An extraordinary fare dodger at Lambeth

Theodore Hook was a cigar merchant and someone that had involved himself closely in the recent attempt by Morgan Howard to win the parliamentary seat of Lambeth.* But he was also a quite extraordinary fellow if the account of his appearance at the Lambeth Police Court in December 1880 is anything to go by.

During the election campaign Hook had behaved in such a disorderly manner in the Elephant and Castle pub that the landlord had called the police. This had led Hook to court but the solicitor representing the South London Licensed Victuallers; Protection Association declined to prosecute further. But the magistrate had remanded Hook because other claims were being made about him and he wanted these investigated.

PC 423P (no name given) revealed that Hook was in the habit of taking cabs but refusing to pay the fares. No fewer than 7 cabbies came forward to testify against him and it became apparent that Hook had ‘dodged’ fares amounting to over £8 (or around £400 in today’s money).

V0013739 The Hospital of Bethlem [Bedlam], St. George's Fields, Lambe

Bethlem (‘Bedlam’) Hospital in the 19th century

But there was more. Hook had also been charged with ‘wandering in the streets without any visible means of existence, or being under proper control’, the constable told the Lambeth court.

Hook’s brother now came forward to explain that his sibling had recently been in Bedlam (London’s notorious ‘lunatic asylum’). The magistrate said surely the family should take him in and care for him but the other Mt Hook said ‘it was quite beyond their power to do anything’.

Other witnesses now testified. One gentleman said he thought the prisoner’s cigar business was in ruins, another that he had seen Hook at Dulwich ‘building up stones’ to make a statue of the Queen. He added that Hook told him he ‘had been authorized to go over to Russia to put the Emperor Alexander in order’. This would have been Tsar Alexander II who was assassinated in 1881 (not by Hook it has to be said). He was also said to have walked into the sea ‘in a most daring manner’.

When this was put to Hook he denied being insane but admitted he could be ‘at times a little strange’. Mr. Chance the magistrate thought it quite evident that Hook was not fit to be ‘at large’ and felt that his friends and family were responsible for looking after him. Since, however, it seemed they were not prepared to do so he would order Hook to find two people that would post bail for him to the value of £20. No one came forward and so the unhappy man was remanded in custody once again.

[from The Standard, Monday, December 06, 1880]

* Howard (a barrister and judge) failed on this occasion but did subsequently enter Parliament as a Conservative MOP for Dulwich in 1885. He served just 2 years before resigning his seat and moving to Cornwall where he was appointed as a judge on the County Court Circuit.

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