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A Figure of Fun?

When Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan sat down to write the 'Pirates of Penzance', the comic aspect of the British policeman - or 'bobby' - as a figure of fun was to be cruelly exposed on the public stage in an effort to show off the less serious side of law enforcement in Queen Victoria's often stodgy England. Premiered, surprisingly, in New York on New Years Eve 1879, it presented, in the true tradition of the now famous couple, it served to poke yet more fun at so-called respectable civilisation and to take away the rigidity and solemnity of people in authority.

I present this musical aside as an adjunct to an amusing newspaper article I recently unearthed in an old local newspaper and which, as a former police officer, entertained me wonderfully for a while.  In 1893 in England, each and every one of the small villages in all the counties had their local constables who would totally rule the roost from sunrise to sunset, and frequently through the night. In the county of Rutland - the smallest in England - the village of Ketton was 'ruled' by police sergeant Henry Cross, London born, 33 years of age, husband to Eliza Ann and father of 4 years old Joseph William Henry Cross.  On the evening of Saturday, 30th September at about 7.25pm, Sgt. Cross was just about to cycle into trouble!


(Copied from;  the Melton Times, Friday, Oct. 20th 1893)



At the Oakham Petty Sessions on Monday, P.s. Cross, stationed at Empingham was charged with riding a bicycle without a light on the highway between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise, to wit at 25 minutes past seven o'clock on the night of the 13th Sept., at Ketton. - Mr. Atter prosecuted, and defendant pleaded not guilty.

JAMES CHARLESWORTH, an ex-police constable, said he was at present working in the stone quarries at Ketton, and had previously been in the Rutland Police Force for four years. The previous Wednesday evening he was in his house at 7.25 when he heard a noise outside, and went to see what the disturbance was about. Before he went out he noticed the time by the kitchen clock, which was always kept by station time. When he got outside, he saw the sergeant coming along the road on a bicycle. Wm. Savage was by his side, and he heard him say to Cross "I will not let you ride any further without a light." The time for lighting lamps that night was 7.18. Defendant got off his machine just in front of witness's window, and Savage stood in front of the bicycle. Cross afterwards proceeded with the bicycle, the lamp still being not lit. - Cross-examined by DEFENDANT: When he was in the Rutland Police Force defendant reported him, and he resigned.  The reason he looked at his clock before he came out was because he had to get a letter off by the eight o'clock post.  He could hear some high words in front of Mrs. Clift's house.  Savage stopped the machine by standing in front of it, but did not cause defendant to fall. He always compared his clock with that of Chas. Green, the signalman.  He saw defendant go to one or two men who were standing by, and ask them to take notice of what was going on.  Defendant did not ride the machine after he got past witness's window, but pushed it.  He did not hear defendant tell Savage that it was not time to light up. - A youth named HARRY GREEN stated that his father was a signalman in the service of the Midland Railway Company.  He was upstairs dressing when he heard a disturbance, and ran down to se what was the matter.  He looked at the clock as he left the room.  He never reckoned to leave the house without looking at the clock.  It was 7.25.  He was particular as to the time, because he had to meet the eight o'clock train. Cross examined:  He did not know whether his parents were on intimate terms or at variance with the defendant when he lived at Ketton.  Defendant had no light on his machine.  He looked where the lamp ought to be, but could not say whether there was a lamp. Their clock was adjusted at six o'clock that evening. - By the CHAIRMAN:  he was certain it was 7.25 to the minute - he might also say to the second.- DEFENDANT then addressed the bench, and drew attention to the relationship between himself and the two witnesses who had been examined for the prosecution. Chamberlain resigned the force because he reported him for neglect of duty, while as regarded Green he was always at variance with the youth's parents and declined to associate with them when he lived in Ketton.  On the 13th Sept. he went to Ketton on his machine, on duty.  He had been to Stamford in the afternoon, and whilst there he compared his watch with the Post Office time.  When he arrived at Ketton he was met by Savage, who was under the influence of drink.  Savage got in front of his machine, and refused to let him proceed without a light, although it was not time to light lamps.  The man said to him "Who do you think you are.  You would not associate with the like of me, when you lived at Ketton, and when you came into a public house you would not have a drink."  Defendant afterwards went on to Mr. Stanyon's, and when he got there it was between 20 and 25 minutes past seven, the clock in the house exactly corresponding with his watch. - MR. STANYON was called for the defence, and said that on the evening mentioned he was sitting in the house watching the clock.  He had an appointment at half past seven, and he always made a point of leaving at 25 minutes past when he went to keep it.  When defendant came to his door, it was between 20 and 25 minutes past seven.  He could not speak to the second as one of the witnesses had done.  The distance from Chamberlain's house to his door was from 200 to 300 yards.  He should say with the obstruction he met with, it would take the defendant quite ten minutes to get from Chamberlains house to his door.  He heard the mob yelling outside about alight, and the scene was disgraceful. - Mrs. STANYON, wife of the last witness, corroborated, as did also a lad named Hastings. _ CHARLESWORTH, recalled, said it would not take more than three minutes to get to Mr. Stanyon's house. - The Bench decided to dismiss that case, no costs being allowed.

Ketton Village, Rutland.

William Savage, labourer, Ketton, was then charged with being drunk on the highway at Ketton on the 13th Sept., and, further, with assaulting P.s. Cross while in the execution of his duty at the same time and place. - Mr Atter appeared for the defendant, who pleaded not guilty. - P.S. CROSS repeated the facts stated in the last case, and added that defendant assaulted him whilst he was proceeding with his machine.  One of his arms was in a sling, but he pulled it out and said, "I can use this as well." Opposite to Mr. Stanyon's he threatened to put his fist in witness's face, and to put his foot through the machine.  When witness went into Mr. Stanyon's, the man followed him into the house, and Mr. Stanyon had to request him to leave, and shut the door in his face.  Witness afterwards saw defendant shortly before ten o'clock, when he was the worse for drink. Cross-examined:  He could tell when the man spoke to him that he was the worse for drink.  He had to be escorted home by two people. Mr. Hastings first said the man was drunk, but then went back from his word, and made another statement. - Mr. STANYON stated that when the defendant came to his house he was so wild and excited and dangerous that it was some time before he could get anything definite from him.  If he had not been drunk he would not have acted in the way he did.  He had several times to request him to leave.  Savage was a man of common sense when he was sober, but he certainly was not a man of common sense on that occasion.  If the man was not drunk, he would never again know a drunken man when he saw one,  There was a crowd outside his house yelling. - Mrs. STANYON also gave evidence, but said although the man was excited she was not prepared to say whether he was drunk or sober. - Mr. ATTER having made a powerful speech for the defence, called several witnesses to prove that his client was not drunk. - A man named HIBBERT said although defendant was very excited he was perfectly sober. - Ex P.c. PELL stated that on the 13th September he was an officer in the Rutland Police Force, stationed at Ketton, when he resigned.  On the day of the disturbance, at the request of P.s. Cross he went to different parts of the village to find Savage, and saw him in the Exeter Arms.  He spoke to him, and would swear that he was not drunk. - Cross-examined by P.s. CROSS:  He advised the defendant to go home, and he went to Mrs. Hastings.  He stated that the man was neither drunk nor sober. - By the CHAIRMAN:  The reason he advised the defendant to go home was because he was calling Sergt. Cross some very nasty names - a ------ monkey and a ------- scamp. The charge of drunkenness was then dismissed, but the Bench decided to take further evidence on the charge of assault. - Wm. CHARLESWORTH stated that no assault was made on Cross when he got off his bicycle.  Cross coolly stepped off his machine the same as he would have done any other time.  The defendant had his left arm in a sling, so could not very well commit an assault. - Fredk. FRANCIS, gardener, having corroborated, the Bench dismissed the case.

Following that morning of high drama at the Petty Sessions, it appears indeed that a policeman's lot was definitely not a happy one.  Henry Cross did not stay in the Rutland Police Force long enough to get a decent pension, as within ten years he was to be found pulling pints and acting as 'mine host', having taken over the licence at the Fox and Hounds Hotel in Exton. Later, whilst still running the pub, he was to operate an apparently successful business of coal merchant.  

Young Joseph William Henry Cross, the couple's only child, seems to have emigrated as a young man and visitors to the church of St Peter and St Paul at Exton might be surprised to see amongst the artefacts displayed in the N.W. corner of the nave, a handsome carved wood funeral bier (trolley).  Of curious interest is a brass plate attached to the bier which records the 'Death of one Joseph William Henry Cross, aged 29, in Calgary, Canada, Oct 1911' [Actually, Joseph's birth is registered at Stamford in the second quarter of 1889 , which would make him 22? ] He was interred at Exton churchyard in June 1912. This information is recorded by Tudor Barlow on the 'Flickr' website, who also adds the following note:

The bier inside Exton Church
"I don't know the full details but it would have been extremely difficult to repatriate a body in those days so perhaps it was his ashes that were returned.  The bier was given by his parents for the exclusive use of the Parish of Exton.  

I expect the locals were dying to use it!"

Henry Cross died at the age of 59 in 1920 and his dear Eliza Ann lived on to the grand age of 89, dying in the Spring of 1952.

An Excellent Website exists for the small village of Exton at here:


Just in case anyone is still interested, this newspaper was also reporting a good attendance at the ram sales at Leicester Cattle Market, where it seems that " they were in splendid condition, and found ready buyers."  They went for a top price of £10.15s, down to a very low, £3.15s.  Long-wooled shearings and pure-bred Shropshires all sold well.


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