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1894 - Drunken celebrations at The 'Wheatsheaf' have terrible consequences...

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 06 November 1894



The Haywards Heath Police Court was crowded yesterday (Monday), when, before Mr. W. H- Campion and other magistrates, Henry Nevill, landlord of the Wheatsheaf Inn, Cuckfield, was summoned for permitting drunkenness on his licensed premises on October 17th. Mr. H. Prince appeared for the Police, and Mr. J. K. Nye represented the defendant.

The Wheatsheaf Inn

Mr. Prince, in his opening statement, remarked that the case was happily of exceptional character in the county, and quoted cases support of his argument, arguing that it was not merely a case for a fine, but also for endorsement. He called the following witnesses:-

William Tullett, bricklayer, Cuckfield, said that on October 17th he was working at “Riseholme’’ and in the dinner hour went to the “Wheatsheaf,” arriving between 1.10 and 1.15. Two men named W. Selsby and Pelling were with witness. He saw John Selsby, Noah King, Tom Butler, Guy Burtenshaw, Tom Mockett. and Verrall on his arrival. He saw Brazier afterwards, and George Batchelor five minutes before witness left at 1.45 to get back to work at two o’clock. Pelling and W. Selsby left the “Wheatsheaf" with witness. He left Batchelor, Brazier, Burtenshaw, Mockett, and Verrall in the "Wheatsheaf.” They had some whisky in a bottle, which was poured out as wanted. The bottle was standing on the counter. The whisky was poured into ordinary beer glasses, and was mixed with water. Brazier. Burtenshaw, Mockett and Verrall appeared the worse for drink. Witness saw Nevill, the landlord, come in twice while witness was in the house. The men had been pushing one another about and falling down on the floor. On one occasion the landlord said “They will have that blooming partition down directly." He did not hear the landlord tell them to be quiet. Miss Nevill was in charge of the bar. He saw them have second bottle whisky, which was supplied by Miss Nevill. He saw them have nothing more while he was there. Brazier paid for the second bottle.

Cross-examined; He knew the men in the bar. He was not asked to “wet the baby’s nose.” but would have done had he been requested. Nevill made no remark coming Into the bar. He did not see Batchelor have anything.

Re-examined; Verrall and Brazier tossed for the second bottle of whisky, and Brazier had to pay. Verall in pouring out whisky poured some into the glasses, some on the counter, and someone the floor. He said his hand was not very steady.

William Pelling, Cuckfield, said he went to the “Wheatsheaf” with the previous witness. He saw Batchelor five minutes before leaving, but did not know what time he came in. He observed Verrall pour some whisky into glasses. Brazier and Verrall tossed for a bottle of whisky. Nevill came into the place twice, and he believed three times. Witness left at 1.45 with Tullett and W. Selsby. Godsmark, Cleaver, and J. Selsby left early, and were sober. and hls fellow workmen were sober. The men Burtenshaw. Mockett, Verrall, Brazier, and Batchelor were the worse for drink. On Sunday night be saw Mr. Nevill on Whiteman’s Green. He asked witness if he had told the police if the men were drunk. Witness “Yes.” Miss Nevill asked witness if he had seen her father in the bar. and witness again answered in the affirmative. On witness leaving them they asked him to make it as light he could.

Cross-examined: There were about ten men in the bar when he first went in, and the ten men had been drinking a half-bottle of whisky. He did not see hunting crop in Mr. Nevill’s hand on entering the house. He only stayed about two minutes. The men were not quarrelling.

William Selsby said he went with the two previous witnesses to the “Wheatsheaf" when he had his dinner Brazier and Verrall were a little the worse for drink. Nevill came in once or twice.

Herbert Rowland deposed that he had worked for Mr. Butler since June last. On Wednesday, October 17th, he saw Verrall, Brazier, Burtenshaw, Mockett, and Batchelor go to the “Wheatsheaf.” They were all right then, and had been working in the ordinary way. Later on he saw Mockett come across the road. Noah King had hold of Mockett’s arm. Mockett appeared the worse for drink, and staggered a bit in his walk. He had never seen him led about before. Burtenshaw also came across from the direction of the “ Wheatsheaf” the worse for drink. Brazier was in the came condition. There was no other public-house in that part. They went into the wheelwright’s shop, which was on the ground floor. Witness left the shop for about twenty minutes. He knew Lilly and Olner, two butcher's assistants, and saw them in the wheelwright's shop after coming back. Brazier was sitting on a box near the forge, and Burtenshaw was lying on the shavings. He saw Mockett later on in the paint loft, about two hours after seeing him in the road. He had not seen him during the interval. He did not observe Brazier do any work during the afternoon.

Samuel Emmanuel Willett, baker, Cuckfield, subpoenaed by the Police, said he went to Mr. Butler’s premises on business. He saw Burtenshaw lying down on some shavings, very drunk. He also observed Brazier on a box, with his head folded on his arm. He was awfully drunk, and what he would term “speechless drunk.” Mockett was lying on his coat, and was “beastly drunk.” He also observed a young man named Cluer.

William Cluer, baker, Cuckfleld, said he went into the “Wheatsheaf” about two, with a young man named Lilly. He saw Miss Nevill, and had some conversation with her.

On Mr. Nye’s objection the conversation between Miss Nevill and witness was refused as evidence. Witness, proceeding, said that in consequence of what Miss Nevill said he went across to Butler’s workshops. She showed witness a glass which she took from under the counter. It was three-parts full of what appeared to be whisky. At the shop he saw Burtenshaw on some shavings. Brazier was sitting on a box in the smith’s shop, and Mockett was in the paint loft. They were all drunk. Lilly was with witness. He put Mockett to bed about six o’clock. About 10.30 he saw Mockett again. He took him some milk, and he was better then. On the following Thursday (the next night) he was in the “Wheatsheaf’' at quarter-to-ten. Mr. Nevill or Miss Nevill said to witness on coming out “Don’t you know nothing.” He replied “All right,” and left.

Cross-examined; At that time the death of Batchelor was known.

Joseph Lilly, butcher, Cuckfield, said he was with the previous witness on the Wednesday. He corroborated Cluer’s evidence generally, and as to the men being drunk.

P.C. Suyer, stationed at Cuckfleld said that on Thursday evening, October 18th, he went to the defendant's premises in uniform, about 9.40. He saw Mr. Nevill. Witness said “I want to find out who those other men were that were here with Batchelor yesterday. Your daughter can only tell me King and Butler. Do you know?" He replied “No; I came in here from the stable to have dinner, and saw Batchelor standing in the passage, but did not take any notice of the others. “Witness replied “I want to ask your daughter it she served a bottle or bottles of whisky to any of these men here, or if they sent over from the shop for any.” Defendant answered “I will see." He went out and returned with his daughter, to whom witness repeated the question. She replied “No.”

Cross-examined; Nevill was a colt-breaker, and was often away from his house during the middle of the day. A good many called at the “Wheatsheaf” the middle of the day, but not enough to necessitate Nevill’s attendance. Nevill had kept the house all the time witness had been in Cuckfield, two years and a half.

Dr Alfred Ernest Wells, practising at Cuckfleld, said that on Thursday, October 18th, about eight o’clock in the morning, he was called to see the body of Batchelor. He had certainly been dead five or six hours, and possibly ten or twelve. Witness saw Batchelor in the field behind the “Wheatsheaf”. He had not been moved, and had probably laid there a good many hours. He made a post-mortem examination, and attributed death to exposure after drunkenness. The contents of the stomach smelt of alcohol, and his opinion was that the brain smelt the same. If the deceased had not had the alcohol the night air would probably have awoke him, and he would have gone home. The lining membrane of the stomach was inflamed. Whatever spirit deceased had had must have been strong, judging by the irritation of the membrane.

Cross-examined; Neat spirits on an empty stomach would easily overcome a man.

Mr. Nye, for the defence, said that he did not complain of the action of the police bringing the case forward, because it was manifest they would have neglected their duty had they not taken such steps as would enable a full investigation. No one deplored more than Mr. Nevill the death cf Batchelor, and he considered from the evidence the Magistrates would see that Nevill was not responsible for the serious consequences of the day. He proposed calling Mr. Nevill and others to show how far Nevill could be held responsible for the act of his daughter. The question for them to decide was whether Nevill connived at his daughter's action. He admitted Nevill must be responsible for his daughter; all he urged was mitigation of punishment. He called the following witnesses:

Henry Nevill landlord of the “Wheatsheaf,” said he had kept it tor fifteen years. He had never been summoned for any complaint os a licensed victualler. He was also engaged in colt breaking, which necessitated his being away several hours of the day. On October 17th left the house with a colt, his daughter remaining behind in charge. On leaving no one was in the house. He got back a little after twelve. He went into the stable. He went indoors at half-past one, proceeding through the front door and bar into back room. He did not take particular notice of who was in the bar. He went into the e kitchen, and from thence into the stable. At quarter to two he again went into the Wheatsheaf,” but did not speak to anybody. Godsmark was not there. On the constable coming he heard his daughter say she served one bottle of gin and one of whisky. He never saw Batchelor until he heard he was dead.

Cross-examined; When not at the “Wheatsheaf” he usually left the conduct of the house to his daughter. He did not say anything about partition coming down.

Elizabeth Helena Nevill said she lived with her father, and served in the bar. Howard Godsmark, Butler, Verrall and Mockett came into the house soon after twelve. They asked for a bottle of whisky, which was ordered by Godsmark. He said it was to wet his baby’s nose. Burtenshaw, King, Neale. Cleaver, Brazier, and Dawson were also present Iater. They helped themselves. Selsby. Garth and Hillman had had a bottle of gin between twelve and one. She did not see Brazier toss for a bottle of whlsky, and did not supply it. She only supplied one bottle of gin and one of whisky. Three two-pennyworths of whisky were afterwards drawn. A glass of ale was also served. She noticed her father come in about 1.45. He did not go behind the bar. She told the constable what men had had when asked her.

Cross-examined: She did not tell Cluer that Mockett was drunk, and did not remember mentioning his name. She did not tell Cluer how much they had had. She was not aware of showing Cluer a glass three parts full of whisky. She did not inform Cluer the men had had five bottles of whisky and one of gin, and that they had been drinking it neat out of beer glasses. Godsmark stayed from about twelve o’clock till past one. Her father did not tell her the men had had nearly enough, and ought to be got rid of. She never saw the men cross the road. They did not show signs of being drunk while the “Wheatsheaf.”

John Selsby, Hatchgate-farm, Cuckfield said that on October 17th he was in the “Wheatsheaf.” He went in alone about 13.10, and had a half pint of beer and two pennyworths of gin. Howard Godsmark came into the house, and witness stood a bottle of gin and left. The gin was for the men who were afterwards to come in.

Howard Godsmark said that on October 17th his wife presented him with a daughter. He went into the “Wheatsheaf” with Butler and Verrall. Selsby was in the house, and had paid for bottle of gin. On leaving the “Wheatsheaf” there might have been a dozen in the house. King had some beer with some gin in It. Some of the men they did not like gin, and witness stood bottle of whisky. Some of the whisky was left in the bottle on leaving. saw nothing in the shape of drunkenness.

Cross-examined: He left about one o’clock, and did not know what happened afterwards.

John Brazier, Whiteman’s Green, said that just before one he went into the “Wheatsheaf.” The house was nearly full, and there might have been over a dozen present. Witness had some whisky. He did not spend any money at all that day. and it was untrue to say he tossed tor drink. He had some of the whisky which had been ordered by someone else. did not see Nevill come in. Witness had no dinner. He had two lots of whisky, but had no gin or beer. There was nothing to show drunkenness. At a quarter to two he went to the shop and went to sleep. The pushing about referred to was only good-natured. When he woke up from his sleep he went on with his work. He thought it was the effect of the whisky without a dinner made him go sleep.

Cross-examined; He recollected Willett coming in. He did not speak. Witness did not stagger across the toad, and was not the worse for drink. He very often went to sleep during his dinner hour.

William Verrall said that about 12.30 went to the “Wheatsheaf” with Mockett and Godsmark. Godsmark called them in. He had nothing to drink before going to the “Wheatsheaf”. Mr. Butler, his employer, was in the “Wheatsheaf” with several others. Witness had two glasses of whisky and water. It was not true he tossed the previous witness for a bottle of whisky. He left at 1.25. He had seen nothing of Mr. Nevill during that time. He only saw the two bottles of spirits. He went home on leaving the “Wheatsheaf,” having been in the house about an hour. It was arranged after breakfast he should do Mr. Butler’s books, in which occupation he was engaged during the afternoon. Witness was not the worse for liquor.

Cross examined: His recollection was perfectly clear as to the events of the afternoon. No tossing took place in the “Wheatsheaf” between witness and Brazier. He did not see the men after they left the “Wheatsheaf.” It was unusual for the men to go to sleep in the afternoon. Batchelor was a regular workman, and he had never seen him the worse for drink.

Re-examined; Batchelor had two glasses of whisky.

Thomas Butler, coachbuilder. said was the first to enter the “Wheatsheaf” from his shop. He had some gin and whisky. He only saw two bottles of spirits. Verrall and Brazier were present, but he saw no tossing or heard any conversation respecting it. All the men were wetting the child’s nose on an empty stomach. He did not see the landlord at all, as far as he could remember. About 1.30 Batchelor told witness he was not going to do any more work, and so witness troubled about him no more. Ho seemed as “sober as a church” at quarter-to-two.

Cross-examined: The men did some work during the afternoon. Mockett painted a cart. He was always falling about out of fun. (Laughter). Brazier also did some work during the afternoon.

The Magistrates, after retiring, said, through their Chairman, they had listened to the long number of witnesses in that very painful case, and had come to the conclusion, which was evident from what had passed, that Mr. Nevill was entirely responsible for what went on in his own public. He would be fined £5, and costs, and the license would be endorsed. It had been said by Mr. Nye that the case would hardly have come forward had it not been for the unfortunate death of Batchelor, but that they must take leave to doubt, for if the Police did their duty the case uost have come forward under any circumstances. It was most unfortunate —and he had no doubt they all regarded it so, Mr. Nevill included—but he did not see that it made very much difference in the guilt or responsibility of the landlord of the public. They did not know how often similar cases might occur, when a poor fellow, who had been treated, was within an ace of dying the same way. He (the Chairman) thought all should take warning of the wicked folly of treating men to drink, and also of taking too much themselves. There were a good number present, and he hoped they would make the advice given by the magistrates known to all.

The fine and costs, amounting to £13 3s., were paid.

Mr. Prince then asked permission to withdraw another charge of selling intoxicating drink to intoxicated persons, which was granted by the Magistrates.


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