7th July 1885 - two convicted of Salisbury bombings

Explosion in SalisburyThe Times of Wednesday July the 8th reported that:

At Salisbury yesterday. before Mr Justice Field, Richard William Holloway, 26, described as a clerk, and William chalk, 39, labourer were indicted for offences under the Explosive Substances Act 1883. Holloway was the son of a corn merchant in Salisbury, now deceased. Chalk was merely a labourer employed in the Salisbury Cheese Stores, and was no doubt a mere tool in Holloway's hands, acting under his direction. Politics he was glad to say, did not come into the case, the acts being simply done out of wicked mischief and to obtain notoriety. Holloway was arrested on April 16, 1885 and from information he gave Chalk was arrested on April 25. Each made long statements that were reduced into writing, and read yesterday. Chalk said Holloway had given him 5s. for having placed the box, which contained 3lb. of gunpowder on the Herbert monument. Holloway admitted having supplied the explosives on two occasions, and that chalk had fired them by means of slow fuses. His Lordship, in summing up, said the case was an important one, but easy for a jury to decide. the question for their consideration was whether the prisoners or either of them were guilty under section 2 of the Act. His Lordship then reviewed the history of the Law on the subject. The present stature is directed against acts done without going into the question of intent, however indicative of foolishness, silliness or want of cation. After 20 minutes' deliberation, the foreman of the jury stated that their verdict against Holloway was that he was guilty but not maliciously. His Lordship said he thought he had explained to them that intention had nothing to do with it. Having again explained the law to them, he asked the jury to reconsider their verdict. They did so and almost immediately found both prisoners Guilty, recommending Chalk to mercy[1].

19th Century historian TJ Northey wrote:

the Judge (Mr. Justice Field), whilst believing that the offences arose merely out of a mischievous desire to alarm the public, said he felt bound to pass a sentence which would “ tend to induce foolish, and wicked, and stupid people to abstain from such conduct in the future.”

The principal offender was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment with such hard labour as his state of health would allow, and his less culpable accomplice was ordered to be detained in prison for two months.

It is satisfactory to note that these exemplary sentences put a stop not only to the serious class of offence for which the two culprits suffered, but to a system of dangerous practical joking which had passed out of the stage of the ridiculous and had become a public nuisance[2]

Image Credits

The picture has nothing to do with Salisbury or dynamite. It’s a detail from an illustration from Jules Verne’s novel “Around the Moon” drawn by Émile-Antoine Bayard and Alphonse de Neuville.

Attribution: Henri Théophile Hildibrand [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


[1] “The Assizes.” Times [London, England] 8 July 1885: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 22 Jan. 2014. Document URL http://find.galegroup.com/ttda/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=TTDA&userGroupName=wiltsttda&tabID=T003&docPage=article&searchType=&docId=CS168872168&type=multipage&contentSet=LTO&version=1.0

[2] The Popular History Of Old & New Sarum. T. J. Northy, Published by the Wiltshire County Mirror & Express Co. Ltd., 1897. Available digitally on the Internet Archive - URL: https://archive.org/stream/popularhistoryof00nort/popularhistoryof00nort_djvu.txt.

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