Walkern’s Cuckold Riding riot of 1848
1848: Walkern – A Village Riot
Reported in The Hertford Mercury, Saturday February 12, 1848
(With many thanks to Dave Stuckey)
The town of Walkern was disturbed from its propriety on Monday week, by what is termed a “Cuckold Riding”, arising out of the intimacy of a married man with a widow of the village. The police interferred and a riot ensued, the particulars of which are given in the following account of the investigation before the magistrates.
On Thursday, Benjamin Miles, Joseph Harvey, Thomas Cox, George Pettitt, Joseph Mills, Nathan Warner, Henry Warner, James Bray, William Ray, John Fisher, Henry Elliott and James Warner (alias ‘Trouty’), were brought before the Hon F.D. Ryder, and J. Curling, esq., at the Town Hall, Hitchin, charged with assaulting several policemen, with intent to do them some grevious bodily harm.
Daniel Saunders, police constable, stationed at Walkern, deposed: in consequence of having heard that there was to be a “Cuckold Riding” at Walkern, on Monday evening 31st Jan. He and police constables, John Jags and Edward Townsend were on duty at Walkern, and were instructed to preserve the peace. That the exhibition before described took place, when the police constables requested the persons congregated to go home, which they refused to do, and continued shouting; and police constable Townsend having been struck by Edward Draper, one of the ring-leaders, they took him into custody and lodged him in the Station House. Thomas Cox was there and said “I will knock your —— heads of!” George Pettitt was there and said “Go it, Go it!”
Benjamin Miles struck police constable Townsend, and he was kicked by the mob. When Townsend was down Miles said “Will you let the man out of the cage?” and Nathan Warner said “If you don’t let him out we’ll do for you!” Townsend said if they let him get up he would let the man out; and the man was let out. Witness received a blow on the groin from Nathan Warner. Thomas Cox said they meant to kill them. Joseph Miles had a stick which he used and made similar expressions.
The three police constables begged of them to let them go home; and they said unless the policemen promised not to interfere again they would do for them, and they afterwards let them go. Witness also stated the names of several other persons who were present but who were not then apprehended.
Edward Townsend, police constable stationed at Little Munden, deposed that he was directed to go to Walkern to preserve the peace on Monday the 31st, and confirmed the evidence of Saunders and Jags, believed that there were between one and two hundred persons in the street. Edward Draper was flourishing a torch (made of tar rope) about and he, having struck witness on the nose with his fist, witness took him into custody and put him into the cage.
When the crowd went towards Pettitt’s beer shop they had no sticks, but when they came back they were armed with bludgeons. Benjamin Miles came up to witness and said “Now you,.. we’ve got sticks as well as you!” and immediately afterwards a man hit constable Jags on the forehead with a stick, and Benjamin Miles hit witness on the back of his head with a stick and took his staff away from him. They said “Will you let the man out of the cage? – we’ll have him out, or we’ll do for you, or else we’ll knock the place down!”
Witness told them he would let the man out of the cage if they would let him get up; and when he got up on his hands and knees he was knocked down again, and then ‘Gudgin’ Miles came up and said “Don’t kill the man!” and helped witness up and went with him to the cage and let the man out.
The police constables went to Saunders’ house and washed the blood off their hands and faces, and afterwards went to Pettitt’s beer shop, when Pettitt said to witness “You’re the ——- who informed against me, aren’t you? But you did not get much by it. You’re a ——sneakin’ hound! I don’t care about you as long so long as I get my brewer to stick to me.”
Witness did not strike anybody that night, unless he might have hit Edward Draper’s hand when witness struck at the torch he was carrying, nor did he see the other police constables. They were all in their uniforms. William Wells, baker, Walkern, corroborated the evidence of the policemen.
William Hill deposed “I am gardener to Mr Harding: I saw the crowd with a cart come opposite my house, where they stopped and shouted; I knew this was done to annoy me; they went down the village and came back and pelted my house.” This witness further confirmed the evidence of the police constables.
Charles Good, Inspector of police for the Stevenage Division, stated that at the Petty Sessions, held on Monday 31st, the Rev. Mr Harding of Walkern, applied to the Bench for some assistance as he anticipated a disturbance at that place in the evening. Witness sent two constables, Jags and Townsend, to Walkern to preserve the peace; the other policeman, Saunders, is stationed at Walkern
The Hon. F. D. Ryder informed Miles, Harvey, Cox and Pettitt, that they stood committed to take their trials at the next assizes. Joseph Miles, Nathan Warner were remanded, and Henry Warner, Bray, Ray, Fisher, Elliott and James Warner (alias ‘Trouty’) were discharged. Bail was afterwards accepted for Pettitt’s appearance.
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