Joiner’s machinery disturbs neighbours

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1914 Police Court

At the Scarborough County Court this morning, before Judge Lock and a jury, Margaret A Atkinson, widow, lodging house keeper, 56, Hoxton Road, sued JW Mawman, joiner, 56a, Hoxton Road, for £50 damages, and also sought an injunction.

Mr J Whitfield was for the plaintiff, and Mr C Mellor, barrister (instructed by Messrs Richardson and Parker) was for defendant.

Mr Whitfield said that plaintiff complained of a nuisance caused by defendant who had a cabinet-maker’s shop next door.

The defendant’s principal occupation was that of making furniture. In the course of the making of this he used a 2½ h.p. electric motor, which drove certain machinery utilised for the business. He had a circular saw and a planing machine. It was in regard to the circular saw and the planing machine that the greatest complaint was made. There was also a gas engine, but defendant’s statement – which was accepted – was that he did not use that for driving machinery, although he had used it for testing it. The noise disturbed plaintiff and her lodgers.

Plaintiff was owner and occupier, and was a lodging house keeper. She claimed that her health had suffered from the hammering and noise since October 1912, and lodgers, on whom she depended for her living, had refused to go again on account of the noise.

That was serious to plaintiff who, although she had been a widow for a short time, for 18 years had help from her husband. On lodgers she depended for her living, and the paying off, through the Building Society, of the principal and interest in regard to the purchase of the house, and rates, amounting together to some 9s a week. She had been in the house two years.

On one occasion a request had been made that the machinery might be stopped as a lodger was not well, but the request was not acceded to. It might be thought that plaintiff was unduly particular, but the former tenant was there before Mr Mawman, and some lodgers then had left on account of the noise.

Defendant formerly had his machinery in the factory yard, and he (Mr Whitfield) suggested he should have kept it there, and not taken it to a residential neighbourhood. When plaintiff was looking over the house she did not hear the machinery, or she might not have purchased, and she was sure she would not get the proper price for it, on account of the noise, if she wanted to sell. It was suggested that defendant should move the machinery elsewhere.

The Judge asked if there was any chance of buying the house, and Mr Mellor said he did not think so.

Plaintiff said she only had what she earned, and she had brought up a delicate son.

Defendant’s busiest time was from Christmas to August. The noise was affecting her health – the vibration was very great, and she could not rest in the house. To sit down sometimes was like being in an electric chair. The noise had affected her hearing, and made her head bad – it was more than any woman, with an iron nerve, could stand.

Her son, who had had night work, could not rest during the day, and had to go away.

During the last month, since the case was commenced, the machinery had not been so bad, it had been like living in heaven (laughter.) It was like purgatory when it was going, and when it stopped it was like a Sabbath day. She did get a bit of rest on a Sunday. The walls of the house had suffered.

By Mr Mellor: She had not complained of the noise until she had been in the house eighteen months, but there had been great annoyance, and visitors had left her.

At the outset she had two of defendant’s lodgers but one did not stay long. He said he “couldn’t stick him” (the defendant) (laughter). The other said defendant was the worst master he had worked for; he wouldn’t let them have gas at night to work by – they had put their own pennies in the slot.

Asked, later, if plaintiff had a piano, she said: No.

Mr Mellor: It has turned into an organ?

Plaintiff: It always was an organ (laughter).

Mr Mellor (laughing): You are too much for me, you are really (laughter.) Has that been playing?

Plaintiff: No, I have never had it put on this summer; there is enough with the machinery without any music (laughter).

The jury found for defendant, but strongly recommended that the machines should not be run before 8.30 in the morning.