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Webb v Phipps

Even social outings were problematic due to alcohol consumption ...

The opening of the Bridgewater Bridge, from its short announcement to the public, was done without ceremony, and as a matter of no uncommon character ; indeed, as a thing of course. Preparations, without the due notice to which on such an occasion the public was entitled, were made by Mr. Anson, Mr. Morris, and Mr. Hedger, and with which all who attended to honor the expected ceremony with their presence, were well pleased. The visitors in gigs, carriages, and on horseback, were perhaps about 100. Most of them appeared disappointed at not meeting his Excellency, or finding some excuse for his not being there to commemorate an event which every colonist should have rejoiced at as being one of the most useful, convenient, and necessary accomplished works which Van Diemens Land can boast of.

While it was whispered by some that a statue to Sir George Arthur should be placed at this end of the causeway, something was muttered about Sir W. Denison and Port Arthur. The engineer (Mr. Thomson) and a party of his friends visited the bridge, and afterwards partook of the good things at Mr. Morris' well-furnished table; the rest of the attendants were not of the aristocracy, but some well-dressed ladies were observed there. Had there been a public demonstration announced for the occasion, thousands would have attended from various parts. The weather, however, was very unfavourable—rain and sleet in the immediate vicinity, and snow on the surrounding hills. The Comet coach, driven by Frost, drove to the bridge with six-in-hand in a whip-like manner, the coach being crowded. 1

... which lead to another court case ...

Webb vs Phipps:
This was a Bridgewater Bridge Opening festivity assault case, as testified by the bridge of complainant's nose, which was seriously contused, while the adjacent organs of sight bore mournful testimony to the defendant's application of the laws of dynamics. Mr Brewer appeared for Mr Webb landlord of the Rock Tavern. Mr Wilmot considered the assault proved and fined Phipps 3 pounds and costs.2

... which was first tried at the Police Office ...

On Tuesday last there were - to use Mr. Macdowell's words - a very large congregation to hear the case Webb v. Phipps. Mr. Brewer appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr. Macdowell for the defendant.
Mr. Webb, who is the landlord of the Rock Hotel, stated his grievance. He and his wife, with Mr. Phipps (of the Eardley Arms) and his wife, together with other parties, started in a most amicable manner in one conveyance for Bridgewater on the 26th of April, the day on which the Bridge was opened : they returned together, and he was half-and-half, although he knew what he was about : when they got off the coach at Saville's, the Derwent Hotel, Phipps proposed a toss in the hat for a bottle of wine ; Mrs. Phipps interfered, and remarked that they had drunk enough : he then received a blow, which knocked him down, and before he could recover, Mrs. P., against whom the complaint was laid, bit him severely in the cheek : two or three of Phipps's friends had since tried to make it up between them, but he did not like to have his face spoiled, although he had no ill feeling towards Phipps.

John Frost, the billiard-marker at the Ship Hotel, stated that the defendant had been first assaulted : Webb hit her a slap on the nose : Phipps stood up like a man to protect his wife, but, being very drunk, was soon floored by Webb : he was a friend of Phipps's, and interfered, by removing Webb, who was pummelling him on the floor : walked home arm-in-arm with Phipps : know what he was about, but must admit he was rather half-and-half at the time : Phipps was helpless : had called at Webb's, to make up matters between the parties : they were all friends of his.

Mr. Macdowell maintained that Mr. Webb had first assaulted Mrs. Phipps, for which she gave him a good thrashing, and which he richly deserved.

Mr. Brewer remarked that if Mr. Webb was the first aggressor, how was it that Frost, with others, had gone to him to make matters up, instead of to Mrs. Phipps.

Messrs. Wilmot and Hiddlestone, the magistrates who heard the case, agreed that the evidence of the witness Frost could not be relied upon ; consequently a verdict was given for the plaintiff, damages £3 and costs. 3

... and then went to a full trial -

SUPREME COURT. Civil Sittings, Before His Honor the Puisne Judge. WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13.
Jurors :— John Forster, James McNaughton, James Milne Wilson, Alfred Manning.

Phipps v. Webb.
Mr. Macdowell addressed the jury for the plaintiff. It was an action brought by Mr. Phipps to recover damages for an assault committed upon his wife by the defendant. He objected to the depositions in a former case at the Police-office, (in which the plaintiffs wife, Mrs. Phipps, was fined,) from being produced or made subject of reference. He proceeded to call witnesses.

John Frost rented a billiard room at the Ship Hotel. On the 6th May went to Bridgewater Bridge opening, on Fisher's coach, they picked up plaintiff and wife, and defendant and wife, all returned together to Saville's "Derwent Hotel," in the evening. Phipps was very tipsy, his wife took him by the arm to lead him out. Mrs. Phipps was quite sober. Defendant got up and without the slightest provocation struck Mrs. Phipps violently on the face. It gave her a black eye and made her nose bleed a little. Webb backed out of the coffee-room, and returned almost directly with his coat off and his shirt sleeves tucked up. Witness prevented Webb from striking Mrs. Phipps again by holding his raised arm. Phipps was on the sofa incapable.

Cross-examined by Mr. Brewer. — Saw Mr. Munday there, but cannot say exactly at what time. Webb subsequently knocked Phipps down and gave him two black eyes. He himself was sober partly. Webb was half drunk. Mr. Brewer wished here to refer to the Police-office case, as that action was in the nature of an appeal against a summary conviction for assault, in which Mrs. Phipps for the squabble was fined £3 and costs. His Honor decided against such a course.

Cross-examination resumed. — Did not hear anything about "shaking in the hat" for a bottle of wine. While I held Webb's arm when he rushed at her to make a second blow, she pulled his nose. Webb had some slight scratches when he went away. I took Phipps home.

Frederick Saville, landlord of the Derwent Hotel. — On that evening saw Phipps and his wife leaving the house. Was attending to his business. Heard nothing further until he (heard Fisher say, in the presence of Webb, — If she was a wife of his, he would not see her struck. After that saw Webb with his coat off, and Frost trying to stop him. Phipps got up, and Webb knocked him down. Did not see Munday.

Cross-examined. — I was sober. Fisher had had a glass, but knew what he was about. Saw Mrs. Phipps pulling up her sleeves at the wrists ; her bonnet was off; she was standing up before Webb, saying, " her husband was very much in liquor, and not fit to take his own part. She would not see him ill-used." Witness separated the parties, putting Phipps and his wife in the back-parlour. Did not hear Webb call for them to take the woman off, she was biting him. Saw Munday in the room at some time. Saw defendant afterwards in the bar washing his face; there was blood on it, and it appeared marked. Went to Webb's house next day to see him. Heard he was hurt. Did not go to offer compromise on part of Phipps.

Examination resumed by Mr. Macdowell. — Mrs. Phipps pulled her sleeves up at the wrists after Webb struck her husband. Webb followed them after we had separated the parties, into the back parlour. Heard him then make use of some bad language to Mrs. Phipps. She replied, "If you call we that again, I will not stand it." He repeated the expression. She then struck him on the check.

Joseph Fisher drove his coach out with the party, returned in the evening to Saville's. It was in the Coffee-room. Saw Phipps and his wife going away. Could not say whether Munday was there or not. Saw Webb strike Mrs. Phipps twice.

Cross-examined by Mr. Brewer. — Was Saville sober ?. Don't know what you call sober. Was sober himself. Had taken something, was seldom without. Does not get drunk and drive four horses. Heard nothing about " shaking in the hat." Saw no provocation. Saw Munday in the back-parlour, but not in the coffee-room.

Mr. Brewer for the defence, considered it out of all place to take up the time of the jury and that Court by drunken squabbles which should have been settled at the Police-office. Mr. Macdowell had informed them that he had advised the parties to bring it there. At the Police-office a counter complaint would have had but little chance, and he would tell them it was the animosity of parties defeated that had brought the case there, despite of expense. And he would ask when drunken people choose to squabble and fight, were they (the jury) to be called as arbiters ?. He then spoke of the facts he intended to bring forward in evidence to prove Mrs. Phipps the aggressor. The other party had only one witness at the Police-office. He then attributed an indecent allusion (according to his disinterested witness) to Mrs. Phipps, about which the other party remembered nothing. It was Webb and not Phipps that had to he led away after the beating the she-tiger had given him.

George Munday, for the defence. Mr. Justice Horne. — How do you spell your name ?. Witness. — G-E-O-R-G-E, (great laughter, stopped by the javelin-men). Judge. — I mean your Christian name. Munday. Went by Fisher's coach to Bridgewater, returned by Mr. Hartam's gig. In consequence of what I was told went into the parlour. Saw there Phipps and his wife, with Webb and his wife. Heard Webb say, putting his hand on Mrs. Phipps' shoulder, " We have been friends all day, let us be friends still." The conversation following, as stated by the witness, is not fit for publication. Witness saw Webb knocked down ; could not say by whom. Webb got up, and asked what that was for. Mrs. Phipps then prepared her self, and commenced a violent assault on Webb. The door was then closed and witness pushed out. Heard Webb say, " take off the woman, she's biting my cheek off." Saw the bite-mark afterwards. Witness burst open the door, and found Webb on the ground struggling with Mrs. Phipps, who was uppermost. Took Webb home.

Cross-examination. — I was not drunk, sensible, not perfectly sober. Mr. Macdowell was very facetious in cross-examination, with reference to the fair companion of the witness. He then replied, impressing upon the jury that neither Frost, Saville, nor Fisher heard the improper language alluded to.

Mr. Justice Horne briefly commented on the case. The doubt to be attached to the evidence of witnesses in the state described with respect to sobriety. His explanation would tend to impress upon the minds of the jury, that Munday only saw the latter part of the fray, ie., in the back parlour. The jury were not however obliged to give more of the £50 than they thought proper. After retiring for nearly two hours, a verdict was returned of One Farthing damages !. 4

Source References
  • 1. Domestic intelligence - Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 - 1857) 27 April 1849, p 3
  • 2. POLICE REPORT - The Britannia and Trades' Advocate (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1846 - 1851) 3 May 1849, p 3
  • 3. Domestic Intelligence - Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 - 1857) 4 May 1849, p 3
  • 4. SUPREME COURT - The Britannia and Trades' Advocate (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1846 - 1851) 14 June 1849, p 2
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