Monday, 23 April 2012

Drunk and Disorderly

The Easter quarter of 1883 introduced us to the character of Alfred Hirdle.  Alfred was married to Sarah and appeared in court charged with a violent assault on his wife.  She had taken a warrant out against him and in revenge he broke into their house in the early hours of the morning.  He went to his wife’s bedroom and violently hit her about the head with a stick.   He was sentenced to 5 year penal servitude.

Cases of assault appear regularly in the Quarter sessions, but we were curious to see if he was still with his wife at the time of the next census.  A little investigation saw that the couple had only been married approaching 4 years at the time of the attack.  It’s likely his wife knew the type of man she was marrying, as Alfred had been convicted (mostly of drunkenness) over 20 times before they married.  He was only 27.  He was even in trouble on the night of the 1871 census, being listed as a prisoner at Woburn police station.

We did find Sarah in the 1891, living with her mother in Ridgmont and she appears to have continued to have children in these years.  By 1901 she was still with her mother in Ridgmont with her mother, but this time she was described as a widow.   Obviously this meant we wanted to see what had become of Alfred.

A quick bit of Googling brought up the excellent MK Heritage site.  They have a section dedicated to the Fir Tree inn at Woburn Sands, where it appears Alfred Hirdle had become a frequent visitor.  The site talks of another case involving Alfred which was reported in local paper.  Once again it revolved around drunken behaviour.  The article adds an interesting footnote which solves the mystery of what became of Alfred:

 “Alfred Hirdle eventually passed away, whilst serving a sentence in Bedford Prison in 1900, aged 49. The doctors said cause of death was 'Profound Disturbance of the Brain and Apoplexy'.  Hirdle was infamous in the area, as his total of 59 convictions, mostly for being 'Drunk and Disorderly' bear testimony. Every landlord for miles around must have breathed a quiet sigh of relief!”

(with thanks to


  1. Thank you for the link to my website. Yes, Alfred seems to have been an interesting character . There is also this from 1890...Perhaps it gives the wrong impression to be recounting court case after court case, and I'm sure that far more was happening than drunkenness and bar room fights, but these are the stories which made the local papers and can be traced today. Alfred Hirdle, of Ridgmount, and William Munn of Aspley Guise, were summoned for being drunk and disorderly at The Fir Tree in April 1890. Arguments were made for both side over “a little row” and the magistrate found the testimony so confusing he threw the case out.

    However, the local constabulary came back with fresh evidence and recalled the men in May, much to the defendants’ disgust. William Smith gave evidence that they had been threatening and asked to leave by the landlady, to which Hirdle replied “You were as gay and fresh corned as any of us!” Ralph Collins, Andrew Smith and Thomas Cox gave similar accounts. P.C. Hewitt was asked by the landlord to remove the men from the inn. After the last summons, Hirdle had said that it was the first time he had ‘got off’, and now told the court:

    “…and I have not got off now. I call it scandalous to be dismissed and then brought up again, it is humbugging a man, the charge made against a man should be the first and last. I am shoved about, brought up here, the clever policeman spins a yarn, gets one or two others to spin a yarn, and you do what you like to me.”

  2. Thank you Paul. I love this tale! What a fascinating character Alfred was.

  3. I have done a fair bit of researching on your index this last week, and you will find the first batch of Alfreds convictions listed under the surname HURDLE. There is also one that is him under the name KIRDLE.

    1. Thank you Paul. I'll enjoy having a look at those convictions later today.

    2. He was my great great grandfather!

  4. My name is Jane I don't know why it says unknown!