A Drunken Artist

On the evening of Tuesday, 7th August, 1888, John Holland and Edwin Ellis decided to head for the West End of London to enjoy a night on the town. It would appear that they proceeded to enjoy themselves a little too much, as is demonstrated by the following story, which appeared in The Shields Daily News on Friday 10 August 1888:-


At Marlborough Street Police Court on Wednesday, John Holland, aged 30, described as an artist, of St Aubin’s, Underhill Road, Dulwich, was charged with being drunk and disorderly in Regent Street shortly before one o’clock that morning.

Constable Watts, 182, said that the accused had his arm linked in that of another man. He was behaving in a disorderly manner, and, as he would not desist when spoken to, he was taken into custody.

Some women were close by at the time, and the conduct of the accused was witnessed by an inspector and another officer.


In his defence, the accused said that the constable had not spoken a word of truth.

The Prisoner indignantly denied the accusation, and said that he was not drunk, he did not behave in a disorderly manner, and he was not with any females. He was with a friend at the corner of Piccadilly Circus when he felt a hand on his collar. He did not know for the moment that it was a constable, so he pushed the intruder away.

He would swear on his oath that he was not drunk. The charge was a fabrication on the part of the police.

It was a serious matter to him, because he was a married man with a family.


He then called Edwin Ellis, artist, on his behalf, and that gentleman deposed that while walking arm-in-arm with the accused, just after the public-houses had been closed, they were told to walk on by the police.

Suddenly Mr Holland was viciously attacked and collared by a constable.

He (Ellis) then followed them to the Vine Street Police Station, but he was not admitted, and he was not allowed to give his version of the affair until the charge had been taken and his friend was removed.

As he was leaving the station a constable had kicked him.

This was but another instance, he said, of the miserable abuse shown by men in whose hands power was placed, and an exhibition of over-zeal on their part.


Mr Hannay (the Magistrate) ordered the accused be put back for the attendance of the inspector and constable who had witnessed the occurrence.

Later in the day, Inspector Booker deposed that, at about a quarter to one o’clock, he saw the prisoner and his friend in Piccadilly. They were both drunk and were larking with three women. He asked them to go away, which the women did, but the two men walked towards the Circus and stopped in front of two other women.

They were remonstrated with, whereupon the prisoner replied, ‘”We only want a couple of your fat girls here.”

He afterwards put his arm around a young woman’s neck and kissed her. he was told that such conduct could not be tolerated, whereupon he remarked to him (the inspector) that they were ratepayers and kept cads like the police.

On the Officer, Watts, speaking to them, the accused struck at him (Watts) with his fist.

This evidence was corroborated by two constables, while a third stated that, at the station, Mr Ellis would not go in until after the charge had been taken, although he was requested to do so. This was denied by Ellis, who emphatically contradicted the statements of the police.


Mr Hannay said that when aspersions were cast upon the police it was right that every possible inquiry should be made, for it was most important that the police should not exceed their duty, and also that they should be protected in the discharge of their duty.

If it was possible to act on human testimony, then he was bound to believe the mass of evidence brought forward by the police, who had no interest in the matter.

The accused would have to pay a fine of twenty shillings, or, in default, he must serve one month’s imprisonment; and the aspersions that he had cast on the police were not to his credit.”