A cheerful drunk and his ‘pal’ at Bow Street


Gatti’s Music Hall, Charing Cross 

This story falls into the category of ‘amusing’ or ‘unusual’ tales of the capital that must have entertained the readership of the late Victorian and Edwardian newspapers.

Henry Burward was one of life’s ‘helpers’. In November 1894 he latched on to a drunken gentleman and proceeded to ‘help’ him for most of an evening. Burward was seen by two of the Met’s police detectives (Detectives Callaghan and  Oxley) while they patrolled around Charing Cross Station.

At about 8 in the evening Oxley noticed Burward come to the assistance of an elderly gentleman who was clearly very much the worse for drink. Our ‘good Samaritan’ took the gent by the arm and ‘piloted him down the stairs’ to Villiers Street. The pair then entered Gatti’s Musical Hall and its ‘grand café’ for some refreshment.

Burward was here observed to be paying close attention to his new found friend, ‘putting his necktie straight, pulling his coat straight, and tapping his pockets’. Soon after they left  and walked up Villier’s Street where a passer-by told Burward to leave the old man alone. “He’s a pal of mine”, replied Burward, “I’ve been with him all day” and with a “come long Fred” the pair continued their perambulation.

At the corner of John Street they entered a cigar street where Burward called for cigars. He dipped his hands into the gentleman’s pockets to pay for the cigars, dropping some money as he did so. They left and the detectives heard Burward say, “Come along Fred, we’ll take a cab”.

At the Strand the old man began to harrass passing ladies and this drew the attention of the nearest beat bobby, who intervened. When PC 141E arrested the gentleman Burward was outraged. “You scoundrel”, he cried, “I am a respectable tradesman and a ratepayer. I have your number and I will have the  coat off your back. This is my friend and I am looking after him to make sure he does not lose anything.”

The policeman responded by telling Burward that if he was his friend (which he clearly doubted) he had better come along with him to the station, if he wasn’t then he would arrest him there and then.

When they got to the police station and the the old gentleman had recovered his senses (or rather, sobered up enough) he was asked whether Burward was known to him. He replied that he had never seen him before in his life.

When it came before the magistrate at Bow Street the gentleman was now asked if he had any recollection of befriending Mr Burward. He hadn’t, and the justice added: “in fact, you got very drunk”, “in fact sir, I did” replied the unnamed witness. Burward for his pains, was remanded on a charge of attempting to steal.

The police today will tell you that you are never more vulnerable to crime than when you are drunk or otherwise incapable.

[from The Morning Post, Friday, November 09, 1894]

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