Riot case: Stanley Dolby

Dolby record

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

Stanley Dolby, aged 25, hat blocker, of 8 Adelaide Terrace, Luton, first appeared before Luton magistrates on July 25th, 1919, charged with: “On the 20th July 1919, together with divers other evil disposed persons to the number of one thousand or more unlawfully riotously and routously did assemble and gather together to disturb the public peace, and then unlawfully riotously 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 and there unlawfully riotously routously and tumultuously did assault beat wound and ill treat a Police Constable whilst in the execution of his duty against the Peace of our Sovereign Lord the King, his Crown and Dignity”.



At the July 25th hearing, Dolby was alleged to have been concerned in the renewed disturbances on Sunday night, and said nothing when arrested.

Sgt John Matsell stated that on Sunday night he was with other officers engaged in clearing George Street. Prisoner was at the corner of Adelaide Terrace with other people, and there the police received considerable opposition.

They succeeded in clearing the crowd, and prisoner broke away and went to the Market Hill. Opposite Barclay's Bank he threw a big stone and hit another police officer.

Prisoner said he was in New Bedford Road at 9.30 and, as he could not get home through the main street, he went round Bridge Street and got to Market Hill, and then the top of Cheapside. He met about 30 or 40 police, and some of them asked where he was going. He told them, and the prisoner alleged they said: “Set about him, boys!”

Later, as he was going into Adelaide Terrace, he was again questioned. “They told me to double,” said the prisoner, “and I doubled. I did not throw the stones.”

Witness, in reply to a question, said he knew prisoner well, and had not the slightest doubt about him being the man.

In court on August 1st, Pc Roberts told magistrates that on the Saturday night he was trying to clear the corridor on the Manchester Street side of people who had got into the Town Hall, and he saw Dolby. Prisoner ran out when he saw the officers coming. The premises were then on fire.

At this point the Town Clerk added against Dolby the charge of demolition of the Town Hall.

Prisoner said he was in bed before 11pm, and Pc Roberts replied that he was quite certain of the man.

Inspector Janes, who said he had known the prisoner since childhood, described the position of the offices of the Town Clerk's staff, and said that late in the evening he found the windows completely smashed and the door burst open. He knew several fires had been started and extinguished in this office, and he and other officers went down to the room repeatedly. They found people there, and once witness saw Dolby there alone.

Prisoner denied that he was in the Town Hall.

Police Sgt Matsell deposed that on the Sunday night, when clearing George Street with other officers, there was a crowd of people at the bottom of Adelaide Terrace, where Dolby lived. Stones were thrown. He saw Dolby run up the Market Hill, and he was ordered to go home by the police.

Witness saw him throw a stone and it struck Pc Couper, of the Herts Constabulary. Prisoner continued on up Market Hill. When Sgt Matsell served the notice on him, Dolby said he was not there.

Dolby again denied the allegations and said he was not there.

Pc Couper said there were about 800 people there and, while clearing them, he was struck on the leg. It was only slight and witness wanted to stay on duty.

Dolby denied all the charges. Asked if he had any witnesses as to his being in bed by 10.45 on Saturday night, he said he would wait till the Assizes. The Chief Constable opposed bail, which was then refused.



When he appeared at the October Assizes, it was stated that Dolby took part in the [Comrades of the Great War] Jack Cornwall tableau in the Peace procession, although he was a demobilised soldier. He spent the evening in public houses, and at 10 o'clock went home to 8 Adelaide Terrace. He had supper, went to bed about 10.45, and did not get up till about nine on Sunday morning. Prisoner said he went to France in September 1914, and was wounded five times.

Cross-examined by Mr Hollis Walker KC, Dolby absolutely denied being at the Town Hall that [Saturday] night. The prisoner Smith lived next door, but he did not see him that night, nor was he one of those who got into the Town Hall. He could see there was some disturbance as he went home, but did not go there.

Mr Walker: “You hadn't even the curiosity to go and see what was happening?” Dolby: “No, it was nothing to do with me.”

A sister of the prisoner, who is a barmaid at a local hotel, said she got home at 10.30 Prisoner was then at home, and went to bed a few minutes later. There was no back exit to the house. Witness was downstairs till 12.30, and prisoner did not go out again.

Cross-examined: “No one in the house took sufficient interest in the trouble at the Town Hall to go out to see what was happening?”

Stanley Dolby was found guilty of rioting and sentenced to nine months hard labour. He was stated by Inspector Fred Janes to have been wounded five times during the war and was discharged in December 1918.

Prisoner was an associate of low characters and addicted to drink. His previous convictions included wilful damage, using premises as a gaming house and assaulting police.

There was a second indictment against Dolby for assaulting a constable on the Sunday night. In reply to his Lordship, it was said that there was a recurrence of the rioting on the Sunday night in which certain of the prisoners were involved. All the prisoners mentioned in the second indictment had been convicted on the first indictment, so the second would not be proceeded with.