Drunk And Disorderly Cases

One of the most common reasons for people appearing in court in Victorian London was drunkenness. The court reports are ull of people who had been arrested making a nuisance of themselves in the streets whilst under the influence of alcohol

I have dealt with the cases of several “celebrity drunks” – such as Willian “Spring” Onions and Tottie Faye in previous articles, and it is worth reading their cases as they provide a true insight into their characters, as well as into the circumstances – be they tragic or otherwise – that lay behind their alcoholism.

The fact is, that drunken behaviour was a huge problem in the streets of the 19th century East End, and it is by far the most common offence that appears in the court reports in the newspapers of the era.

Tottie Fay clambers onto the bridge watched by a policeman.
Tottie Fay On The Bridge. From The Illustrated Police News, 24th September 1892. Copyright, The British Library Board.


In its edition of Saturday the 15th of May, 1886, The Illustrated Police News provided its readers with a round-up of such cases that had been before the courts that week:-

At the Worship street Police-court on Monday, John Hayden, forty, was charged with being drunk.

He was found on Saturday in the streets at Spitalfields very drunk and naked.

Police-constable 211 H took him to Commercial Street Police Station, and procured some clothing for the man.

Inspector Connor, of Commercial-street Station, informed the Court that the prisoner had been frequently charged with the offence. When brought to the station he usually set to work tearing up his clothes, and gave a great deal of trouble.


The prisoner told the magistrate that he was attacked with sunstroke in 1869, and whenever he took a pint of beer he was not altogether accountable for what he did.

The magistrate said that he seemed to be so often in custody that some notice must be taken of the present offence. As fines were not effectual, Mr. Sheil sent the prisoner to gaol for a month.


In several other charges of drunkenness Mr. Sheil sent the defaulters to prison whenever it was shown that they had been in the dock previously.


At the Southwark Police-court Jesse Hughes, nineteen, bookbinder, was charged with disorderly conduct at the South London Palace, London-road, Southwark; he was also charged with assaulting William Bartlett, a constable in the employ of the proprietors.

The Prosecutor stated that on Saturday night he was called to eject some young men who were making a disturbance during the entertainment, and as he was getting them downstairs the prisoner interfered, and struck him a violent blow on the mouth.

He knew the prisoner as belonging to a gang of roughs who frequently interrupted the performances.

On being taken into custody he became very violent and kicked the constable by whom he had been apprehended.

In answer to the magistrate the prisoner said, “It’s all lies what he says; I never did anything.”

Police-constable 341 M gave corroborative evidence, and Mr. Slade sentenced the prisoner to two months’ imprisonment.


On Monday, at the Westminster Police-court, Clara A. Cridland, twenty-five, married, Vauxhall Bridge-road, Westminster, was charged with being drunk and disorderly and making use of obscene language in the Broadway, Westminster, on Saturday night.

Police-constable Elliott, 51, A Reserve, deposed that at seven o’clock he saw the prisoner in the Broadway. She was drunk, and surrounded by a crowd.

The witness requested her to go away, but she refused to do so, and made use of very bad language, in consequence of which the witness was compelled to take her to the police station.

The prisoner said that she was handled very roughly by the constable. That was what irritated her.

Saunders (the assistant-gaoler) having proved several convictions against the prisoner for drunkenness and disorderly conduct, Mr. D’Eyncourt committed her for a month’s imprisonment with hard labour.