- Assizes record courtesy of Mr John Gillespie, grandson of Insp Fred Janes.
Ephraim Gore, aged 45, iron erector, of 35 Windsor Street, Luton, was charged that: “On 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 demolish and destroy a certain building there situate, to with the Town Hall, belonging to the Mayor Alderman and Burgesses of the Borough of Luton, contrary to section 11 of the Malicious Damage Act 1861.”
Brought before magistrates in Luton on July 24th, 1919, Gore was said, when arrested by Det-Sgt Arthur Bacon, to have replied: “All right. Thank You. What I said was about my pension. I only told the crowd to fetch the Mayor and Town Clerk out.”
Prisoner said that when they turn out of the public houses at 2.30 on Saturday he went to the Town Hall. After the procession came through he though of going as far as Wardown, but there was a crowd at the Town Hall.
“A young fellow came up who could hardly stand. I took him up and stood at the top and spoke about my pension. I have hundreds to prove it, and that I said: “Don't damage public property, because we ratepayers have to pay for it. If you have any grievance, the Mayor and Clerk of the town will settle it.
“As regards the night, I was never out of my house and never near George Street until Monday dinner time.” Prisoner said he could bring 2,000 witnesses to prove the truth of his story.
Inspector Fred Janes stated that on Saturday afternoon he saw prisoner on the Town Hall steps. He addressed the crowd, and then went to set fire to the flags in front of the Town Hall.
Prisoner: “Didn't I advise the crowd not to touch public property, as we were ratepayers and it would fall on us in the end?” Witness: “The statements you are making are absolutely false.”
Denying he was there at night but was present in the afternoon, it was then put to prisoner by the Clerk (Mr Austin): “And that you set fire to one of the flags?” Prisoner: “I could call 200 witnesses with regard to that. I took the Inspector's word for it that the Mayor was not at the Town Hall.” Gore was then remanded in custody until a hearing the following Wednesday. Prisoner: “Thank you. Much obliged.”
At a later hearing, on August 1st, Pc John Hills said that after the decoration were pulled down in the afternoon he saw Gore, who was well known, come from the crowd, go to the Town Hall, strike a match and set fire to the decorations which were hanging down the wall. Afterwards he got on the Town Hall steps and made a speech regarding his pension and the allowances to dependents.
Witness denied hearing Gore urging the crowd not to do any damage to the Town Hall or to the police. Sgt Henry Parsons corroborated and said he put out the fire which Gore had started, and took down other flags to prevent further damage.
Gore was one of the ringleaders. Sgt Parsons denied saying to Gore: “Don't get yourself locked up.”
Inspector Herbert Hunt also corroborated, and added that Gore said: “The first thing that ought to have been done was to give the old people in the Workhouse a treat. Come with me. I'll fetch them out. I can carry one on my back to Wardown.”
Cross-examined, Inspector Hunt said that before Gore spoke and electric light bulb was thrown and missed witness, and broke a window. He did not hear Gore urge the crowd not to throw missiles.
Inspector Fred Janes gave the names of people with Gore, and said Gore was under the influence of drink. He was a well known character and very excitable.
Mr Barber, representing Gore, denied the charges, and prisoner was committed for trial. Mr Barber made a strong appeal for bail, and said that all these men were innocent until found guilty at the Assizes. He held that Gore should have bail as others had received it in equally serious cases.
The Town Clerk strongly objected, and said he could have charged Gore with an offence which, he thought, would keep him in jail long after the Assizes. Gore was one of the worst characters in front of the Town Hall, and was greatly responsible for the destruction,a crime which might have caused several deaths. Bail was refused.
AT THE ASSIZES
It was stated at Beds Assizes that Gore was one of those who pulled down the electric illuminations from the front of the Town Hall, but he was much more moderate in his speech-making than some of the other prisoners.
Gore was found guilty of rioting, but not guilty of riotous demolition or of malicious damage.
Inspector Janes said Gore joined the 2nd Bedfords in 1891 and was discharged in 1904. On August 5th, 1914, he re-enlisted in the Beds Regiment, served overseas, and was discharged in 1915. Then he re-enlisted in the Royal Engineers, and after 12 months was discharged. He served 10 months overseas.
Prisoner had 41 previous convictions, including wilful damage, assault, poaching,fighting, refusing to quit licensed premises. He was birched twice in his younger days, spent four years in a reformatory, had served one sentence of nine months hard labour for stealing tagal plait, had associated with thieves and poachers, and was of a very violent disposition.
The Judge: “You are a very dangerous man. I am not going to punish you for what you have done in the past, for you have already been punished for that, but the least sentence I can pass on you is nine months hard labour.
Prisoner asked the Judge to take into consideration the fact that he was a life pensioner and would probably lose his pension. His Lordship said he did not think the authorities would take that away.
Afterwards he recalled Gore and altered the sentence to one of nine months imprisonment. That would not make much difference to his treatment, but would not itself take away his pension.