An overcharging bus conductor ends up inside

John Rogers was a conductor on the Blackwall omnibus whose vehicle served the route to the Great Exhibition of 1851. He found himself in court in October of that year accused of overcharging a customer and of using foul and abusive language.

Mrs Margaret Clifton was waiting at Sloane Street with a group of other passengers to catch a bus towards Bank. She claimed to have heard him shout ‘fourpence for the bank’ and so she got onboard and asked for Southampton Street. When she reached her destination  she got off and handed him 4d, as required.

Rogers however, refused her money and demanded sixpence instead. When she in turn refused to pay the extra he called her names (the report merely stating he called her ‘a _____ and _____ cat’) * which drew a crowd of concerned people around them.

Rogers then severely overstepped the mark by asking her ‘what she would have thought, on taking him to a room, he offered her only a tanner – would she not demand a shilling?’ It was an outrageous thing to say because Rogers was implying she was a prostitute, or was at least willing to act as one.

The crowd was suitably disgusted as was a local shopkeeper who, a police witness stated, was unable to appear in court but was happy to testify at a later date.

Rogers was reprimanded by the magistrate despite at least one (working class) witness appearing to support the conductor’s defence that he had said no such thing. The Bow Street justice sentenced Rogers to a month’s imprisonment and suspended his license for a further two months harsh indeed.

[from The Morning Chronicle, Thursday, October 9, 1851]

  • make up your own mind what he might have said

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