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The "Gunpowder" at Rotherhithe

Source: The Illustrated London News, April 30, 1853

On Thursday, Mr. Henry, the magistrate, delivered his judgment in this case against Mr. Hale. His worship quoted the act of Parliament, and various works, on gunpowder, at some length; but the section of the act, the 11th, the one under which the defendant was summoned, provides—

That no person shall have, or keep at any one time, in any place within three miles of the cities of London or Westminster, or within one mile of any other borough or market-town, a greater quantity than 200 pounds in weight if he be a dealer in gunpowder, or than fifty pounds if not a dealer, on pain of forfeiting all above the allowed quantity, and also two shillings for every pound of the excess." I am of opinion, that whether the powder be granulated, or meal powder, and whether it be for gun, rocket, or mining use, it is equally gunpowder within the provisions of that section, and within the mischief which it was intended to guard against. I therefore adjudge, that all the powder seized beyond the allowed quantity shall be forfeited, and that the defendant shall pay two schillings for every pound beyond each allowed quantity; and I adjudge that the excessive quantity of gunpowder to be fifty-seven pounds in weight.

Mr. Bodkin applied to have the penalties enforced against the defendant, because Mr. Henry had decided that the composition which had been used was in fact gunpowder, and there could be no doubt that the rockets had been implements of war. Evidence was given to prove that Mr. Hale and his people had been found manufacturing the rockets; among others, a Major Usever, a Hungarian, who was introduced to Mr. Hale by M. Kossuth. He stated that—

During the time I was working in the factory I was sent to Kossuth, near Pimlico, about the middle of October. I saw Kossuth at the factory, where I saw Mr. Hale and the late Hungarian contractor. After some conversation, Kossuth and Hale told us then to go, and it was then that Kossuth told us to keep the affair secret. A little later I was sent by Mr. Robert to the father, and said he would tell him what was to be done. I saw Mr. Hate the elder, and he sent me to Kossuth. In consequence, I went to Kossuth, and saw him in his own room. When I left the work I told Mr. Hale what Kossuth said to me. Mr Robert Hale said to myself and my fellow workmen on several occasions, in public houses and other places, that we must not betray the Hungarian war or the name of Hungary. I have often worked in what was called the Magazine.

Cross-examined by Mr. Clarkson: I obtained this employment after [I] came out of Maidstone jail for theft. I was in jail for about half a year. W. Gerlack, a German, gave similar evidence. The Magistrate said there was sufficient evidence to send the case before another tribunal, and committed the defendants, bail being taken for their appearance.

External site: Southwark Local History Library