More History : Drunken Fighting In Rayleigh Two Hundred Years Ago.




The History House website is a website devoted to Essex History.

There’s lots of stuff , for example, this account of an argument at a Rayleigh pub in 1805 that led to seven respectable men having to pay the massive fine of 300 guineas for attacking the innkeeper:

On Friday the assizes for Essex closed at Chelmsford. A trial on that day by a Special Jury, for an assault on Mr. Higgs, an inn-keeper at Rayleigh, excited much interest.

The defendants were a Mr. Wrenn, a gentleman of fortune, near Southend, in that County; A Mr. Asplin, a Doctor of Physic, a Magistrate, and a Commander of a Volunteer Corps; a Mr. Marshall Turner, a farmer; a Mr. Sumner, a Mr. Kennet, and a Mr. G. Asplin; one of these was also a Clergyman and a Magistrate.

These Gentlemen ordered a dinner at the house of the Plaintiff, at Rayleigh, on the 2d of November last. The dinner was ordered for twelve or fourteen, but only seven persons came to it.

They continued drinking until ten at night, when the bill was called which was deemed extortionate, and the Plaintiff was ordered to abate one guinea, which he declined, and the Defendants shut the door, and beat and dragged the Plaintiff about the floor, till his cries brought some persons to his assistance, who took some of the defendants into custody, and delivered them to the peace-officers.

Some of the party immediately gave information to a part of the corps who were on duty in the neighbourhood, who expressed a determination to rescue their commander and his comrades; but one of the officers of the corps had the address to liberate the parties, in order to avoid any unpleasant consequences.

Mr. Justice Rooke said, that the Defendants were gentlemen of respectability, and the Corps stood high in public estimation; it would be better not to go into a further exposure of this affair, but that it should be left to any Gentleman of the Jury to say what recompence the Plaintiff should receive. [The jury] awarded the Plaintiff 300 guineas.

… perhaps the descendants of these people are still drinking in Rayleigh today…

About the author, admin

  • Anyone who is interested in this sort of thing should try and get hold of ‘Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears’ by Geoffrey Pearson. The author recounts the history of this sort of rowdyism over the centuries, and asks why it is that contemporary society wrings its hands and says ‘It wasn’t like this in the old days.’ Well – it was!


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