12 Days of Criminal Christmas: When A Festive Party Went Wrong

480px-László_Self-portrait_with_beer-pot_1891Many Victorian families seem to have spent Christmas Day either getting drunk, or being drunk.

This was not helped when families decided to make life easier for themselves by spending the day at the local pub.

On Christmas Day, 1845, a group had gathered at a pub run by the mother of Philip Payne. Payne was among those present, together with Robert Nicholls, who was a friend or relative.

Philip Payne later said that Nicholls, himself, and others had ‘formed a very convivial party on Christmas Day’, but that while they were playing cards, Payne told a joke about Robert Nicholls’ marriage, which the man in question took offence to.

Nicholls’ reaction was to hit Payne in the face, flooring him. Others in the company, who appear to have been somewhat under the influence of drink by this point, then eagerly joined in, striking Nicholls again, despite him being unconscious.

When The Morning Post published an account of the party – following Nicholls being charged with assault – it mocked the victim, noting:

“the unfortunate jester with matrimonial feelings had good reason to regret that he had not adopted the wise old plan of dining at home at such a season.”

Source: The Morning Post, 27 December 1845. Illustration: “Self-portrait with beer-pot” by Philip de Laszlo.