A vicar caught short in Highgate

The Victorian press is full of euphemism. This fits quite neatly with our supposed impression of the Victorian as stuffy and prudish of course, an impression that doesn’t really stand up to more focused historical research. However, the men of the press tended to err on the side of caution when mentioning stories of a sexual nature or those that involved bodily functions. They were far less discrete when describing the injuries suffered by murder or accident victims however, and we might reflect on this change in attitudes by the press – ours are much less reticent about showing or describing nudity or the sexual deviations of celebrities but details of gruesome crimes are generally less graphically portrayed.

In May 1847 PC Worman of S Division was patrolling his beat along Southwood Lane in Highgate when he saw a man urinating in a doorway. The policeman asked him to desist which provoked fury from the man, and a physical assault on the constable. PC Worman ‘sprang his rattle’ (in the days before whistles policeman carried rattles not unlike those seen at football matches until the late 1970s) and another officer ran to assist him.

They were now both attacked by the defendant and had some trouble in arresting him. In court at Marylebone he was revealed as a man of the cloth. Reverend Joseph Summers Brockhurst denied that he had assaulted the policemen and instead insisted he had been ‘roughly treated by the police’. He claimed that he suffered from a ‘complaint which compelled him to act as he had done’.

The magistrate, Mr Long, was appalled at the vicar’s conduct which he felt needed to be dealt with ‘severely’. As Rev. Brockhurst could offer no supporting evidence that he was innocent as charged the justice denied him the opportunity of paying a fine and sent him to the house of correction for a month.


[The Morning Chronicle (London, England), Monday, May 24, 1847]


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