‘Haven’t you any smaller houses?’ An escaped lunatic at the duke’s front door

York or Stafford House, St James's Park, London

In the early hours of the morning the night porter at Stafford House, (the Duke of Sutherland’s London home), was summoned by the ringing of the front door bell. When he opened the door a man was stood there, looking distracted and disheveled, and who claimed to be the Duke himself.

Clearly he wasn’t the aristocrat in question and the porter told him to go away. Moments later he was back again trying to gain access through one of the downstairs windows. The porter called the police.

When PC 447A questioned him the man again insisted he was the duke and said he’d been out with the Prince of Wales and thought it best to get in by a window than to disturb the household via the front door. The constable was unconvinced by the man’s explanation, thought it likely he was mad, and arrested him.

Back at the police station the police doctor was called and he pronounced the man to ‘be insane’ after which he was locked up prior to being taken before Mr Flowers at Bow Street Police court in the morning.

In court he was alleged to be a wandering ‘lunatic’ by the name of Walter Trower. He was 21 years of age and described as being ‘well dressed’. The magistrate asked him if he had anything to say or any questions to ask. Trower simply continued to insist he was the Duke of Sutherland and that he had been out with the Prince of Wales. However, he clarified this to say that the prince was ‘with me’ adding that: ‘I believe that under the lunacy laws I am the Prince’s sovereign’.

Mr Flowers told him that he would be remanded in custody while investigations into his background were conducted. ‘Of course you will allow me to stop at Stafford House in the meanwhile?’ Trower asked.

Sadly not, the magistrate explained, but he assured him he would be very comfortable in the house of detention. ‘Well sir’ the defendant enquired, ‘if not there [Stafford House] I have other houses in London. The Duke of Portland’s house in Cavendish Square is also mine. I could stop there’.

‘Haven’t you any smaller houses?’ Flowers asked him, drawing laughter from his watching courtroom audience. ‘No, sir I am afraid I have not’ said Trowers before he was led away to the cells. Soon afterwards Inspector Horsley from A Division appeared to confirm that the poor man had escaped from an asylum in Peckham and Mr Flowers instructed that he should be taken back there as soon as was possible.

[from The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, June 27, 1874]

On June 15 Drew’s new book (co-authored by Andy Wise) was published by Amberley Books. It is a new study of the Whitechapel murders of 1888 which offers up a new suspect, links the ‘Jack the Ripper’ killings to the unsolved ‘Thames Torso’ crimes, and provides the reader with important contextual history of Victorian London. The book is available to order on Amazon here

One funeral and two pickpockets


In July 1881 the dean of Westminster Abbey, the Rev Arthur Stanley, died. He had served as dean since 1863 and wrote several religious articles. His burial in the Abbey was recorded in a contemporary work about the Abbey written by Stanley and published (posthumously) in 1886.

“Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (author of this volume) … was followed by the Prince of Wales, as representative of the Sovereign, by other members of the Royal Family, by representatives of the three Estates of the Realm, of the Cabinet Ministers, the literature, arts, science, and religion of the country, and by a large concourse of the working-men of Westminster—the majority mourning for one who had been their personal friend.”

Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Historical memorials of Westminster Abbey, (London, 1886).

Sadly it would seem that while many people turned out to mourn the dean’s passing others saw it as an opportunity for easy profit. Funerals draw a crowd and crowds (as any unwary visitor to Covent Garden ought to realise) draw pickpockets.

Two people were caught in the act of picking pockets amongst the mourners that afternoon and both appeared at Westminster Police Court in early August.

Daniel Green was just 17 but had already earned himself a ‘bad character’. He was seen attempting ‘to pick several ladies’ pockets’ before he was arrested by Sergeant Reader of E Division. He was probably there as a member of the crowd himself but when he had been a constable in A Division he had learned to recognise many of the ‘known thieves’ in the vicinity. When he was searched Green was found to have several handkerchiefs on him but the owners could not be traced. Mr D’Eyncourt  sent the youth to prison for three months at hard labour.

Jane Thomas was 53 years old – so should presumably have known better than to attempt to pick pockets inside the Abbey. There was less evidence against her so the magistrate used the Vagrancy Laws to have her convicted as a rogue and vagabond. She too got three months hard labour for her pains.

[from The Morning Post, Wednesday, August 03, 1881]

The aftermath of the Hyde Park Review of 1876

In most of my posts I’ve discussed a single case on its merits and sometimes tried to look at it in some sort of context. For today though I thought I’d break with convention and give a broader idea of what was happening in one London court in July 1876.


On 3 July there had been a volunteer review in Hyde Park involving some 30,000 men of the volunteer armed forces in the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales. A great enclosure had been erected for the day and security was on high alert. Perhaps unsurprisingly there had been a number of incidents and a fair few arrests given that thousands more Londoners turned out to see the parade and catch a  glimpse of the royal family. Some of those nabbed on the day appeared at the Marlborough Street Police Court on the following Monday.

First up was Robert Gray (a long lost relative perhaps?). He was fined 40s for striking a  policeman who had attempted to hold him back as Gray tried to surge through the police lines to get closer to the parade. Likewise Edward Widdon and William Davis were served with small fines for assaulting the boys in blue.

A young lad of 16, Harry Ashton, was caught throwing stones and fined 20s while Jacob Rosenthal had been brought in for attempting to pick the pockets of several women. His ‘mate’ (another lad) had run off and escaped from the police; Rosenthal was remanded in custody.  More seriously John Brown was fully convicted of stealing a watch and sent to prison for six months, at hard labour.

Finally William Jones, a commercial traveler from New Cross, appeared accused of damaging a tree. Jones had climbed the tree to get a better view of the soldiers as they passed by and to keep out of the way of the crowd, which he described as ‘very unruly’. Sadly for him a police constable spotted him and ordered him to desxcend. As he came down he kicked the policeman in the face (deliberately or otherwise, its not entirely clear from the report). As a result he was arrested and the copper claimed he then tried to escape from two PCs, kicking out at both of them.

The magistrate deemed this poor behaviour and told he should never have been up the tree in the first place. He fined him 40s or a month in prison.

[from The Morning Post, Tuesday, July 04, 1876]