Drunk and disorderly

Part of the Crime & Punishment in Cocking in the Nineteenth Century” series

During the first 60 years of the nineteenth century, no cases of Cocking residents charged with being drunk and disorderly had appeared in reports in the local press. From the 1860s onwards, however, such cases became fairly frequent.

The Bell at Cocking, pre-1880

Joseph Mitchell

At just after 4:00 pm on the afternoon of Friday 4 November 1864, the recently appointed village Police Constable, Richard Denman was patrolling through Cocking when he came across two carts seemingly abandoned on the Heyshott road, near the church gate, which were blocking the road. He had earlier that day, at about 9:00 am, seen the same carts in front of the Bell inn.

PC Denman went up the lane to the pub, where he found Joseph Mitchell, who was by now “very drunk”. PC Denman asked Mitchell to move his carts or be arrested.

Mitchell replied “Who the  ____ cares for you? Move them yourself if you wants to move them, for I won’t!”

Having gone on his rounds, later that evening, PC Denman returned to find that the carts had been moved onto the turnpike road. He again asked Mitchell to leave the village, but Mitchell refused and after a long argument during which Mitchell “swore a great deal”, he laid down in the middle of the road, and refused to move.

Mitchell was then arrested and spent the night at Midhurst police station, before appearing the following day at Midhurst magistrates. He pleaded guilty to a charge of drunken behaviour, saying “I’m very sorry for it. Don’t know what I do when I gets a little beer.”

Mitchell was committed to jail for seven days.



Chichester Express & West Sussex Journal: 8 November 1864. Mr. Mitchell far too fast at Cocking

Mitchell was back in front of Midhurst magistrates 11 years later on 18 May 1875, on a charge of assaulting PC Walter Duffield.

The previous night, at about 7:30, PC Duffield was sent to the Blue Bell at Cocking following a disturbance. When he arrived, Joseph Mitchell and his wife and children had just left the inn and were making there way up Bell Lane towards Bepton. Duffield followed the family up the lane, in order to prevent them camping. The family were making a lot of noise as they passed through Bepton, and continued to Didling. There the road was blocked by a gate at the farm of Mr Aylwin.

As he neared the gate, PC Duffield saw Mitchell trying to break the gate open, and heard him say: “I’ll fetch the thing open if I have six months for it.” PC Duffield went to Aylwin’s farm, but there was no one there. By the time he returned to the gate, Mitchell had broken the gate open and had passed through it. When challenged by PC Duffield, Mitchell denied breaking the gate open, but then said: “I dare say I can pay for it, if I did it.” PC Duffield than tried to arrest Mitchell, who said in response: “I won’t be taken by any man. I’ll split your ___ head open.”

Duffield took hold of Mitchell and the pair fell onto the bank by the roadside. PC Duffield eventually managed to put handcuffs on Mitchell, but not before Mitchell had kicked him three or four times on the shins, and tried to bite and strike him.

Mitchell was taken to Midhurst police station, and the following day was fined £2 12s, with costs.


As the party had made their way past Linch Farm, near Bepton, PC Duffield was joined by Thomas Woolford. During the brawl with Joseph Mitchell, PC Duffield had asked Woolford to help him. As he was pulling Mitchell off the policeman, Mitchell’s wife, Jemima, joined in, saying to Woolford: “I’ll split your skull if you don’t let go of my husband.” She was holding an iron bar and started to lash out at Woolford, who raised his own stick to ward off the blow.

As PC Duffield and Thomas Woolford, were making their way through Bepton with Joseph Mitchell, Jemima Mitchell  again accosted Woolford, swearing: “I will knock your brains out.” She the stood before Woolford with her fists in his face threatening to hit him. PC Duffield told Woolford not to hit Mrs Mitchell.

At the magistrates hearing, Woolford stated: “I did not touch you first or last, except to ward off the blow. I would have hit you again, the way you came at me with the bar  and hammer, if the policeman hadn’t prevented it.”

Jemima Mitchell was found guilty of assault and fined 15 shillings with costs.


Next to attack Woolford was Joesph, the teenage son of Joseph and Jemima. As they passed on through Bepton, Joseph junior said to his father: “Don’t walk. Kick him in the shins.” He then turned on Woolford: “You white-slopped bastard, I’ll split your skull with a hammer for hitting my mother”, before hitting Thomas Woolford on the forearm.  Woolford grabbed the hammer; Mitchell junior kept demanding it back and started throwing stones at Thomas Woolford, hitting him on the back. “I’ll be quiet if you’ll give the hammer up.”

Like his mother, Thomas junior was charged with assault and fined 12 shillings.



Horsham, Petworth, Midhurst & Steyning Express:

25 May 1875. Walter Duffield vs. Joseph Mitchell. Assault on a Police Officer


Thomas Woolford appeared in court himself a few months later on a charge of Murdering George Marshall.


James Sanders

At 3:00 pm on Sunday, 1 April 1866, PC Richard Denman arrested James Sanders who had come out of the Bell inn “very drunk and swearing”. Denman asked him to desist and go home quietly, but Sanders refused.

He was convicted and fined 16s 6d, including costs.



Chichester Express & West Sussex Journal:  17 April 1866. Drunk and Riotous


James Chivers and James Boxall

At about 12:30 early in the morning of Saturday 20 July 1867, PC Richard Denman was on duty in Cocking, when several men came out of the Bell inn “in a state of intoxication”, creating a public disturbance, including James Chivers and James Boxall.

PC Denman suggested that Chivers go home quietly, but he refused and started using foul and abusive language. Denman said that he would take Chivers into custody if he did not desist, but Chivers became more belligerent, saying “Have you ever seen me before?” Denman said that he had and that he knew who he (Chivers) was and repeated the threat of arrest. Chivers  then challenged Denman to “fight it out”.

PC Denman then tried to arrest Chivers but before he could restrain him, Chivers ran off, but was soon captured and taken to Midhurst police station along with James Boxall.

At the magistrates hearing on Saturday afternoon Boxall was fined 5 shillings, or be sent to prison for 14 days. He chose to pay the fine. Chivers was kept in police custody until Thursday 25 July, when he appeared at the Petty Sessions, where he was found guilty and also fined 5 shillings.



Sussex Agricultural Express:  30 July 1867. Nocturnal Disturbances at Cocking


George Wakeford

On 26 April 1875, George Wakeford was sent from Cocking to Bosham by his employer, Henry Farley, to collect a wagonload of bricks. Although he was expected back at Cocking at 4:00 pm he didn’t return until gone 8:00 on the evening, by when he was “very drunk”.

Wakeford was fined 13s 6d, including costs.



Horsham, Petworth, Midhurst & Steyning Express: 4 May 1875. A Drunken Carter


John Lee

On Saturday, 30 June 1877, Lord and Lady Leconfield accompanied by their agent, Robert Downing, were in their trap with Lady Leconfield driving, making their way between Singleton and Petworth. Just after passing Drove House, they came up behind a horse and cart under the control of John Lee, who was asleep with the reins dragging along the ground.

They called out as they went past, which woke up Lee, who took hold of the reins of his cart, swearing loudly as he did so. A few minutes later, Lee had whipped his horse and managed to pass the Leconfields’ trap, before he slowed down to walking speed. Downing then took the reins and drove past Lee, who again put his horse into a gallop. Lee drove down Cocking Hill “as fast as he could go” and continued at full speed through Cocking and on to Cocking Causeway. Here, Lee continued to Midhurst, while the Leconfield trap turned off to take the Petworth road.

At the Petty Sessions held at Petworth on 15 July, Robert Downing testified that he had not the slightest doubt that John Lee was drunk at the time of the events. The defendant called Henry Knappet, the landlord of the Horse & Groom at West Ashling, who testified that John Lee was “perfectly sober when he came to [his] house and also when he left”, but on cross-examination it transpired that the witness was speaking about a different occasion.

The magistrates stated that Lee had “run the imminent risk of being placed in the dock on a more serious charge”, but found him guilty of “being drunk while in charge of a horse and cart”, describing this as a “most serious offence”, as his conduct might have caused an accident.

Lee was fined 10 shillings plus 15s costs, or 14 days’ hard labour for failure to pay.



Sussex Agricultural Express: 17 July 1877. An Obstruction on the Road


Catherine Carter

Just over a month later, Catherine Carter, described as “a married woman” appeared at Midhurst Police Court on 14 August 1877, where she was fined £2 plus 15 shillings costs, having been found guilty of “being drunk and riotous” at Cocking, with one months’ hard labour in default.

In the rather light-hearted report in the Southern Weekly News, Catherine Carter is described as “certainly the most daringly obstreperous individual in the world”.

When the peace of Cocking was unwontedly disturbed by the antics of [Catherine Carter], instigated by John Barleycorn, and the Parish Constable appeared on the scene, all his authority was powerless to save his nose from colliding violently with Mrs. Carter’s boot, not to mention a matter of a few brickbats and such like amenities which sung around his head.

The latest news is that the Constable’s black eye is assuming a tinge of green, and that Mrs Catherine Carter is spending a month’s holiday at Petworth.



Brighton Guardian: 22 August 1877. County Intelligence

Southern Weekly News: 25 August 1877. Local news


Thomas North

On 26 December 1889, Thomas North, a labourer from Cocking, was arrested after leaving the Royal Oak at Cocking Causeway, at about half past eight in the evening, very drunk and disorderly. In his defence, he said that he had been out Christmasing, and the refreshments had overcome him.

He was found guilty and fined 15s plus costs and given 14 days to pay.



Horsham, Petworth, Midhurst & Steyning Express:  7 January 1890. Drunk


Albert Henry Bone

The following month, on 17 January 1890, Albert Henry Bone was arrested at Cocking Causeway by Police Sergeant Brooks. The sergeant charged Bone with being drunk, and took him home.

Bone was found guilty of being drunk and disorderly and fined 13s 6d, including costs.



Horsham, Petworth, Midhurst & Steyning Express:  4 February 1890. The Black List


Louisa North

On 18 June 1892, Louisa North, the wife of a shepherd, was found by PC Austin on the Cocking road, in the company of a man. The man ran off, but Louisa was arrested; she was very noisy and screamed abuse at the police constable, before falling down in the road.

At the magistrates’ hearing, she pleaded guilty to drunken behaviour and said that she was extremely sorry. She was fined 13s 6d, including costs.



Sussex Agricultural Express:  28 June 1892. Naughty Louisa


Alfred West

On 3 March 1894, Alfred West, a labourer from Graffham, was found in the street at Cocking in a drunken state. At the Magistrate’s court on 8 March, he pleaded guilty to being drunk and disorderly. In his defence, he said that he had been celebrating his birthday.

The plea appeared to have been accepted by the magistrates, as he was only fined 1 shilling, plus 7s 6d costs.



Sussex Agricultural Express:  10 March 1894. Drunk



Image sources

The Bell Inn pre-1880:            Courtesy of Michael Hauffe

The Angel Hotel, Godalming: Closed Pubs