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100 years ago in Eccles: Illegal gambling habit puts teens as young as 14 in court

Believe it or not, 100 years ago in Eccles, the perils of gambling were rife for young children.

We are all used to seeing amusement arcades on our high streets with promises of cash galore to be won for only a few pence stake.

But in late September 1915 a lady called Nellie Wilson appeared at Eccles Magistrates Court charged with keeping a room at 73 Church Street, Eccles, for the purpose of gaming.

The premises, near where the Town Hall pub now stands, is assumed to have been demolished.

Two detectives from Eccles police, Bentham and Blears, staked out the shop before enacting a walk-in raid.

They found six youths – the youngest of whom was 14 – grouped around an automatic penny slot machine with the alluring title of ‘Hand and Eye’.

The game consisted of a flat board with eleven holes drilled in it: you put your money in, and wooden balls would drop down – if you were lucky enough to get two of your four balls in the same hole you won the amount stated.

A youth named only in court only as Haslingden was spotted playing the odds, and despite putting four penny pieces in won only a twopenny check, which was redeemable in the shop.

Another youth, William Baron, was more lucky, winning a twopenny check from his first penny piece.

A penny might buy you five cigarettes or a loaf of bread and milk in 1915.

Edward Hulmes, 14, lost eight pennies to the machine with no return.

Detective Bentham had seen enough of this disgraceful behaviour and arrested the children along with shopkeeper Nellie Wilson.

In court the Magistrate was not impressed with these juvenile gambling antics and listened with interest as the youths told him how much money they had gambled away.

The youth Haslingden admitted to the court that he had lost a lot more than he had won.

William Baron said the had lost sixteen pence and had won twopence, adding that he liked to gamble in the hope of winning his money back.

Superintendent Keys from Eccles police added dryly that young Mr Baron was a “sporting gentleman” as he had appeared before the Magistrates Court only the week before charged with playing cards in the street.

Edward Hulme, it would appear, had no luck at all: he admitted to the court that he had only won once in seven weeks of gambling, adding that he “worked for the money” and that he liked to “have a bit of sport with it”.

This didn’t go down to well with the Magistrate who told him that if he was his employer he would reduce his wages!

Nellie Wilson took the stand and told the court that when she took over the business the machine came with it, and she was assured that it was legal and had been ratified by the High Court of Justice.

The Clerk of the Court disagreed, stating that a similar court case had been heard recently in Birmingham and the machine had been confiscated.

The Magistrate had heard enough and fined Nellie Wilson 10 shillings and sixpence (or 14 days in prison) and advised her strongly to get rid of the gambling machine “which were proving harmful to the boys of Eccles”.

I wonder what the judiciary would make of Eccles town centre in 2015, with several amusement arcades and betting shops, not to mention the fruit machines in almost every public house.

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.