Home - Back to main page
Index - Full contents list including primary and secondary source documents
Genealogies - Several different Tonge family histories contributed by other researchers
Search Site 
  TONGE, Elijah & Robert : Newspaper report and other details regarding assault on Police Sergeant in Turton in May 1858.

The Bolton Chronicle, Saturday, May 29th 1858. Page 5, Column 3.

Cowardly and Savage Assault on a Sergeant of Police

Two young men, brothers, named Robert and Elijah Tong, married, and in employment as colliers, at Turton, were charged, on Thursday, at the County Sessions Room, Town Hall, with having assaulted Police-Sergeant Tindall, who stated that he was on duty at Turton, and going his rounds about half-past twelve on Tuesday morning, police-constable Breakell being with him. When near the Volunteer public-house, heard a noise within, and on entering, found the landlord endeavouring to induce the company to go home, as he wanted to go to bed. He desired the police to assist him and they succeeded in persuading the parties to leave. The prisoners formed part of the company. The constables also left, to go to their stations, and when they got out they saw five or six of those who had been in the house standing about 100 yards away. The sergeant had to pass them on his way home, and he desired Breakell to accompany him. On getting near the group, the parties separated, leaving the two prisoners standing together, and as the police were about to pass them, Robert Tong suddenly sat down on the path way, and threw his legs up so as to trip the sergeant, Elijah at the same time stooped and butted him on the stomach with his head, and he was thrown down. Robert then gave him a kick on the face, just under the ear, when Breaknell seized Robert, and they struggled across the road. Elijah then pressed his left open hand on the sergeantís face (the marks of his finger nails were still very plain), and kicked him three times as he lay, on the face and head. The sergeant then seized him by the hair; after a struggle they both got upon their feet, and the sergeant proving stronger, mastered him. In the meantime, Constable Breaknell had overcome the other assailant, and they were both forced up to the station. While there they were still violent; Elijah seized the tongs, which Breaknell wrestled from him, and then the poker which was also forced from his hand by the constable. They were then handcuffed and secured at the station in Bolton. The sergeantís wounds bled much, and he had been unfit for duty since, his face being still greatly disfigured. Constable Breaknell gave similar testimony, and added that he had to draw his staff and threaten to use it before Robert yielded.

Defendants said Breaknell struck Robert as soon as the police came up to them, and the Elijah took to the sergeant. Mr. Birley said that the prisoners had set it out that the policemen had been drinking with them in the public-house; he wished to know the truth before they proceeded further.

The sergeant said that they were asked to have a glass of ale each with the company, but they refused, and neither tasted there nor with the prisoners at any public-house.

Mr Birley: That was right. The prisoners called no witnesses, and the magistrates having consulted, Mr. Birley said that the laborious population around us, sometimes, it was to be regretted, indulged in their enjoyments to excess, and became rude, but, generally, they were on good terms with the police, who were intended to friends and protectors of them all. If anyone had a complaint against a constable for exceeding his office of duty, or being cruel and unjust, the magistrates, on proof, would punish him to the utmost of their power. They had the same determination to protect the police in the due exercise of their authority, as it clearly appeared they were in this case. Fortunately, it was not often they had so bad a one before them. They had power to deal with it summarily; they could fine them to the amount of £5, and in default of payment there would be imprisonment for two months, but this attack was so cowardly in its beginning, so savagely continued, and so inexcusable, that they were resolved not admit of a money payment, but to send the prisoners for trial at the Quarter Sessions. You (to Elijah), I see, were here before in January, 1855. I trust you will now receive a lesson which will teach you to let the police alone in future.

The prisoners applied for bail, which the magistrates refused to allow, telling them that the sessions commenced on Monday. The wives of the prisoners, in tears, made an appeal for the same purpose, with the like result.


Additional references:

General Sessions of the Peace at Salford
31st May 1858

Robert Tonge, Assault on a Police Constable, 6 Months Imprisonment
Elijah Tonge, Assault on a Police Constable, 6 Months Imprisonment

Bill of Costs of Prosecution (LRO Reference: QSP3558/43)
Salford May 1858

James Tindall (Seargant of Police) Of Turton
Against Robert Tonge & Elijah Tonge
Assault on a police constable

Paid expenses to:
Richard Breakell
Bradshaw Police Constable
Of Bradshaw

Councel: Mr. Holker of Bolton

SJT Notes:

I'm fairly convinced that the Robert and Elijah Tonge mentioned above are in fact Robert and Elisha Tonge, the eldest sons of Ralph Tonge and Susannah Cooper of Heaton.  Robert and Elisha had an uncle called Elijah Tonge, who had emigrated to the USA, and died in New Jersey in 1855, so we know that it's not him.  He is the only Elijah Tonge listed in the birth, marriage and death indexes between 1837 and 1930, and the only one listed on the UK census between 1841 and 1891, so we know that there was only one Elijah Tonge in the UK during this time period and that he had already emigrated and died before the assault  took place.

Similarly, Elisha is the only Elisha Tonge in the UK through the whole of the Victorian period, so we can't be getting him mixed up with anyone else.

Many of the other details in the report also match, strengthening the argument that the brothers are the sons of Ralph & Susannah Tonge.  Both Elisha and Robert are listed as Coal Miners on the 1851 census, and the article states that the defendants  were employed as colliers at Turton.  In 1861, Elisha is living at Turton, having married Margaret Crompton of Turton.  The report states that both men are married; Elisha had marred Margaret Crompton in 1855, Robert had married Patience Fairhust in 1857, so it would have been they who the report describes as "tearful wives".  Patience in fact would have been pregnant at the time of the trial with their second child Seth.