In 1830’s England, the small market town of Melton Mowbray in the north-east of Leicestershire was regarded as the unchallenged ‘Mecca’ of all fox-hunting and fox hunters, a powerful magnet to the very richest people of the world including the high society, aristocracy and royalty of many countries across the world. During the 1820’s the town had developed and improved upon its facility to welcome and entertain the rich, the royal and the famous and to achieve the soubriquet of ‘Tip Top Meltonian’ was the highest accolade a sportsman of the day could ever hope to aspire. Well known sports observer and writer Nimrod, returning after a long absence from the town, wrote in Frazer’s Magazine in the 1930s:

“…but what a change has taken place, there is nothing now wanting at Melton for any man’s comforts, provided he has the means to pay for them; and there are two hotels, the George and the Harborough Arms, which equal in accommodation and comfort any that I have experience of. Some idea, indeed, may be formed of the style in which the Harborough is fitted up by the fact that the very passages, upstairs and down, are entirely covered with carpet …” 

Luxury indeed! But Melton was indeed very expensive then; it is said that to be in with the flow of these rich winter visitors required the possession of at least 12 good hunters which would have then cost at least £1000 a year to maintain; at the beginning of the 21st century, this would have equated to over a million pounds. J.B. Firth in his book, ‘The Highways and Byways in Leicestershire,‘ writes:

‘…During the ‘thirties Lyne Stephens, reputed to be the richest commoner in England, spent money lavishly in the town. He fitted up his stables with mahogany partitions and had gold embroidery on the green sheets with which he covered his horses. Naturally, he was a wretched horseman and his stables had the reputation of being unlucky. The costs increased. If a man was heavyweight he needed the best horse flesh for the Leicestershire jumps and the best horse-flesh was never cheap. Many were forced to give up in the race to compete socially on the grounds of cost alone, but Melton remained the ‘only’ place to hunt; there was no comparison in any other part of the country. In 1830, whereas a man with five hunters and a hack could make “a respectable appearance with the Provincials” he had no business in Leicestershire, where he would be half the time kicking his heels in the town where he was quartered, while his friends were enjoying themselves in the field. It was estimated that the custom of the hunting visitors was worth £50,000 a year and that there were generally from 250 – 300 horses in the stables. At an average of 10 horses to each sportsman that only meant 30 visitors, but some kept from fourteen to twenty and the Earl of Plymouth at Melton Lodge, exceeded even the latter number. Capt. Pennell-Elmhurst writing in the ‘seventies, had a similar story to tell. In his view the minimum required to see a hunting man safely through the winter, if he wished to hunt every day, was six thoroughly seasoned hunters. Even then he would be sure to miss many a good afternoon gallop for want of a spare mount. Nor was the long purse the only qualification. The social exclusiveness of Melton is very delicately but no less definitely hinted at by many writers.”
During this period of the early 19th century, especially during the winter season, Melton Mowbray was a vibrant and often rowdy town, a particular playground of the mainly bachelor set; it was perhaps similar to the cowboy era of old America, when the drovers celebrated at their journey’s end. The wine flowed freely along with the best of cuisine and the service available to the visitors in the many taverns and hotels was without comparison – anywhere. Moments were also set aside – usually at the end of such bacchanalian moments – for the popular pastime of practical-joking which was often at the expense of the locals. To some of the recipients this anti-social behaviour was sheer vandalism and wanton violence, but to those taking part it was merely great fun. Drunkenness then, as it is today, was an accepted part of life and some of the so called ‘roaring blades’ or ‘Corinthian Toms’ of the times could almost certainly be compared with the ‘binge drinkers’ of modern times, were it not that then, they were almost always exclusively members of the ‘toff’ hunting set. The many outrageous escapades of these young bloods are well recorded in history and the many paintings and sketches depicting such scenes are still in great demand to this day. ‘Larking’, as it was generally known, was later to be replaced by behaviour known as ‘ragging’, which relied more on the teasing of friends, than on the finding of innocent and unaware victims in the street to humiliate.
Whenever one talks of ‘ragging’ and ‘larking’, especially around these parts, one’s thoughts inevitably return to perhaps the one of the most notorious characters ever to visit the Melton area during this vintage period of high society, the infamous 3rd Marquis of Waterford.  Of the Marquis the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography informs us:
‘Beresford, Henry de la Poer, third marquess of Waterford (1811–1859), reprobate and landowner, was born on 26 April 1811 at 5 Mansfield Street, Marylebone, Middlesex, the second son of Henry de la Poer Beresford, second marquess of Waterford (1772–1826), and his wife, Lady Susanna Hussey Carpenter (1784–1827), daughter of the second earl of Tyrconnel. His elder brother and both his parents died before he was seventeen, and the young marquess, who was educated at Eton College (1824–9), became notorious for his wildness. (He returned to Eton in 1838 to steal the headmaster’s whipping block, an exploit Waterford celebrated with an annual dinner.) He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1829, but was invited to leave, and for the next decade he was to be found most frequently at the racetrack, on the hunting-field, or in the police courts. His favoured companions were young ‘sporting men’, prize-fighters, and prostitutes; powerfully built, rich, and with an uncontrolled sense of humour, it amused him to challenge passers-by to fight him, to break windows, to upset (literally) applecarts. He painted the Melton Mowbray toll-bar red; he fought a duel; he painted the heels of a parson’s horse with aniseed and hunted him with bloodhounds. When, as frequently occurred, his activities landed him in court, he laughed at (and paid) the derisory fines which were designed to control the excesses of the working class, not those of the apparently limitlessly wealthy aristocracy. Waterford’s reputation as a rowdy and boisterous ruffian led to his name being associated with Spring-Heeled Jack, the unknown figure who terrorized women in London in 1838 ….’
During the 1830s, the 3rd Marquis was indeed a regular – and more than often, unwelcome – visitor to Melton Mowbray and to the county of Leicestershire in general, especially in those of his younger years, though reports of his exploits suggest that he did spend much of his time in the capital. He is said to have first arrived in Leicestershire in 1834 at the tender age of just 24 years, when, together with Viscount Glendyne, he leased Lowesby Hall for three years. In those early years his penchant for larking was legend in the area. Let my favourite historian, the late Jack Brownlow in a passage from his ‘Melton Mowbray – Queen of the Shires’ give you a taste:

“ … He was a man of strange contrast as recorded by Lord William Pitt Lennox in his Drafts on my Memory, ‘I breakfasted at Lowesby Hall, then rented by Lord Waterford; there I was surprised to find how much his mind was stored with the writings of the best prose and poetical authors, ancient and modern. What a contrast did this intellect form to a variety of acts of folly which the noble lord perpetuated, some of which would have been heartless had not Waterford’s generosity always compensated those who suffered his larks.’
‘The Druid’ in Scott and Sebright describes the ‘Great Leicestershire Stag Hunt’ which actually took place while his lordship was at Lowesby. ‘The preparations for the meet at Twyford were on a remarkable scale. The stag was trained for days in a large walled kitchen garden and the Marquis with a horn and whip and a couple of little dogs kept him in exercise for hours among the gooseberry bushes. The hounds had one of their best pipe-openers by running the drag of a clerical visitor, whose horse’s feet had been secretly aniseeded and all seemed right for the action except the huntsman, he was a stranger. On the day, the stag made his point for the Queniborough road between Barsby and South Croxton and then bent to the right, through Barsby village. Up to this point the huntsman had gone well, and hallooing like a maniac; but his right foot was seen to fly up as high as his head, crossing a ridge and furrow, and he was heard of no more. The Marquis was then left in command, the hounds ran well for Brooksby and down the turnpike road for Rearsby, there the stag bolted into a farmyard and finally into a cellar, where it kicked the spigot out of the ale barrel, and flooded the place before it could be secured.’ The riders who took part were fortunate if they found their way home again, for the Marquis had all the arms of the signposts sawn off and turned the wrong way round. Until recently, many of the posts in this area were still braced with iron angle brackets, which were fixed when the arms were replaced in their correct positions. The Druid tells us how his lordship once rode from Lowesby to Melton and back, by moonlight in an hour, this being a distance of some 15 miles (not thirteen as stated) and jumped all the stiles between Twyford and Lowesby on the return journey. He also fastened his horses to a flat bottomed fishing boat from Lowesby pond and enjoyed a sledge-ride along a frosty road, until the horses took fright at Twyford Windmill and jumped the hedge.
It was at this [Lowesby] Hall, one December evening after dinner, that Lord Waterford accomplished the remarkable feat of jumping a five barred gate that had been brought into the dining room. He did this on his hunter, Don Juan, for a wager of one hundred guineas. The gate is still hanging on the wall in the stables and a coloured print depicting the event hung in the dining room, and was shown to the Prince of Wales on his visit in 1877. At the end of his first season at Lowesby, the Marquis, together with the Hon. John Beresford. Lord Rosslyn and Col. Dundas, sailed for New York, where they were soon in trouble with their pranks. They demolished two street lamps, broke windows, attacked and stripped a bystander and the watchman who tried to arrest them. They were eventually imprisoned, but discharged after representation by the British Consul and after agreeing to pay the watchman twenty dollars. Two years later he tried similar tricks in Norway, but was felled by a blow from a watchman’s staff. It was later reported that ‘the Marquis of Waterford is fully recovered, he was tried at Bergen and sentence passed, he was absolved from the accusation and the watchman from all further prosecution, the latter is to pay the costs’. Back in England he continued to commit his own follies, or encourage others on the same course. Imagine the surprise of the officials of the London and Greenwich Railway Company when they received this communication, ‘Sirs, I am anxious to witness a train smash. If you allow two of your engines to collide, head on, at full speed, I will contribute a sum of £10,000 to your funds, Waterford.’ The Company replied, ‘Sir, you must be mad if you think for one moment that the Company would entertain your proposal.’

He had a mania for collecting door-knockers and bell pulls, and when he died thousands of these were found among his possessions. Mr Ralph Neville, in Sporting Days and Sporting Ways avers that his Lordship once put a donkey into the bed of a stranger at an Inn, and that he amused himself at a sporting box which he took in the Shires [presumably Lowesby], by shooting out the eyes of the family portraits with a pistol. The older inhabitants of Twyford village used to tell curious stories from the fund of recollections handed down to them from the days of the Marquis. He was riding through the village, past the Plough Inn, an old thatched building, when he noticed the sign depicting a man ploughing with two horses, below which were the words:


‘A barrel in the corner
Sprung from barley mow,
A place to treat a friend
So god speed the plough.’


Accepting the invitation to speed the plough, the Marquis and a friend came back at night, removed the sign and galloped away with it. The owner suspected the Marquis as the culprit and went to him to protest. He was given £10, a good feast and returned home with the sign. After this liberal treatment, everyone in the village who had something conspicuous hanging outside their house, hoped for a visit from Lord Waterford. But, as history now tells us, all of these escapades pale into insignificance when compared with the occurrences in Melton Mowbray in the early hours of Thursday 6th April 1837, when our town became notorious throughout the land as the ‘The Town that was painted Red’. Once, four glee singers who had been performing and entertaining in the streets of Melton Mowbray arrived at the residence of the Marquis, whence they were invited in after singing their songs. They were said there to be plied so freely with wine that they were all quite overcome and were later discovered by the police stretched out in various parts of the town. The following Tuesday they were fined 5/- each towards the cleaning of the lock-up. When the Marquis finally left the town at the end of the 1839–40 season, the press reported, ‘His Lordship and party have exercised a most noble and generous hospitality during their sojourn here.’

The Marquis’s doting grandmother was The Honourable Frances Manners, daughter of the Marquis of Granby, of Belvoir in Leicestershire, which might go some way to explain his regular presence in that county; whilst here he would rent nearby Lowesby Hall as his residence of choice. Many tales and reported accounts exist of his drunken meanderings with his group of ‘gentlemen’ hangers-on, together with the often-riotous conclusions. Frequently accused of violent, outrageous and often criminal behaviour, he has been widely depicted in history as a bully and a braggart, a scourge of the rich and poor alike who was frequently vilified by the press as an incorrigible ‘toff’. In a perverse way though, he was much idolised by the lower classes for his cavalier persona and his noted generosity. It was this same Marquis of Waterford, Irish landowner and gentleman, who was the central figure in a notorious set of events which occurred at Melton Mowbray in 1837, a moment referred to above and which is said to have coined the now well-used phrase, ‘Painting the Town Red’, although this belief has never been satisfactorily proven to be a fact.
The Marquis was much given, when the mood took him, to pick a quarrel with any poor soul who might be in his vicinity or even perchance, to cross his path and it is also recorded that he had a particular loathing of women, said to be related to an unrecorded incident from his younger days. An amusing example to illustrate the type of behaviour for which he was famous, was recorded by a barrister named Walton when writing in 1869 of his “Random Recollections of the Midland Circuit.”
‘Being at the Bell at Leicester during the Assizes I saw the great Marquis in the front of the hotel with some of his admirers. A commercial coming out of the hotel at the time was challenged by the Marquis to fight, but declined until he got a playful tap on the nose, which he returned in such good earnest that the Marquis of Waterford threw him a “fiver” as a settler. But the commercial’s blood was up, and his spirit being great, he insisted on his opponent seeing which of the two was in reality the best man, and the Marquis thereupon got as sound a drubbing as it ever happened to be my lot to see. The hangers-on of the hotel were sorely disappointed at the defeat of their favourite, to whom for weighty reasons they were accustomed to a toady.”
The Marquis certainly did have his defenders; witness for a change, a favourable report which was penned at the time from an anonymous admirer thus:
‘Practical jokes cannot be defended, nor can other eccentricities, entitled larks, be approved of, however original is the idea and ludicrous is the effect, and yet few could help laughing at some of the pranks of poor Waterford. His energy in painting the Melton toll-bar a bright red, his putting aniseed on the heels of a clergyman’s horse and running him with bloodhounds, his set-to with the basso of a travelling set of minstrels, his fierce encounter with the Norwegian watchman, his prowess in wrenching off door-knockers, in pulling down signs, in placing a donkey in the bed of some unlucky wight [person], his patronage of Deaf Burke, his shooting the eyes out of certain portraits which he found in a hunting box which he rented, were perfectly unjustifiable; but there was a redeeming point in Waterford’s character, he paid liberally for any damage he did. The toll-keeper received a handsome gratuity; the clergyman was presented with a haunch of venison – ‘…a finer a fatter. Ne’er ranged in a forest, or smoked on a platter’ – The basso singer went away with a black eye and a five pound note, his Lordship’s face being somewhat damaged in the fistic encounter, the Norwegian watchman was probably squared, Deaf Burke liberally paid, and the owner of the portraits had to put the damaged ones down in the bill.’
Thus, the Marquis was always prepared to pay for his fun and this concession to what he believed was just and fair, would no doubt have endeared him to many of his protagonists or victims. Five pounds (equivalent to almost £400 today) was lot of money then and such compensation would have been perhaps considered to be fair exchange for the momentary indignity or the pain it might have produced – even including the occasional loss of a tooth or two – and of course he would have been well aware that such munificence would assist in shielding his misdemeanours from the attention of the authorities with whom he frequently crossed paths. That then, was the Marquis, but what was all this business about red paint?


Lying just to the northeast of the village of Waltham-on-the-Wolds on the main road from Melton to Grantham, lies a large and sprawling estate known locally as Croxton Park, which in Victorian days was linked by a bridleway to Belvoir Castle, the seat of the Duke of Rutland. A small hunting or shooting box stood in the middle of the park, to where house parties from the castle would adjourn to take tea and recreation. Close by, was a broad stretch of level land where the Croxton Park races would habitually take place with both flat racing and steeple-chasing often combined in those old-fashioned meetings, which on days when it was open to the general public drew great crowds. Such a day occurred on Wednesday 5th April 1837 when the Marquis and some of his cronies, including Sir Frederick Johnstone, Bart. The Hon. Charles Hyde Villiers and Edward Horner Reynard Esq. plus a dozen others, attended the first day of that year’s Spring races. A good time was reportedly had by all as was usual and later that evening the Marquis and his party arrived at Melton Mowbray in great good humour and typically, all heavily under the influence of drink. After a circuit of the local hotels and watering places, still in high spirits and apparently not wishing to retire for the night, the group, who were by now bent on a little ‘larking’ at the expense of the townfolk, made their way towards the Market Place area of the town. The hi-jinks which unfolded in the early hours of that Thursday morning and the subsequent arrest and detention of a number of the group, were later to become a matter of much discussion and controversy which was to be dealt with at the highest of high levels of government. A society newspaper of the day – possibly the Morning Chronicle – was to report the following account of that night’s now iconic proceedings thus:
(From a Radical Evening Paper)
‘The Town of Melton Mowbray, has during the last week, been in considerable excitement, owing to the Croxton Park Races. There were more than the usual quantity of strangers of rank and fashion, who came to visit their friends generally residing in this metropolis of fox-hunting during the winter months. The Marquis of Waterford, with a large party, attended the races and slept at Melton. There were large dinner parties most evenings at the New Club and Lord Rokeby’s. On Thursday morning, about 3 o’clock, the peaceful inhabitants of the place were aroused from their slumbers by a great noise. A party, with the Marquis as leader, attacked the constables and, knocked them down. A short time afterwards, being joined by several more “gentlemen,” as they are called at Melton, they visited the Grantham Toll-gate, screwed up the door and window shutters, made a great noise, and called out “Gate!” The keeper, thinking that someone was about to break into his house, reached down a loaded horse pistol; but fortunately for the gentlemen, in his confusion he could not find powder for the priming, or they would have quickly felt the effects of shot No. 1. They proceeded down the Beast-market, [Sherrard Street] and one of them carried a large tin of red paint and other brushes. The front doors of the houses of Mr. Norman and Mr. Berridge, the surgeon, were smeared over; knockers were wrenched off the doors of Mr. Gray, Miss Gray and Mr. Corner; some flower-pots were demolished at Mr George Bishop’s, who threw open the window and called ”Watch!” The Marquis was lifted up by his companions to the figure of the Old White Swan, in the market-place, and the colour was quickly altered to red. Most of the houses in this part of the town “came in for the brush.” The window of the post-office was screwed up – the letter-box painted, Mr Hall’s windows broken, a caravan with a man sleeping in it nearly upset, the sign of the Red Lion thrown into the canal, and other outrages committed of a similar order, too numerous to mention. The watchmen, with the assistance of the constables, seized two of the painters, one escaped, and the other, Mr Edward Horner Reynard, was lodged in the Bridewell, as the constables thought, safely for the remainder of the night. Shortly after Reynard was “run to ground;” the Marquis, Sir Frederick Johnstone, the hon. Mr. Villiers, with the remainder of the party, attacked the watchhouse, broke three locks open, and, not being able to force the fourth, beat the constables, (Mason and Campion) and threatened to murder them if they did not deliver up the key of the remaining lock. The constables, from fear of their lives, were obliged to release their prisoner, and were glad to be released themselves.
      Thursday was the second day of Croxton Park races, and as it had been intimated that the remaining part of the town would be visited in the evening, about eight special constables were sworn in to preserve the future peace. It was thought by many that after the very serious injuries the peace officers had received, and a prison having been broken the last night, a day’s reflection would bring the rioters to their senses, that extra precautions were unnecessary: but they were deceived. Another night of disturbance followed, and the special constables with their assistants, it is thought by some, helped to increase it. The Marquis, with Captain Grantham and Mr Reynard, were again in the streets; a row, either occasioned by the over-officiousness of the “specials,” or by a challenge to fight any of the party from the Marquis, again ensued; and Mr Reynard was carried off by three of the constables, and a second time locked up in his old quarters; the Marquis, unfortunately, was allowed to escape. There was no painting the second night; but noise, oaths, and blackguard language like unto it, has seldom been heard at any place, and never before in the streets of Melton. Mr Richard Norman, the resident magistrate, was applied to very early on Thursday morning, and took down informations against the ringleaders as soon as they could be identified. On Friday, at 1 o’clock, he, Mr. Roger Manners, and the Rev. E. Hartopp, took their seats at the large room at the Bell and Swan hotel, to investigate the proceedings of the two last nights.
      The first witness called was William Digby, who said, I am assistant watchman. About half past two o’clock on Thursday morning, Mr Reynard and four more gentlemen came to me and the other watchmen in the market-place. They began to jostle us. We wished them to be quiet, but they would not. They offered to take our staves from us. They went down to the Noel’s Arms, and tried to turn a caravan over. We prevented them. They went towards Lord Rokeby’s. Mr Reynard was as bad as the rest. About a quarter of an hour afterwards heard a disturbance towards the Grantham Toll-gate. Met a party of gentlemen near the top of Back-street. One of them [had] a tin of paint, and two or three of the party had brushes. We remonstrated with them. Hugh Barnes, one of the constables, snatched a paint brush out of the hands of one of them; four of them rushed upon Barnes knocked him down, and Mr Reynard painted him all over his face. I assisted a short time afterwards in taking him to the Bridewell.
      Before the examination of Digby was concluded, Mr V. Green, Captain Grantham, and from 150 to 200 of the inhabitants of Melton, of all grades, were present to witness the proceedings. The large room was quite full. Mr Cowdell was proceeding to cross-examine Digby, when Mr. Reynard said, “I do not wish all this kind of thing. I wish it to be done in a sporting like manner.” (Applause from the audience.)
       Hugh Barnes, being sworn, said, I am watchman and night constable of Melton Mowbray. Whilst on my rounds I the morning of the 6th instant, six gentlemen came up to me in the market-place, and tried, without any provocation, to wrest my staff from me; the Marquis of Waterford and another offered to fight the watchmen; saw the gentleman sometime afterwards doing mischief near Mr. Judds and Mr. George Bishop’s. Mr. Bishop called for the assistance of the watch. I snatched the paint brush out of the hands of one gentleman, four of them rushed upon me, and knocked me down; they kicked me when down, sprained my hand, and painted me all over with red paint. I was present when one of the party was lodged in the watchhouse; a short time after he was locked up, the Marquis of Waterford, Sir F. Johnstone, a tall gentleman, and seven or eight others, came to the Bridewell, and swore they would murder us if we did not let their friend out; three of them seized me, and knocked me down in the Bridewell-yard. I have been very much hurt.
      William Campion stated that he was a constable appointed at Lord Melbourne’s manor court; that a short time before 4 o’clock he was called up by one of the watchmen to assist in preserving the peace of the town, the watchmen being overpowered. Mr. Reynard and a tall gentleman came up towards the church, near to the market-place. Wright seized Mr. Reynard; he escaped from him. He (Campion) then seized him, and in the struggle they both fell together. Mr. Reynard lost one shoe and his hat in the fall. The tall gentleman then struck me in the neck, and ran away. I assisted in locking Mr. Reynard in the Bridewell; he was all over red paint, and wore a short dark-coloured round jacket. About ten minutes afterwards this same tall gentleman, the Marquis of Waterford, Sir F. Johnstone, and the Hon. Mr. Villiers, and about seven more came down to the Bridewell-yard. The Marquis of Waterford swore that they would have their friend out of the watch-house, or he would murder them all. I said I should not let him out without and order from a magistrate; it was a county prison. One or two of them said they were magistrates; I said that it must be a magistrate of the county that I know. Sir F. Johnstone and the Marquis of Waterford knocked the three padlocks off the prison door with an instrument about a foot long, but they could not break the lock, which was let into the frame. Some of the party demanded the keys; the tall gentleman knocked me down, and swore he would murder me. They searched my pockets, and kicked me violently when down. The Marquis, Sir Frederick, and another took me up to the window of the prison to ask Mr. Reynard if I was the person who locked him up. The Marquis said, “If you won’t tell me where the keys are, I will murder you,” holding up the iron instrument in a threatening manner. Another person with a mop-stail threatened to cleave me down if I did not open the door. I was obliged to find the key, which I hid in the yard, and as they could not unlock the door, I did it for them, for I was afraid of my life. None of the party appeared much intoxicated, they could walk well, and were very strong. I escaped over a wall, and was glad enough to get away I do assure you.
      He was asked by Mr. William Latham, who assisted the magistrates in the examination, if he knew who the tall gentleman was. Witness answered Lord Althorp. (A laugh, in which Mr. Reynard joined.) Campion said “You misunderstood me, I said Lord Alford.”
      Mr. Norman said, that however painful it might be, he and his fellow magistrates, after having heard the evidence, felt themselves bound to send the case to a higher tribunal to be disposed of. The prison had been broken, great outrages committed, and these offences could not be looked over as cases of a minor kind.
      They ultimately bound Mr. Reynard over to appear at the sessions to answer to charges of assault and riot, himself in a penalty of 200l [£200], and two sureties (Mr. R.S. Berridge, surgeon, and Mr. George Bishop, liquor-merchant), in 100l each.
      Mr. Cowdell said, what charge do you bring against Mr. Reynard for the proceedings of this morning? The magistrates said they did not know until the witnesses were examined; they had yet to learn what had taken place.
      John Wright, watchman, said, that about a quarter before 3 o’clock the Marquis, with another gentleman, was in the streets making a noise – very much drunker that the morning before, and wanted to fight Brown: said to Brown he would give him 5l if he would stand before him for 10 minutes; Mr. Reynard came running up, and said he would fight any special constable amongst them; Mr. Pears, the pipe-maker was standing by, and said, “Wright, you dare not take him;” he (witness) and two or three others then took him to the watchhouse.
      Thomas Millington, a special constable, saw Mr. Reynard amongst the crowd; he offered to fight any of us; he struck at him but missed him, as he stooped to avoid the blow; Reynard was very drunk.
      Mr. Norman, Mr. Manners and Mr. Hartopp thought the offence of the last night a slight one, if he had not been one of the party the night before. They fined him for being drunk 5s, and discharged him. Warrants were desired to be made out against the Marquis of Waterford, Sir F. Johnstone, and the Hon. Mr. Villiers. As the tall gentleman could not be clearly identified as Lord Alford, no warrant was ordered to be made out against him.
      It is right to name that of the 11 persons engaged in the riot, only one, Sir F. Johnstone, is resident at Melton.’
Following this initial appearance before the magistrates at Melton Mowbray, a proposed public prosecution of the Marquis and his friends at a higher venue for their part in the public disorder – a matter which was considered most serious at the time – was fought vigorously; he and his legal advisers considered that it was deeply below his social dignity and rank in society to be subjected to such public examination, after all, he had argued, had he not already paid out much generous compensation to those most affected? Many times in the past, the Marquis had escaped justice due to his position in society and his ability to talk or buy himself out of trouble and on this occasion it transpired that once again the police had been offered handsome restitution for their part in attempting to quell the disorder with the result that they were apparently, once more, prepared to offer a ‘blind eye’ or let sleeping dogs lie. But in the days which followed, a huge and growing agitation was to be stirred up by the press when editors, urged on by an indignant, letter-writing readership nationwide, were willing to utilise the great power of their printing presses to pour much vilification and scorn on the ‘untouchable’ gentry – especially the ‘incorrigible’ Marquis of Waterford. In October of that year following allegations of ‘heel-dragging’ and procrastination, the Leicester Mercury reported on an adjournment hearing on the matter, which had been held at the High Court in Leicester. It stated:
‘ Mr. HEYRICK rose to call the attention of the court to a subject of great importance, a subject on which he was not at present about to make a motion, and respecting which he had not spoken to any of his brother magistrates. The subject to which he alluded materially affected certain parties who had violently resisted constables in the execution of their duty; and in calling the attention of the magistrates to it, he need not remind them that it had ever been the custom of all courts to punish such offences with great severity. Last session an indictment had been referred against an individual who (though of the first in rank and fortune) had made himself most notorious for his systematic, presumptuous, and wicked opposition to the officers of the law, whom, indeed, he held in complete defiance. That crime was greatly to be reprobated in any one, but much more so when he who committed it had a double commission to make those laws which he had broken, and to administer those laws which he did not keep. If the matter was allowed to pass over, it might give rise to a suspicion that the trammels of the law were found to fail before the rich man, and the poor would be apt to think that the privileges of the peer had allowed the offender to escape that punishment which his offences richly merited. He did not for a moment think that the peers of England were anxious to avail themselves of such a shield, firmly believing that they possessed too much magnanimity and wisdom to wish to screen one of their order from the consequences which must result from a line of conduct calculated to produce the utmost contempt and disgust. He believed, and all around him believed, that the certiorari which removed that proceeding from their court would never be heard of in another, he being of [the] opinion that the constables had weighty reasons for not proceeding with the prosecution. Now, those keepers of the peace, who had been tempted by the breakers of the peace to cheat the public of that which the public had a right to expect from them, were non-commissioned officers of their court, and as they (the magistrates) were sworn to keep the peace to the poor as well as the rich – with special reference to those who were in honour and authority – it would be a mockery of those solemnities connected with them if their court should knowingly connive at an attempt to defeat the ends of justice. He was sure that their court would not for a moment entertain such a thought – he was satisfied that every member of it would repudiate any offer that might be made with scorn and contempt. It was not enough, however, that a court of Justice should not be guilty of such iniquitous conduct – it ought not even to be suspected of it. Therefore, if the constables should fail to bring the question to an issue, he should, at the next court, move “That the magistrates do take such means as they may think proper to pursue that investigation which the justices of the district had thought proper to put in train.” Though it was the duty of the constables to bring it forward, it was in the power of the magistrates to do so, and he was happy to know that justice would not be defeated by the connivance of the constables, the written documents [the depositions taken on the examination at Melton] being safe in the hands of the chairman.
The CHAIRMAN: Yes, they are safe in my possession.
Mr. HEYRICK resumed: All he was anxious for was, that the enquiry should not be forgotten where it had been begun. He was not insensible to these allowances which were generally made for the extravagancies of youth, and he could very well conceive that there was some difference in the guilt of the parties implicated. He could distinguish between sins of infirmity and sins of presumption, and he did think that some had felt great sorrow for their conduct: but they, who had to look to the peace and morals of the community, must not forget that those allowances which a father might make for the faults of a dutiful child would be contemptible weakness and infamous justice if shown to one who so systematically and so presumptuously set justice at defiance. These were the reasons which had induced him to say thus much on a subject which he considered was of too serious a nature to be passed over in silence. He trusted that the parties concerned would save them (the magistrates) the trouble of interfering further, but if they did not he should consider it his duty to do so, and he would not be swerved from that duty though all the world were against him. If the case followed in the ordinary course of things, it ought to be tried at the next assizes, but if it did not it would be competent for them to take it for these reasons: – The Sovereign was the prosecutrix in all such proceedings – all the indictments running “against the peace of our sovereign lady the Queen.” She was bound to secure justice to all her subjects, and, though the party complaining was called the prosecutor, he was merely called so by courtesy, being, in fact, only the principal witness in all cases.
The CHAIRMAN observed that the writ of certiorari was moved for on the part of the prosecution.
Mr. HEYRICK replied that it did not make any difference. It would not have been moved from the Court of Queen’s Bench till the end of days, it being hoped by the parties concerned that it would never be brought to light again. Mr. Heyrick concluded his address by remarking that they were morally bound to carry it out, those who were associated with them in the magistracy having done their duty in beginning the investigation.’
The Magistrates of Leicestershire were obviously making it quite open and clear that they were not about to be bought off yet again by a dilatory Constabulary who had once again been comfortably ‘looked after’. Of course, the police were not then as we know them today, being comprised of specially licensed local members of a watch committee, sworn to Lord Melbourne or other high-ranking person in the town, which kept an eye on local matters pertaining to crime and general good neighbourliness. Almost certainly as a result of the widespread repercussions of the Waterford case and a general mood of discomfort within (and without) the country, the Leicestershire Constabulary – together with other police forces in the pattern of the recently formed and properly regulated Metropolitan Police in London – was officially formed and inaugurated in the late 1830s.
During the passage of these discomforting times of social bias, the mood seems to have continued to be pessimistic; witness a rambling editorial published in the Times which was typical of many of the day and which provides an insight into the disposition of the general public: part of it reads:
   “A letter we publish to-day, will be found well worthy of the perusal of our readers. Whether the narrative it contains be a fact or an imagination, is a question upon which those who read it will form their own opinion; but in whichever light it may be considered, the truth and force with which it illustrates the unequal operation of our laws, as too frequently administered upon different classes of society, cannot easily be excelled.
   The law of England recognizes no distinction between rich and poor in respect of either crimes or punishments, and we shall be unjust, indeed, if we did not acquit the learned and excellent persons who preside in our courts of judicature of any corrupt disposition to pervert the law, either by misconstruction of statutes, misdirection of juries, or deviation from the established course of practice, in favour of the individual. Still, there is no disguising the fact that some defects have crept into our administrative system which tend to establish in practice, and to a certain extent, that distinction which the law repudiates in theory.
   For some years there has existed in London, and not in London alone, a certain aristocratic coterie, consisting principally of very young men, who seem to find their chief occupation and amusement in public and notorious breaches of the peace. So perfectly well known are the principal actors in these disturbances, and so marked a character have they acquired, that, as an evening contemporary remarks, it has been a matter of course to exclaim, when such an outrage was spoken of, “Oh! It must be the one Lord W., or the other Lord W.,” meaning (for we shall not be so tender as our contemporary with respect to names) the Earl of WALDEGRAVE and the Marquis of WATERFORD. What redeeming virtues either of these noblemen may have (and we hope they have many), it is beside our present purpose to inquire; all we know is, that they have made an experiment, or rather a series of experiments, upon the patience and forbearance of the law; and very patient, and very forbearing, have they found it. …”
Or, from an editorial in The Morning Chronicle of Friday 16th June, 1837, an outpouring of bile from the editor’s personal review of the Marquis’ speeches in Dublin:
‘… It is thus that a whole nation is slandered and its just rights attempted to be intercepted upon the credit of a hairbrained, untutored stripling, as ignorant as the whelps he pursues, and as reckless as the dogs he haloos in their track; who, were he not a born legislator, would scarcely be allowed to move his lips at a parish vestry. …’
During a very lengthy impasse and general discussion as to the outcome or not of a public prosecution and just a few months following the above comments, Waterford was to encounter a grave situation which might have had serious recriminations for him in different circumstances. As things turned out, it was declared merely that our Henry had ‘at last met his match’ when, in the late summer of 1837 in company with some of his friends and cronies, he took a pleasure cruise on the yacht ‘Charlotte‘, to the seaport of Bergen in Norway. Although far from home, the Times was as ever, keen to report on his movements when on the 16th September 1837 the respected newspaper printed the following article:
Mr. Fletzeniz, master of police at Bergen, has sent into the Department of Justice and Police a copy of an examination made in the Chamber of Police at Bergen, on the 14th inst. At the request of the British Consul, Mr. John Greig, in consequence of a complaint lodged by the friends of the Marquis of Waterford, of the pleasure yacht Charleoote, fromLodon, belonging to the Royal Yacht Squadron.
   The first witness examined was the watchman, Brynild Larsen Hamre, 44 years of age, who deposed that whilst on his post at the Halvkand-height, at 11 o’clock in the evening of the 11th instant, he had heard loud vociferations and other noises down in the New-way. On the side of the hill he met a woman with a man’s hat on, and by her side a man without a hat. Hearing that the man, who was dressed in a white smockfrock, was a stranger, he (the watchman) ordered the woman to be quiet, raising at the time his “morning star” (watchman’s club), but without offering to strike with it. His only object in doing so was to make himself intelligible to the stranger. They paid no attention to his (the watchman’s) remonstrance and the stranger stooped, lifted up a stone and advanced towards him. The stranger flourished the stone close to the watchman’s nose, jumped about, waved his arms, and seemed desirous of showing that he was the stronger and more active man of the two. He (the watchman) wished to make the stranger incapable of mischief by giving him a smart blow on the right arm; but as the latter stooped at the moment to catch hold of him, the blow unintentionally came upon the head, and the stranger fell. At that moment the fire officer on duty came that way, and ordered the watchman to go for assistance to the guard-house, and to convey the wounded man thither. In the mean time the latter rose again of his own accord, and went away with the woman. Witness had not had time to sound his whistle, being obliged, in his own defence, to hold his club with both hands. He had been 11 years in the army, and had been a watchman during the last seven years. He has a wife and four children.      The superintendent of the watchmen deposed that the last witness, an able, sedate, and confidential man, had reported at the midnight muster that he had been obliged to strike an Englishman who was making a row with a girl. He (the superintendent) had not thought it necessary to report the case, such encounter with drunken foreign sailors being of frequent occurrence in the public-houses where girls of that description reside.
The fire-officer on duty, Mr. Albert Mohn, a merchant, said he had come up on hearing a blow given and seeing a man fall. He had given the order, as stated by the watchman, had helped to lift up the fallen man, and had directed the woman to convey him to a house, and have the blood washed away, which was streaming from the head. The watchman appeared to him to be sober, but the Englishman seemed to be intoxicated. The “morning start” used on this occasion was a stick with and iron spike at one end, and a bullet at the other; it was with the latter end that the watchman struck, and the bullet was broken off by the blow.
Anne Catherine Uldenhoft, 23 years of age, resides with two other girls at the public-house of Hollet, in Nostet, where she maintains herself by waiting on the guests. After 11o’clock in the evening, on the 11th inst., six or seven Englishmen came to the house, and having stopped there sometime, one of them had gone out with her to take a walk over the New-way. He had put his hat on her head before leaving the house. He took a bottle out of his pocket and put it to his mouth, but observing that the cork as still in it, he burst into a loud laugh. At that moment the watchman came up, abused them for making a noise, and with his “morning star”, struck the Englishman on his back, at which the latter did not appear to be at all incensed, but only laughed louder than before. He took up a stone, which she endeavoured to get away from him, in which attempt she succeeded. They then went over to Halvkand-height, passing the watchman, but as the Englishman continued to be merry, and to laugh out aloud, she was not able to get away from him until the watchman came up and struck him a blow, which threw him to the ground. She then remained with him till she was joined by his comrades. Had received no money from him. After she had taken the stone from him, he had not offered to lift up another, and had not one in his hand when the watchman struck him.  
Another of these girls said that the last witness had told her that the watchman had not struck the lord at their first meeting; but a third girl stated the contrary. This was also partly confirmed by a merchant’s clerk, who asserted that the watchman had given a blow in the first instance. The watchman was, in consequence, dismissed on the 17th inst.
Dr. A. Helberg, town physician, deposed on the 16th that the blow had fallen on the right temple, and had inflicted a wound which had pierced to the bone. A considerable swelling and a discolouration of the skin ensued subsequently, extending over the whole temple and eyelid. Near to the cranium were two superficial wounds of no importance. The blow must have been struck with extraordinary force, and had occasioned so severe a concussion of the brain that the Marquis’s life was still in danger. On the back there was no mark of a blow having been given; but on the loins there is a round blue spot of the size of a dollar, evidently occasioned by some external act of violence.
John Lewis Ricardo, 24 years of age, and John H. Jesse, aged 28 years, both Englishmen, were likewise examined. Their testimony was simply to the effect that, on leaving a public-house in the Nostet, they had met the Marquis of Waterford, who had requested them to return immediately with him to the vessel, he having received a blow on the head which he thought must be mortal. They had to support him till he reached the vessel. He was bleeding profusely. He had told them how he had received the blow, merely saying it as a scandalous act, as he had given no provocation.
The further examination was then adjourned till his Lordship’s recovery. The last accounts from Bergen are to the 14th inst., when he was getting better, and was considered out of danger.’
   On September the 18th, the Times duly printed a brief update of affairs stating:
The Marquis of Waterford, who some time since received some serious injuries in what his Lordship and his friends are pleased to call a lark, at Bergen, is quite recovered, and has arrived we understand, in this country. One of the Marquis’s party arrived at Douglas’s hotel here on Tuesday, and left next day for the south. We believe the whole party arrived in the Marquis’s yacht at Aberdeen, from Norway.’
   In the meantime, all parties involved in the tortuous debate continued to argue for their respective wishes to be considered and these arguments were indeed debated in great length and depth, but the objections against a prosecution were all destined to be in vain when after many months and in an obvious effort to counter any predicted claims of bias towards the aristocracy, matters were eventually to come to a head when on Tuesday 31st July 1838 at the Derby Summer Assizes, Henry de la Poer, 3rd Marquis of Waterford – at the age of just 27 – took his place in the public dock with his co-accuseds to face the Lord Chief Justice of England and his accusers.

   The history books of today record various and differing versions of what actually occurred that long-ago night in the small market town of Melton Mowbray, but an account of the prosecution and trial was duly reported for perpetuity in the Times of Thursday, 2nd August 1838. This same account is reproduced below exactly as it appeared; it delightfully depicts an amusing and heart-warming slice of life in early Victorian England.


NISI PRIUS COURT. — (Before Lord Chief Justice Tindal, and a Special Jury.)
 Mr. Balguy, Mr. Hill and Mr. Waddington were Counsel for the prosecution and Mr. Serjeant Goulburn, Mr. Clarke, Mr. Hildyard and Mr. Burnaby for the defendants.
 The indictment charged the defendants, the Marquis of Waterford, Sir Frederick Johnstone, Bart., the Hon. Charles Hyde Villiers and Edward Horner Reynard Esq., with having committed a riot at Melton Mowbray in the county of Leicester, on the morning of the 6th of April, 1837 and in a second count it charged them with an assault upon certain constables and watchmen when in the execution of their duty and in a third count, it charged them with the commission of a common assault.

Mr. Balguy, in opening the case to the jury on the part of the Crown, stated that the circumstances out of which the prosecution had arisen, took place in the month of April, 1837. At the following Midsummer sessions the present indictment was preferred and found by the grand jury. Both parties being anxious to have it removed into the Court of King’s Bench, a certiorari was sued out, but the delay occasioned by this proceeding rendered it impossible to have the case tried at the ensuing summer assizes. It was expected, however, that it would come on at the following spring assizes, but the parties who instituted the prosecution, having in the meantime received something in the way of compensation, took no steps in the matter and consequently a representation on the subject was made to the Government, who felt it to be their duty to carry on the prosecution, in order to prevent it being said that the defendants had got off because they were persons of wealth and station; whereas if they were men in a humble rank of life, they would have been prosecuted and punished for transgressing the law in the manner in which the defendants had transgressed it. The learned counsel then proceeded to state an outline of the evidence which he proposed to adduce.

Two watchmen, three constables and two tradesmen of the town of Melton, were then severally called and examined. Their evidence was to the following effect: – At about half past two o’ clock on the morning of the 6th April, (the 5th being the first day of the Croxton–park races,) six gentlemen, one of whom was the Marquis of Waterford, proceeded through the streets of Melton making a noise, and came up to the watchmen on duty in the market-place. The Marquis challenged each of the watchmen to fight, which, however, they declined, alleging that it was their business not to fight but to prevent fighting. They tried to force the staff from one of the watchmen, but failed, and they then passed on. Seeing a caravan with a man in it standing in the street, they endeavoured to capsize it and lifted up one of the wheels half a yard from the ground; but the watchmen held it on the other side and prevented it from being upset. The Marquis and his companions then passed on and seeing a woman drawing water for brewing, they upset the pails as fast as she filled them. After that they passed onto Lord Rokeby’s house and went in. After a little time they came out again and Lord Waterford was seen standing on the back of one of his companions and throwing down the flowerpots that stood outside the window of a tradesman’s house. The owner of the house, whose name was Bishop, called out to a watchman, named Barnes, to do his duty, upon which the watchman went up to the gentlemen and told them that such goings on could not be allowed. The gentlemen thereupon rushed upon him, threw him down and either kicked or trampled on his side. They then painted his face and throat with red paint. A little gentleman held the paint pot, while the Marquis used the brush and laid it on thick. They then went on to several doors, one of them belonging to Mr. Harman, a magistrate, which they painted, and they screwed up the lock of the toll-bar keeper’s door, so as to prevent its being opened on the inside. In the meantime another watchman, seeing Barnes’s face and throat all over red, supposed he was covered with blood and he therefore went and alarmed the constables, who got out of bed and proceeded to apprehend the parties guilty of the assault upon the watchman. Captain Reynard being the person stated to have assaulted Barnes, they took him into custody and locked him up in the bridewell. A great number of the captain’s friends then assembled, as many as 13 or 14, and demanded that he should be forthwith liberated. The constables said, that could not be done without an order from a magistrate, upon which one of the gentlemen said, “I am a magistrate,” and several others said, “so am I.” The constable said there must be an order from a magistrate of that county. The gentlemen then knocked the constable down, took the keys of the bridewell from him and carried off their friend, Captain Reynard, in triumph on their shoulders. They afterwards offered to treat the constables to punch in the marketplace, which offer, was declined. Break of day at length put paid to the disturbances. The four defendants were clearly identified as taking an active part in the proceedings. The officers all admitted having received satisfaction for the outrage offered to them.

 Mr. Serjeant Goulburn, in addressing the jury for the defendants, complained of this stale prosecution having been taken up by the government, merely for the purpose of lowering the aristocracy in the opinion of the public. Here was the Marquis of Waterford, a young nobleman just left Eton, and other young men of high blood, who were sowing their wild oats, committed this frolic, and afterwards compensated the officers for having painted their faces. This was a year and a half ago. The proceedings were dropped; but upon the instigation of some low and malignant person, the Government, forsooth, must take up the matter, and convert it into a state prosecution. Accordingly, down came Mr. Maule, the solicitor to the treasury, to superintend this mighty case; and there was his learned friend, Mr. Balguy, Queen’s Counsel, to conduct it, assisted by Mr, Hill and Mr. Waddington. Indeed, a great part of M. Balguy’s address consisted of a laboured apology for the conduct of the Government, which he was obliged as counsel, to repeat, because it was written down in his brief, but which was far from being in accordance with his own feeling on the subject. He was really surprised that this magnanimous Government had overlooked the opportunity of prosecuting the noble Marquis on a former occasion, when, his Lordship having gone down to Eton in his cab, succeeded in carrying away the flogging-block from Dr. Hawtrey. (Laughter) The Marquis, no doubt, had an old grudge against the flogging block; he had a painful recollection connected with it: it was a subject on which he felt sore. (Great laughter) Only think what a magnificent occasion this would have afforded for this impartial Government to institute a state prosecution. (Laughter) His friend Mr. Balguy had come out in a new character, for he had indulged in a little preaching on the subject; but surely his friend was not properly dressed for the occasion; he should have mounted that smart scarlet coat that they had all seen exhibited so often (laughter); Indeed, he (Serjeant Goulburn) was afraid to ask the witnesses as to who were any of the other rioters not mentioned in the indictment, for fear his friend Mr Balguy’s name might pop out. (Great laughter) Then there was his friend Mr. Hill. He (Serjeant Goulburn) was really afraid they might rouge his face with the paint brush, and put him up to ask the witnesses if they could identify him. The learned Serjeant proceeded to ridicule the idea of magnifying this foolish frolic into a riot, and contended that there was no ground for even charging the defendants with assaulting the officers in the execution of their duty, because the constables, not having seen any assault upon the watchman, but mistaking the red paint on his face for the appearance of blood, were not justified in law in taking Captain Reynard into custody; and consequently, what the other defendants did to release him could not be held to be an assault on those constables in the execution of their duty. He admitted that, so far as regarded Lord Waterford and Sir Frederick Johnstone, a common assault was proved against them; but he confidently submitted that the verdict of the jury would be limited to that extent.
 The LORD CHIEF JUSTICE having explained the law of riot as laid down in the books, summed up the evidence very minutely.
 The jury retired for about 30 minutes, and then returned a verdict of Guilty against all the defendants, but only on the count for a common assault.
 Mr. Serjeant GOULBURN then applied to the learned Judge to pronounce sentence at once, as the defendants were only convicted of a common assault.
 His Lordship immediately adjudged that the defendants (none of whom were present) should pay a fine of £100 each to the Queen, and be imprisoned until such fine be paid.
 The Court was crowded to suffocation during the trial, which seemed to excite the most lively interest.’
   The notorious and controversial trial of the Marquis at the Derby Assizes which was reported publically far and wide, may or may not have stirred some measure of regret within the soul of this very rich Irish landowner – we must remember that he was just 26 at the time of the offences – but it is probably true that following it and as a consequence, it might well have caused the Marquis’ exploits to become far less frequent. The passage of time was also playing its part, along with Cupid, as romance was about to enter the equation with a marriage being discussed. But this was not about to happen without some justifiable measure of concern and objection for the young lady’s family, especially her father, but in 1842 a society newspaper, The Globe, eventually informed the world:
‘The marriage of the Marquis of Waterford and the Hon. Louisa Stuart, second daughter of Lord Stuart de Rothesay, is no longer doubtful. The consent of Lord Stuart de Rothesay has recently been received. Lady Stuart de Rothsay will not leave London until after the marriage, and her ladyship will have quitted the Metropolis to join her Lord at St. Petersburgh in June next at the latest.’
The Marquis’ entry in the National Biography then continues:

‘…the turning point in Waterford’s life was the Eglinton tournament of 1839. He took an enthusiastic part as one of the thirteen knights in Lord Eglinton’s attempt to revive ideas of chivalry among the tory aristocracy. The Knight of the Dragon (the sobriquet taken by Waterford) excelled his host’s hopes by not only being so carried away in the mêlée that he had to be separated from his opponent, Lord Alford, by the knight marshal but also by falling in love at first sight with the beautiful Louisa Stuart, like her sister Charlotte, Lady Canning, was celebrated as a model of pious, gentle, artistic womanhood; on the surface, she was the most unlikely match for Waterford. At the same time, the wooing of the pure, virtuous woman by the worldly, rough—if good-natured and kind-hearted—reprobate, and the reshaping of his character by the love of a good woman, represented an archetype of the chivalric ideal. After a courtship of three years, Waterford secured his lady’s affections and the consent of her family, not least by the reform of his habits. The wedding took place on 8 June 1842 and the couple went immediately to his estate, Curraghmore, in Co. Waterford, where they were to pass most of their happily married, but childless life together.’

I will touch on the Eglinton Tournament later, but there was little doubt that his marriage to Louisa in 1842 was to prove to be a huge culture transformation in the life of the young Marquis. After 1840, little more was heard of him either in Leicestershire or the country at large. Louisa was said to be amazingly beautiful and talented and even as a young woman, society considered her an accomplished artist. In fact both Louisa and her sister, Lady Charlotte Canning, were prolific amateur artists whose work is represented in the V&A. Being obviously head over heels in love with the ‘best Knight at the tournament’, Louisa seems to have eventually won over her parent’s doubts in her desire to marry him. 

His biography tells us more:
‘Marriage ended Waterford’s career in the police courts. Instead, he busied himself with the management of his estates, becoming in the process something of a model landlord. Resident on their estate in Ireland, the Waterfords worked long hours to attempt to relieve the worst effects of the famine on their tenants and neighbours. Despite generally good relations with his tenants, unrest in the region in 1848 led Waterford to fortify Curraghmore. He remained devoted to horses, of which he kept hundreds, and, if he no longer steeplechased, he continued to hunt with passion (six days a week during the season).’
   Perhaps the worst days of the Marquis were about at an end, but his reputation was not yet about to die completely. An amusing occurrence is recorded in the Times of July 12, 1841 (which was post-trial and pre-wedding), which leaves us all in suspense as to the final result. Within its reports on the Police Courts, the newspaper informed its readers:
‘QUEEN’S SQUARE. Henry Tompkins, toll-collector at Vauxhall Bridge, applied for an assault summons against the Marquis of Waterford, under the following circumstances: – The applicant stated that on Thursday morning, about 6 o’clock, he was on duty at the gate on the Middlesex side of Vauxhall-bridge, applied for an assault summons against the Marquis of Waterford, under the following circumstances: The applicant stated that on Thursday morning, about 6 o’clock, he was on duty at the gate on the Middlesex side of Vauxhall Bridge, when he observed a carriage coming from the direction of the Vauxhall gardens, in which were seated two gentlemen, and a lady was accommodated in the lap of one of them. As they approached the gate, one of them called out “Open it.” Applicant did so, and then went as usual to the side of the carriage to receive the toll (which during certain hours is only taken on the Middlesex side), but the very moment the gate was opened, a gentleman who was driving whipped his horses and dashed through. Applicant caught hold of the reins, and was dragged several yards, when the gentleman who was driving said, “If you don’t let go, I will cut you in pieces,” and he then lashed him so severely that he was compelled to let go. He had never seen the gentleman who assaulted him before, but he was positively informed by a gentleman who witnessed the occurrence that it was the Marquis of Waterford.
Mr. GREGORIE [Magistrate] said the applicant might take a summons against the nobleman, but it would be necessary for him to identify the gentleman who assaulted him.’
   Well, we never did hear any more about that one, but it is indicative of the depth of recognition and public reputation the Marquis had acquired.
   Things were indeed destined to go wrong at his home in Ireland where the Marquis was in general, much loved and respected by his tenants and staff and of course this was not always the case for the majority of English-based landlords. From around 1840 and after turning his back on his colleagues and the crass misdemeanour’s of his youth, he was to spend much more of his idle time on his family estate of Curraghmore in the south of the country. The full effect of the terrible potato famine had not yet manifested itself fully in the country and he was still regarded by his locals as a caring and passionate man.
   Passing matters of a domestic nature of the Marquis were still to be reported publicly in the newspapers of the day, such as his taking of a house at Greatford in Lincolnshire (which was formerly the home of a Dr. Willis and several of his insane patients); or the death of an uncle, Lord George Beresford, who was to leave his nephew the small matter of £5000 to top up his already huge bank balance. In the February of 1840, the Tipperary Constitution proudly reported that following a visit to Ireland, the Marquis and the Hon. Paul Methuen had now left the country for Melton Mowbray and that during their stay at Curraghmore, the party had bagged a total of 67 hares, 253 pheasants, 111 brace of woodcocks, 72 snipe and 405 rabbits. It further told its readers that, ‘His Lordship rifled an eagle from its airy element and at a height apparently impracticable.’ Later that year at Thurles, whilst speaking to his constituents of County Waterford, he was to hint at the possibility of his returning to live permanently in Ireland when he spoke to an audience of his future plans to renovate his home, ‘Rockwell’. He even announced that his home was to be renamed ‘New Melton’ and that the extensive equestrian stabling planned for the project would, “eclipse that of our hunting metropolis in Leicestershire.” The piece continued: “The ‘eccentric Marquis’, as he was once called by his aristocratic friends in the west, is spending his princely fortune with true Irish freedom amongst his fellow countrymen.”
   At the end of that same year, the Limerick Chronicle reported on one of the Marquis’ many personal accidents when it told of a severe fall from his favourite gray mare, Quicksilver: “… the mare, in clearing a fence, came down and fell upon her noble rider and it was feared his lordship’s leg was broken. Luckily not so, for he was able to continue the run, but the mare lay on the ground, disabled.”
  The life of the Marquis was indeed frequently touched by violence and danger, much of it not of his own making. His father and two of his brothers were to suffer vicious, early deaths and he was not to escape a few physical injuries of his own. However, the following sad event in the spring of 1841 must have had a dramatically sobering effect on him, when, under the heading, ‘THE LATE LORD JAMES BERESFORD,’ the ‘Times’ of May 17th 1841, dramatically reported:
‘The following is a letter from Captain Symmons, of the ship Tigris, to his Grace the Archbishop of Armagh:-
Ship Tigris, May 14.
“My Lord Primate, According to your Grace’s desire, I have the honour to forward the proceedings of the inquest held on board my ship, on the 28th April last, upon the body of your Grace’s nephew, the late Lord James Beresford. I beg leave to add, that during our long passage from Ceylon until the day previous to his death, his Lordship enjoyed good health and very cheerful sprits; but early on the morning of the 27th he complained of an excruciating head-ache, and throughout the day it seemed to increase, until it deprived him of reason, and led to the sad catastrophe deplored by every individual on board, and by no one more sincerely than myself.
“It may, perhaps, be a melancholy consolation to your Grace and the other members of Lord James’s family, to know that the act which thus terminated his life cannot be traced to any worldly cause whatever, but solely to a fever on the brain, and consequent temporary bereavement of reason, not to be accounted for; and that his Lordship’s kindness of heart and amiable disposition had won him the esteem of all his fellow-passengers.
“I have the honour to be your Grace’s most obedient humble servant,
Commander of the ship Tigris
“To his Grace the Archbishop of Armagh.”
This was to be followed up with even more macabre details to be enjoyed with the readers’ breakfasts when the following was to appear in a later copy of ‘The Observer’.
 Yesterday morning the ship Tigris, Captain Symmons, arrived in the West India Import Dock from Columbo, which place she left on the 20th December; Cape of Good Hope, February 28; and St Helena, March 15. In consequence of a report which appeared in the Times on Friday morning that Lord James Beresford, of the 10th Hussars, had committed suicide on board that vessel, being on his passage to England, and which painful intelligence had not reached his Lordship’s noble relations, and being therefore generally discredited, our reporter proceeded to the West India Docks yesterday afternoon for the purpose of making enquiries on board the Tigris relative to the reported suicide of his Lordship (brother to the Marquis of Waterford), and he reported that the report was unfortunately too true. It appear that the Lord James Beresford, who was only in the 26th year of his age, embarked passenger on board the Tigris for England, and that it was remarked at the time, and at a subsequent period during the voyage, that his Lordship appeared to be labouring under slight symptoms of insanity, and that his servant was in consequence ordered to pay more than usual care and attention to his Lordship, which he did. On the night of Tuesday, the 27th April, his Lordship was in his own cabin, and did not evince to the servant or to the passengers during the day anything particularly remarkable in his usually somewhat eccentric manners. The servant, before going to lie down in his settee for the night, went to his Lordship’s cabin for the purpose of enquiring whether his Lordship needed any further attention that evening, and having repeatedly knocked at his state-room door, without receiving any answer, the servant opened it, and discovered the cabin floor partly covered with blood, and on proceeding to the water-closet adjoining the apartment he found his master (Lord James Beresford) reclining over the seat, with his head nearly severed from his body, and quite dead. The rash act was committed with a razor, and so determined had been his Lordship to effect his dreadful purpose, that only a small portion of the skin at the back part of the neck attached the head to the body. The alarm having been instantly given, the utmost consternation prevailed among the passengers (27 in number) and crew; but any attempt to restore life was beyond the power of human aid. After a consultation by the officers of the ship and passengers, the mangled corpse of Lord James Beresford was, with great solemnity, consigned to a grave in the abyss of the ocean. This lamentable event has created great grief and distress among the noble relatives of the deceased and the fashionable world generally.
   Reference has been made earlier to the Eglinton Tournament which took place at Ayrshire in Scotland in the summer of 1839. It was during this period of time – after his court appearance and prior to his proposed planned return to Ireland – that the Marquis was probably attempting to become more detached from the anti-social activities of his male friends. The Tournament, which was to attract immense crowds, was to be a re-enactment of a mediaeval joust. Funded and organised by Archibald Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton, the event attracted many distinguished and high-ranking combatants including the future Napoleon III of France. A popular member of the world famous Lord Rokeby’s Club at Melton Mowbray, Eglinton had motivated and financed the grand event it is said, following his disappointment at the abandonment of the traditional ceremony forever displayed at coronations, at that of Queen Victoria in 1837. In the past, such occasions had included a public state banquet for Peers in Westminster Hall, during which, most importantly, in the ancient and traditional challenge of the Queen’s champion, Eglinton’s privilege had been to ride into the hall and after the Lancaster Herald had challenged any disputers to the accession to the throne, the King’s Champion had thrown down the gauntlet three times. In the absence of such a ritual display, he was determined to provide an alternative occasion for the aristocracy to display their jousting skills. The whole affair was arranged and settled at Lord Rokeby’s Club in the season of 1838/39, where at least 13 members of the 19 declared contestants were ‘busy’ spending the winter.
   But the lofty dreams of the Earl were not all to be fully realised. Widely publicised to be an event open to the general public, the tournament was a measured set piece of Romanticism which flew in the face of widespread social and ideological upheaval which was being experienced by Europe during the 1830’s. It was to be a hugely popular and significant phenomenon and originally planned to attract just 4,000, it was to draw 100,000 spectators. The event created a significant impact on attitudes to gothic revival and it would certainly provide a huge boost to the local economy. Ironically and perhaps sadly, the Eglinton Tournament is only remembered today because of the intense ridicule poured on it by those of a left-wing political persuasion who were even then, sworn to be rid of the aristocracy. But politics aside, massive problems were created during the event by rainstorms of freak intensity and the consequent allegation levelled by its critics is usually that the entire endeavour must therefore be considered as nothing less than a ‘failure’, or even perhaps, a ‘catastrophe’. Nearly two hundred years later, some critics still say of the event: “a farcical day of jousting, archery and chivalry acted out by fashionable young toffs”. But not all were necessarily absolute in their condemnation:
“Whatever opinion may be formed of the success of the Tournament as an imitation of ancient manners and customs, we heard only one feeling of admiration expressed at the gorgeousness of the whole scene, considered only as a pageant. Even on Wednesday, when the procession was seen to the greatest possible disadvantage, the dullest eye glistened with delight as the lengthy and stately train swept into the marshalled lists”.
(Aikman 1839).
   But, regardless of the ridicule and outpourings of venal criticism, the event was still considered to be a genuine tournament, the participants having attended regular training during the course of that year. Indeed, when one high-spirited competitor exceeded the regulations laid down, he was soundly chided in the press for his enthusiastic violence. At the end of the day, Eglinton is said to have lost the massive sum of £40,000 in his doomed venture.
   Any remainder of the mediaeval pride and honour involved in the ancient tournament sport of jousting amongst the young rich blades of all countries of the world, seemed to have been drawing to a close by 1840 and the Tournament, nor any other of its kind, was destined never to be repeated with such gusto or with the same number of contestants and Eglinton was almost certainly to be the final event of its type and grandeur. Waterford took part in the tournament with his soubriquet of ‘Black Knight’ and was to gain – almost certainly to his intense chagrin – only 3rd place. Of much greater importance of this considered failure however, was the fact that it was on this occasion that he met and began to court his future bride, Louisa.
   In the July of 1840, the ‘Times‘ confirmed the general feeling abroad, that Eglinton was indeed to prove to be the swansong of the halcyon days of true knights in armour, tilting for prizes and the fair hands and hearts of the visiting ladies of the land, when it reported that a large collection of the suits of armour previously owned and worn by many of the participants at the tournament were to be put up for sale at a grand auction in London. It reported, ‘…the great feature of the sale was the splendid suit of fluted mail, worn at the tournament by the Marquis of Waterford. It is in the finest state of preservation, elaborately worked, and beautifully bright. This is one of the most perfect and complete suits in existence, consisting of helmet, visor, back and breastplate, cuisses, splints, and co. It sold for 240 guineas and is said to be headed for the collection at the Tower of London.’
   There is a well used saying that, ‘all good things must come to an end’ and on Tuesday the 29th March 1859, at the young age of just 44, Henry de la Poer, 3rd Marquis of Waterford, met his death suddenly and violently in a manner perhaps befitting the manner in which he had utilised his short and tempestuous life span. At Corbally, near Carrick-On-Suir in County Tipperary, Ireland, he broke his neck when falling from his horse whilst out fox-hunting with friends and family. It was to be a shattering conclusion to an incident filled life. At this moment of his death, his younger brother John de la Poer who was born 1814, was to assume the mantle of 4th Marquis of Waterford.
   And so the official biography of the 3rd Marquis closes as follows:
‘His death came suddenly, on 29 March 1859, on the hunting-field, at Corbally, near Carrick-on-Suir: thrown from his horse, he broke his neck and died almost instantly. He was buried in the family mausoleum at Clonegam, close to Curraghmore. His title and estates passed to his brother.’
[Biography with thanks to: K. D. Reynolds, ‘Beresford, Henry de la Poer, third marquess of Waterford (1811–1859)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004]
The exploits of the Marquis were in many ways, indicative of a way of life in much of Victorian England when the rich played hard at the expense of those they subordinated. Some 170 years on, with few traces left of those ‘halcyon days’, the events of that mad night of mayhem are still remembered in Melton Mowbray and are celebrated during a ‘Painting the Town Red’ Arts Fair in the town each summer.
   Today, the incumbent Lord Waterford still resides at Curraghmore House, Portlaw, in the Republic of Ireland. It is the family seat where the house and gardens are now open to the general public to welcome visitors throughout the year. Publicity material for the Estate today informs us;
‘Throughout Ireland’s turbulent history, this family have never been ‘absentee landlords’ and they still provide diverse employment for a number of local people.
  The present day de la Poer Beresfords are country people by tradition. Farming, hunting, breeding hounds and horses and an active social calendar continues as it did centuries ago. Weekly game-shooting parties are held every season (Nov. through Jan.) and in spring, calves, foals and lambs can be seen in abundance on Curraghmore’s verdant fields. Polo is still played on the estate in summer. Throughout Ireland’s turbulent history, this family have never been ‘absentee landlords’ and they still provide diverse employment for a number of local people. Change comes slowly to Curraghmore – table linen, cutlery and dishes from the early nineteenth century are still in use.’
Today, we the people of Melton Mowbray, jealously cling to the belief that the origins of the phrase, ‘painting the town red’ are somehow inextricably linked to the drunken presence of Henry Marquis of Waterford and his cronies, who marauded through our little market town in the very early hours of Thursday the 6th of April 1837, following a day at the Croxton Races. A good day (and night) was obviously had by all, especially if you were a member of the Waterford pack. But this view is not necessarily that of the others in the town. But a website called ‘The Phrase Finder’ argues at some length that we Leicestershire folk might not have it all our own way. I reprint the argument in full so as to give others the chance to weigh up the facts – or fictions.
‘Painting the town red’ ? Meaning: To engage in a riotous spree.




Origin: The allusion is to the kind of unruly behaviour that results in much blood being spilt. There are several suggestions as to the origins of the phrase. The one most often repeated, especially within the walls of the Melton Mowbray Tourist Office, is a tale dating from 1837. It is said that year is when the Marquis of Waterford and a group of friends ran riot in the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray, painting the town’s toll bar and several buildings red.




That event is well documented, and is certainly in the style of the Marquis, who was a notorious hooligan. To his friends he was Henry de la Poer Beresford; to the public he was known as ‘the Mad Marquis’. In the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography he is described as ‘reprobate and landowner’. His misdeeds include fighting, stealing, being ‘invited to leave’ Oxford University, breaking windows, upsetting (literally) apple-carts, fighting duels and, last but not least, painting the heels of a parson’s horse with aniseed and hunting him with bloodhounds. He was notorious enough to have been suspected by some of being ‘Spring Heeled Jack’, the strange, semi-mythical figure of English folklore.




Melton Mowbray is the origin of the well-known Melton Mowbray pork pie – which could hardly have originated anywhere else. The town’s claim to be the source of ‘painting the town red’ is more doubtful. It is at least plausible that it came from there of course, but no more plausible than Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire being the source of ‘cock and bull story‘ or Ashbourne, Derbyshire being the source of ‘local derby‘ (which they aren’t). Unfortunately, plausibility is as far as it goes. The phrase isn’t recorded in print until fifty years after the nefarious Earl’s night out. If that event really were the source of the phrase, why would anyone, or in this case everyone, wait fifty years before mentioning it?




Further evidence for the event, but against it being the phrase’s origin, comes from a text below a picture of the revellers, dated 1837. The picture is annotated ‘A Spree at Melton Mowbray’ and subtitled ‘Or doing the Thing in a Sporting-like manner’.


The date of the painting is certainly contemporary with the alleged incident and was reported on in the New Sporting Magazine, in July 1837:
Mr. R. Ackermann, 191, Regent Street, has just published two more of the series of Sporting Anecdotes, illustrative of certain disgraceful proceedings termed “sprees,” which took place at Melton Mowbray last season. In that entitled “Quick work without a Contract, by tip-top Sawyers,” three gentlemen (?) in scarlet coats, small-clothes, and silk stockings, – comme il faut, – are seen engaged in painting the sign of the White Swan red; and two others of the same class are perceived painting the window of the Post Office in the same manner. Another of those “bloods” is making a stroke with his brush at the back of a flying watchman ; two others, like regular gutter-bullies, are engaged in personal contest with two watchmen, and three MEN in scarlet have a single watchman down and are daubing his face with paint.
The rhyme itself is headed Quick work without a contract. By tip-top sawyers:
Coming it strong with a Spree and a spread,
Milling the day-lights, or cracking the head;
Go it ye cripples! come tip us your mauleys,
Up with the lanterns, and down with the Charleys:
If lagg’d we should get, we can gammon the Beak,
Tip the slavies a Billy to stifle their squeak.
Come the bounce with the snobs, and a [blank] for their betters,
And prove all the Statutes so many dead letters.
That takes some deciphering but it is clearly a hymn of praise to going out and causing mayhem. It is heavy with the slang of the day and is in part translated into modern-day English like this:
To do was ‘to rob or cheat’; sport was ‘good fun or mayhem’, so doing the thing in a sporting like manner would be to carry out the illegal revelry in high spirits.
Coming it strong with a Spree and a spread – spread here suggests the widespread mayhem,
Milling was fighting, so Milling the day-lights is the same as beating the living day-lights out of someone.
Go it ye cripples! – go it means, ‘Keep at it! Fight hard’. Cripples may have its usual meaning, i.e. disabled. A cripple was also a misshapen sixpence. Neither meaning seems to make much sense here though.
Come tip us your mauleys – shake hands.
Down with the Charleys – a Charley was a night watchman.
If lagg’d we should get, we can gammon the Beak – lagged is caught or arrested; gammon was patter or humbug; a beak was (and still is) a magistrate.
Tip the slavies a Billy to stifle their squeak – Bribe the servants to keep them from informing. A billy could be either a truncheon or club or, more likely, a sovereign (£1) coin that bore the effigy of King William.
Come the bounce with the snobs – To bounce was either to beat, to make an explosion, to knock loudly (especially at a door), to brag or to bully. Any one of these is plausible. A snob was a person of low rank or a cobbler’s apprentice.
and a [blank] for their betters – the blank I will leave to your imagination
The picture portrays actual streets in Melton and it is very likely that it was a representation of a real event. The newspaper report describes the red paint in Ackermann’s picture, although that is difficult to discern in later prints. Neither the text of the picture nor later reports mention the Marquis of Waterford or, more importantly, the phrase ‘paint the town red’. Actually, as pointed out above, the first use of the phrase in print is quite a lot later – not until 1883 in fact, and in New York, not Leicestershire. The New York Times, July 1883 has:
“Mr. James Hennessy offered a resolution that the entire body proceed forthwith to Newark and get drunk… Then the Democrats charged upon the street cars, and being wafted into Newark proceeded, to use their own metaphor, to ‘paint the town red’.”
The other early references to the phrase also relate to America rather than England. The November 1884 edition of the Boston [Mass.] Journal has:
“Whenever there was any excitement or anybody got particularly loud, they always said somebody was ‘painting the town red’.”
The next is Rudyard Kipling. That’s as English as you can get one would have thought. In this case though he too is referring to America – in his book Abaft Funnel, 1889:
“They would do their best towards painting that town [Chicago] in purest vermilion.”
There are other theories too:
Jaipur (The Pink City) is the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan. The old buildings of the city are constructed from pink sandstone. In 1853 it was painted pink in honour of a visit from Prince Albert. If that were the origin though, why don’t we paint the town pink?
William and Mary Morris in their Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins say it probably originated on the American frontier. They link it to ‘red light district’ and suggest that people out for a night ‘on the town’ might very well take it into their heads to make the whole town red. Well, they might, then again they might not.
It is sometimes said to come from the US slang use of “paint” to mean “drink”, When someone’s drunk their face and nose are flushed red, hence the analogy.

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