not to deliver this bill to anyone.
JOHN SMITH AND JOHN WALING.