The Wellington Connection: Traffic Court

From The Life of the Duke of Wellington by Joachim Hayward Stocqueler, Volume 2 1853
The Duke of Wellington attended on Saturday (4th May, 1845) at the Marlborough Street Police Court, for the purpose of preferring a charge of furious driving, whereby his life was endangered, against Henry Woods, driver of one of the carriers’ carts. To prevent inconvenience to his Grace from the crowd which his appearance would attract to this court, the summons was so arranged as to take precedence of the night charges. At half-past eleven o’clock his Grace, accompanied by Lord Charles Fitzroy Somerset and Mr. Mayne, entered the court. His Grace having been sworn, said—I was walking, on Tuesday last, between two and three o’clock, in Park Lane, on the left-hand side, going out of Piccadilly, and when near the Duchess of Gloucester’s house, a very heavy four-wheeled cart passed me. I endeavoured to cross the lane, to get to the pavement on the other side, under the protection of this heavy cart; I got as far as the right-hand wheel of the cart, keeping the cart at my left hand, when I found myself struck on the shoulder, and knocked forward. It was a severe blow, and I found it had been given by another cart, the driver of which did not attempt to give me warning by calling out, until he had struck me. I did not fall; if I had, I must have been under the wheels of both carts. Now, I have no further complaint to make against the man at the bar who drove the cart, than that he was going at such a monstrous pace that he had no control over his horse; indeed, he came along so fast, that he got the whole length of Park Lane without my having perceived him; and the pace he was going at was such, that it was impossible he could stop his horse. This is my complaint; and I bring it forward on public grounds, because I think it is not right that carriages should go along in the public streets at this great rate. The cart by which I was struck was a heavy, tilted cart; the driver was under the tilt. My groom was behind with my horses, and I called him and desired him to follow the cart. My groom trotted as hard as he could, but was unable to overtake the cart until he got as far as South Strand. This will prove the rapid pace at which the driver of the cart was going.

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The defendant said he was truly sorry at what had occurred, but he declared the whole circumstance was accidental. He saw a gentleman about to cross the road, and he called out to warn him; but be was not aware that he had touched any one. He was not going at very great speed, for his horse was an old one, and could not accomplish more than seven miles an hour; and at the time when he passed his Grace, he was going up hill. His attention was directed to the vehicles in the carriage-road, and this prevented his noticing what was doing on the foot-path.
Mr. Hardwick: Had you kept your eyes directed as you ought, not only to avoid carriages but foot passengers, the circumstance would not have occurred. The reason you have given for not seeing his Grace is no excuse for your conduct.
The Duke of Wellington: There was plenty of room to have passed, without running against me.
Mr. Hall, No. 12, Park Lane, said he saw his Grace attempting to cross the lane at the time that a carrier’s cart, which was going at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour, was coming down the lane. Thinking, from the way the man was driving, that his Grace would be knocked down, he ran to the door, and saw the cart strike his Grace on the shoulder. Had his Grace but turned round sharply, the cart must have been over his feet. The pace the man was driving at was not more than seven miles an hour. He was driving negligently rather than furiously.
Mr. Hardwick: Had he kept a proper look-out, he must have seen his Grace?
Witness: Certainly. He was going up hill, and could have stopped the horse easier than if he was going down hill.
Mr. Hardwick: Did you hear the man call out? Witness: No, I did not.

In defence, the man repeated that he was exceedingly sorry for what had occurred.

Conducting the Night Charges to the Marlborough Street Police Court
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Mr. Hardwick: It appears from the evidence that you were driving, if not at a furious, still at a rapid rate; but as you were going up hill at the time, had you used the ordinary precautions in driving along the public street, and if you had proper command over your horse, this accident could not have occurred. A witness has described your careless mode of driving at the time, by saying you were neither looking to the right hand nor to the left; and the whole evidence goes to prove that your mode of driving was reckless and careless, exhibiting a perfect indifference to the life and limbs of foot-passengers. This case I shall deal with as a case of assault. You have committed several serious offences: first, furious driving; next, endangering life and limb; and, lastly, committing an assault, for running against the person and striking that person with the cart, is as much an assault as if the blow were given by hand. For the assault, which is clearly proved, you will pay a fine
of 4l. or one month’s imprisonment.
The defendant was then locked up.

2 thoughts on “The Wellington Connection: Traffic Court”

  1. He ran down the Duke of Wellington??? He had better be glad two ladies of my particular acquaintance were not the ones sitting in judgement! The carter would have been drawn and quartered!

    I LOVE reading this first-hand accounts!

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