A fracas in a hospital over a lost diamond stud

SJH-1887-1905

William Watts was either an exceedingly unpleasant individual or ‘not quite right in the head’ as contemporaries might have put it. I’m going with the former however, as he held down the job of a hotel manager, so presumably was a capable person.

In October 1885 he was arrested at a hospital in Leicester Square. St John’s specialised in diseases of the skin and Watts had been there on more than one occasion. Some weeks previously he had lost a gold topped walking cane and accused the staff at the hostel of stealing it. This time he claimed to have lost a diamond collar pin and angrily demanded its return.

‘As the pin could not be found, and as no one in the hospital knew anything about it, the accused became disorderly, and interrupted the business of the hospital for about half an hour’. 

He was asked to leave and then removed from the premises, only to return and start complaining again some time afterwards. The hospital’s secretary now had no choice but to call for the police, who arrived and took the disgruntled hotel manager away.

Back at the police station a police search quickly found the gentleman’s diamond pin, ‘fixed on the back of his shirt, where he himself admitted having placed it’.

Appearing at the Marlborough Street Police Court Watts, who gave his address as Thanet Place, Temple Bar, must have cut a sheepish figure. His previous altercation with the skin clinic was aired and the magistrate bound him over to the amount of £10 to keep the peace for three months. He advised the hospital not to receive him as patient in future.  The secretary probably made a note to do so, since he explained to the court that ‘such imputations were very unpleasant both to the staff and to the patients’.

One imagines this was the Victorian equivalent of the sign often seen in hospitals that reminds visitors that NHS staff should be the victims of abuse, violence or aggressive behaviour. They have a hard enough job to do without having to put up with idiots like William Watts or his modern incarnation.

[from The Illustrated Police News etc, Saturday, October 3, 1885]

ST John’s hospital no longer exists, according one ‘history’ it moved to 49 Leicester Square in 1887 but this article would suggest they had a presence there at least 2 years earlier. It is now a bar, the Slug and Lettuce. Perhaps Mr Watts would be happier there.

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