ROUGH music was a common feature of 19th-century life.

It was usually a raucous ear-shattering noise made with any available tools or household implements as part of a shaming ritual directed against someone who had offended the community’s values.

But it also covered other methods of expressing public outrage.

The experience in North Hampshire indicates that it was mainly used against wife-beaters, adulterers and informers.

Here are two examples of what might loosely be called rough music that was directed against informers in Basingstoke.

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Samuel Baynham was a tailor in Parchment Street, Winchester.

On August 25, 1879, he came to Basingstoke and visited the Barge.

Basingstoke Gazette: The Barge in Wote StreetThe Barge in Wote Street (Image: Contributed)

When he arrived, Henry Watts, the popular landlord of the pub whose family had run it for the past 30 years, and a man named Witt were playing cards. Baynham joined in.

During the game Baynham lost some five or six pounds of his own money, and then another £12 which Witt had offered to lend him.

Baynham claimed that he had lost the game because Watts and Witt had been cheating.

He informed the authorities that Watts had allowed gambling to take place in his pub.

When Watts' trial came before Basingstoke magistrates at the Town Hall on Tuesday, September 23, the crowd of his supporters was so great that the court had to be moved to a larger room.

Basingstoke Gazette: Mid-victorian Town Hall in the 1870sMid-victorian Town Hall in the 1870s (Image: Public domain)

During the trial, it emerged that Baynham himself had once been accused of cheating and that he had played cards 200 times in one public house.

Watts' lawyer said that Baynham went to play cards with a desire to win, but because he had lost, he turned informer out of sheer revenge. 

Nonetheless, the magistrates convicted Watts on Baynham’s information.

He was fined £5 and lost his licence.

When Baynham left the Town Hall to catch his train to Winchester, Watts' supporters were waiting for him.

They chased him down Wote Street, pelting him with rotten eggs, soot, flour, red ochre and other missiles which almost destroyed his clothing.

He tried to take refuge in the Feathers, but the crowd showed no sign of wanting to disperse. 

Eventually, he was escorted by two policemen to the railway station, with the crowd continuing to hurl their arsenal of filth in such quantities that it was said to have been difficult to distinguish Baynham from the two unfortunate policemen.

Basingstoke Gazette: Wote street and Station Hill - Baynham's route to the railway stationWote street and Station Hill - Baynham's route to the railway station (Image: Contributed)

Once they reached the station, Baynham was locked up for his own safety.

As some of his pursuers bought tickets to Winchester, the stationmaster telegraphed to Winchester for the City police to be in readiness.

Basingstoke Gazette: Basingstoke Station at the time of Baynham's ordealBasingstoke Station at the time of Baynham's ordeal (Image: Public domain)

Despite the presence of the Winchester police, Watts' supporters chased Baynham through the streets of Winchester until he reached his house.   

The other example took place nine years later.

At the Cricket Club Dinner at the Drill Hall on the evening of Tuesday, September 4, 1888, the refreshments were provided by Henry Edwards, landlord of the Feathers.

When the proceedings ended, Edward Brunsden, who had volunteered to help at the event, took home a roast duck that was left over from the dinner.

When Edwards noticed that the duck was missing, he called the police.

A policeman arrived at Brunsden’s lodgings at two o’clock in the morning and found him fast asleep with the remains of the duck lying beside him.

Brunsden was taken from his bed and locked in the New Street police cells for eight hours before being marched to the Town Hall to appear in front of the magistrates charged with the theft of the duck.

Basingstoke Gazette: A cell in New Street JailA cell in New Street Jail (Image: Contributed)

The magistrates remanded him for his case to be heard the following week.

As it seemed likely that Brunsden took the duck as a result of a misunderstanding, his plight attracted considerable sympathy in the town.

At about 8pm that night around 200 people gathered outside the Feathers.

Basingstoke Gazette: The Feathers in Basingstoke (now Laarsens)The Feathers in Basingstoke (now Laarsens) (Image: Contributed)

Some were blowing trumpets and others were shouting “Quack! Quack!”.

This incident of rough music lasted about 20 minutes during which traffic was prevented from going up and down Wote Street due to the size of the crowd.

When Brunsden appeared before the magistrates on September 11, the case was withdrawn in view of his previous good character and as there did not appear to be any felonious intent.

The Brunsden affair shows how fast news travelled in Basingstoke on a Wednesday in 1888.

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News of Brunsden’s night in the cells, and the reason for his arrest, would not have surfaced until he appeared before the magistrates sometime after 10am that morning.

Yet the organisation of the rough music was such that by 8pm a gang of some 200 people had gathered outside the Feathers to register their displeasure at the actions of the landlord.

It also indicates the hunger for excitement of those who took part.

Without access to many other means of entertainment, taking part in rough music was a way of having fun.