Tuesday, 3 April 2012

And your name is?

Occasionally the Quarter Sessions don’t seem completely aware of who they are dealing with. In the November 1880, 23 year old man by the name of Davis sought lodgings in the Bedfordshire village of Clifton. He claimed to be a clerk to lawyers in Oxford Street, London. He said he was down on business and would remain for about a month, or most likely until Christmas. Mrs Elizabeth Ensdersby, his new landlady, made the agreement with him that he would pay guinea a week for board and lodging. He made himself at home and moved freely around the house. After he had taken dinner he said he was off to the Woolpack Inn to see if the beer was better there than that he had been served at dinner. He did not return and she did not see him again until he was in custody. Within an hour of his leaving she went into her bedroom and missed a silver watch. She had seen it safe earlier that afternoon.

On arrest he gave his name as Herbert Clarence Percy Duroy, but refused an address and he claimed to be respectably connected and he did not wish his friends to know. He claimed to be an actor and is later described on the Calendar of Prisoners as a Comedian. He was tried in the Epiphany Quarter Session under this name, with the aliases of John Wright, Davis and William Burchell also listed. He was sentenced to 12 months hard labour in the House of Correction. However, interestingly a previous conviction was found for him under the name of Charles Edward Buckwell. In that instance he served 6 months in Cold Bath Fields, for obtaining money by false pretences.

His statement upon arrest showed he had a way with words. He said he was guilty of the charge and he wished to add that starvation was the reason he had done what he had. “Having through one fatal error blighted any prospects in my life and not being able to obtain an engagement and further having parted with all I possessed in the world for food”. He found himself “utterly penniless and destitute and therefore resorted to despicable means to save himself from starvation”.

He served his sentence under the name of Herbert Clarence Percy Duroy and appears under this name on the 1881 census (whilst in the House of Correction in Bedford). That appears to be the only record under that name. What this mans correct name was remains a mystery to us. We’d love to hear if anyone has a theory on what became of him.


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