Nostalgia: 1916 court: Balmoral’s blaze of light is ‘shocking’

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At the Borough Police Court eleven persons appeared before the magistrates for failing to obscure lights.

The delinquents and the fines imposed were as follows: Col Charles Jasper Blunt, 5, Cliff Bridge Terrace (10s); John Nelson (licence holder), 11, Newborough Street (5s); Louis Dalby (draper’s assistant), 17, Barwick Street (2s 6d); Arthur Edward Kirby (licence holder), Balmoral Hotel (£1); William Tinkler (draper), 16, Garfield Road (7s 6d); Martha Croft (barmaid), Assembly Rooms, Huntriss Row (5s); Catherine Oakes (lodging-house keeper), 26, Raleigh Street (2s 6d); Mary Elizabeth Coultas (lodging-house keeper), Prince of Wales Terrace (7s 6d); Lady Dorothea Gibb (independent), 17, Prince of Wales Terrace (10s).

In the case of the Balmoral Hotel, PC Wood said whilst on duty at the back of the hotel he saw lights shining through four windows. He went up to the premises and drew the defendant’s attention to the lights. Witness was shown into the commercial room, where there were five electric lights burning. Defendant admitted responsibility for the lights. Blinds were provided for each of the windows, which were all drawn. The windows themselves were also painted. The lights shone through the sides of the windows, but witness also found a bright light shining from a fan light at the front of the building, which threw a reflection on the bank opposite in Huntriss Row.

The chief constable corroborated the last witness’s evidence. He (the chief) was standing outside the hotel at the front at the time. The light showing there was very bad indeed. The yard was all illuminated by the lights shining at the back of the premises. The windows were all one blaze of light, and from the air they could have been seen for a great distance. All traffic was stopped at the time, as also were the trams, and he (the chief) considered the case of the hotel on that particular night shocking and most disgraceful.

Defendant, in the course of a statement to the magistrates, said the alleged illumination of the yard was a pure fabrication. He had spent between £250 and £300 to have his premises properly shaded to conform with the regulations and the persecution of the police. It was not, continued the defendant, a fair prosecution but persecution. There were 378 windows to the hotel and he had used every means in his power to have them shaded. He could not do any more.

The chief, replying to the defendant’s allegation of police persecution, said the police had had more trouble with this hotel than any one in the town. At one time things became so bad that he had to call the attention of the military authorities to the hotel, but having regard to the work defendant had done to have his premises shaded he was let off. He was continually giving trouble. He had been four times previously convicted for similar offences, the fines imposed in respect of which were 10s, £1, 7s 6d and 7s 6d. It exhausted his (the chief’s) patience to think that people should bring danger on the town in this way.

The mayor said defendant would be fined £1. The magistrates took strong exception to the way in which the defendant intimated that there had been police persecution in this case. It was the duty of the police to protect all the inhabitants of the town under the Defence of the Realm Act. Other persons in the town had been put to considerable expense, and larger establishments like the Balmoral Hotel more so, in conforming with the regulations, but it was possible to have lights properly obscured. The mayor expressed the opinion that the space at the side of windows should be properly shaded, by overlapping paper, for instance. The defendant in this case did not seem to realise that the regulations should be absolutely and carefully observed in the interest and safety of the whole town.

During an interval in the hearing of the cases the mayor said the magistrates thought lodging-house keepers should put up a notice in the hall calling the attention of visitors to the lighting regulations in order that they might be better observed.