It was common in the 19th century for police officers to be attacked in the line of duty, and this was a danger that could befall any policeman, no matter where he was in the country.
On Saturday the 6th of December, 1884, The Faringdon Advertiser and Vale of the White Horse Gazette carried the story of a village policeman who, following the festivities on Bonfire Night, had been attacked by a group of men when he arrived home in the village of East Hendred in the Vale of the White Horse:-
ASSAULTING A POLICEMAN
Charles Talbot, of East Hendred, was charged with assaulting P.C. Henegulph, of the same village, on the 5th November last.
Mr, Creed, of Reading, represented the defendant.
THE CONSTABLE’S EVIDENCE
Mr. Jotcham, who appeared for the prosecution having addressed a few words to the Bench, called Police Constable Henegulph, who said that on the 6th of November last he was going home at about 11 o’clock.
Just before he got to his house in East Hendred he saw the defendant and three other men standing in the street.
He went in and shut the door, but before he sat down a knock came to the door. He opened it, and saw Charles Talbot standing there with stick in his hand.
He (Talbot) immediately ran away, and the witness went after him, and when he got round the corner he turned round and struck him with a stick, making a hole in his helmet. He could not mistake him, because there was light burning in the room.
Two men followed him up after he came round the corner. He was certain Chas. Talbot struck him. The other men were behind him when be was struck. He was hit a second time by another man. They then ran off.
HE HAD BEEN BURNT IN EFFIGY
Cross-examined by Mr. Creed:- There had been fire in the village that evening.
There had been several disturbances in the village lately. He did not know that his effigy was burnt on the 5th. There had been a perambulation of the village people.
He was perfectly sober when he got home about 11 o’clock.
He said nothing to the men. He would swear Talbot was one of the men. He passed the men within two feet. Another man present was named Stone.
TALBOT CAME TO HIS DOOR
About three minutes elapsed before Talbot came to his door. He lived next door. Talbot did not speak when he opened the door but ran away. He suddenly stopped and struck him. He had never had a cross word with the man.
He first made a complaint two days afterwards.
Talbot came to his house a few days afterwards, and said that he would make him prove what be had been saying.
The Supt. had spoken to the defendant’s brother upon the matter, and had asked him where his brother was when the knock took place.
He said his brother came in from the back garden, after the knock had been heard.
Re-examined:- He was perfectly sober.
IT WAS NOT TALBOT
Mr. Creed, addressing the Bench on behalf of the defendant, said that there was no doubt the policeman had been assaulted, but he was there to deny emphatically that the defendant was the man who committed the assault.
AN UNPOPULAR POLICEMAN
The policeman was unpopular in the village, and two effigies had been burned that night, but whether they represented the policeman and his wife, it was not for him to say.
However, he believed the effigy of the policeman had been burned, and no doubt he was a little upset about it.
TALBOT WAS IN THE GARDEN
He should prove that when the defendant went indoors, he had occasion to go into the back garden, and whilst he was there, someone knocked at the policeman’s door. There was no way into the street from the defendant’s garden except through the front door.
The defendant’s brother lived with him, and he would tell the Bench that his brother was in the garden when the knocks were given. He was standing at the door at the time, and saw a person go to the door and give the knocks. His brother came in just afterwards, and he told him what had occurred.
He submitted that if he rose in their minds the slightest doubt as to the identity of the man, it would be their duty as well as their pleasure to dismiss the case.
ISAAC TALBOT’S TESTIMONY
He then called Isaac Talbot, brother of the defendant, who said that he was at the bonfire on the evening of the 5th of November.
He returned home at 9 o’clock, and his brother came in a few minutes after ten.
Shortly afterwards his brother went up the garden, and whilst he was there he went to the door, and saw someone knocking on the policeman’s door.
His brother did not go outside the door after he came in.
HE HEARD MEN GO NEXT DOOR
Cross-examined by Mr. Jotcham:- He did not know how old he was. He had been in about a hour and few minutes when his brother came in.
He heard some men passing at shut up time, but he could not tell who they were.
He went to the door, but had no motive for going. He did not see his brother carrying a stick. He remained at the front door for about a minute. He heard the knocking while his brother was away. He told him about it when he came in. He shut the door as soon as he heard the knocks.
THEY BELIEVED THE POLICEMAN
This being the case, Mr. Goodlake said that they had to choose between the evidence of the policeman and that of the last witness, and the Bench were unanimous in believing the evidence of the policeman.
The defendant would be fined £2, including costs, or six weeks’ imprisonment.
The money was paid.”