Riot case: Charles Lambert

Charles Lambert record

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

Charles Lambert, aged 63, hat blocker, of 37 Stanley Street, Luton, was charged with: “On the 19th July 1919, together divers other evil disposed person whose names and addresses are unknown to the number of one thousand and more unlawfully riotously and routously did assemble and gather together to disturb the public peace, and then unlawfully riotously, routously and tumultuously did make a great noise, riot, tumult and disturbance to the great terror and disturbance of His Majesty’s subjects there being and residing passing and repassing, and then there unlawfully riotously, routously and tumultuously did assault, beat, wound and ill treat one Thomas Higham against the Peace of our Sovereign the King, his Crown and Dignity.”



Lambert first appeared before magistrates on July 24th, 1919. He was remanded in custody and pleaded not guilty.

On being arrested by Police Sgt Henry Parsons, he said: “You have made a mistake. I am the wrong man. I know I was down Wellington Street, but I did not do any damage.”

Prisoner: “I should very much like to say that when I got down Wellington Street and saw the crowd, I said: 'For God's sake don't come any further! Stop!' I shouted out loud and then went to the top of Gordon Street and helped the firemen lay the hose.

“A traveller who lives at Beech Hill saw me and said, 'Well done, Charlie'. I said 'Well, what do you think of it? A disgrace, isn't it?' He said, 'It is. They tell me they are going to fire the factories.' I said, 'For God's sake don't say that. I will walk round to our factory.' I had the key to the factory and went in.”

The Chief Constable: “In view of this man's statement I will submit evidence of the assault.”

Pc David Riches then stated that on Saturday night he was on duty at the Town Hall, and took part in the police charge against the rioters. He saw the prisoner strike Pc Thomas Higham a violent blow on the head. He was afterwards knocked back into the crowd by another constable.”

Prisoner: “What time was this?” Witness: “The police had no time to look at the time at that time.”

Prisoner: “I am 63 years old, and this is the first time I have had any complaint against me. The police know me quite well, and for the sake of my wife and family as well, I ask for bail.”

When Lambert appeared before magistrates on July 31, Pc David Riches said he saw prisoner at the bottom of Wellington Street as he took part in a baton charge from the Town Hall. Lambert was being pushed by Pc Higham, to whom he shouted, “Don't you push me.” He then struck Higham in the face with his fist. Prisoner was very excited and noisy.

Pc Higham gave evidence of the assault, and Dr William Archibald of the injries received.

Sgt Henry Parsons said that, when arrested, Lambert said: “You have made a mistake. I am the wrong man, though I was in Wellington Street on Saturday night.”

Lambert pleaded not guilty and was committed on charges of rioting and assaulting the police. Bail not being opposed, was allowed in £10 and a surety of £10 (prisoner's employer Mr Childs being accepted).



In evidence at Beds Assizes, Pc Riches said he the prisoner, whom he had known for about 15 years, strike Pc Higham in the face. Witness called out, “Come on, Higham, don't stop. I know him.” In answer to Sir Ryland Adkins (defending) Pc Riches said Lambert was inclined to be noisy if he had a drink, and he seemed to be in that condition on this occasion. If he truck out at anybody, he had been pushed back first.

Sir Ryland: “How do you push people back, you full-sized policemen?” Witness said some were pushed back bodily, and some assisted with the truncheon.

Sir Ryland said that was a very fair statement, and suggested that a man under the influence of drink would hit out if he was pushed about. His Lordship said that was very natural, but it did not follow that it was lawful.

Pc Higham said he had not seen prisoner until prisoner struck him in the face and knocked him backwards. Lambert was then knocked down by another constable.

Cross-examined, Pc Higham said he was pushing people back, and striking sometimes, but he was quite sure he did not strike prisoner with the truncheon.

Dr Archibald said Pc Higham had a severe blow behind the left ear, another under the left eye and blows on the stomach and arm. He was in a state of collapse when brought in, and concussion of the brain was feared for a time.

Lambert said he got to the Town Hall just after ten o'clock, and bits of brick were being thrown about. There was a police charge, prisoner and women near him fell down, and when he was trying to help them he heard someone say, “I know him”. He did not hit a constable because he was pushed, but got out of the crowd.

Later he heard a cry to attack the warehouses, and he went towards Williamson Street to see that his employers' place, of which he had the key, was all right. People were then running to and fro getting supplies of material from a new factory building at the corner of Guildford Street.

Prisoner went into the factory (Messrs Child & Co) and examined the fire apparatus, because people had said they were going to fire the warehouses. Later he went home.



Cross-examined, prisoner said the Wellington Street crowd was quiet. The noisy people were by the Free Library. Asked whether he was one of the “old institutions” of Luton, prisoner said he had done 47 years hard slogging in the town. As to identity, he said he did not think he had any twins in Luton (laughter).

Prisoner thought the people were enjoying themselves more than rioting in the earlier part of the night.

On the question of character, the Judge said if a man who was pushed hit back when a riot was in progress, he was technically guilty of riot, and it was a thing which in a time of excitement might happen to a man who 99 times out of a hundred was perfectly well behaved.

Bert Stringer gave evidence as to seeing prisoner help with the fire hose, and evidence of good character was given by Mr A. R. Child and Mrs John Bromfield.

Charles Lambert was found guilty of rioting and assaulting Pc Higham. Said the Judge: “The explanation of your conduct on this occasion appears to me to be that you got into this crowd without any intention of taking part in any unlawful proceedings, but had a little drink and got irritated when pushed back by the police.

“I think your case will be met if I bind you over in £10 to come up for judgment if called upon.”