Drunkenness and drama in Warwick courthouse reenactment

Courtroom drama was brought back to Warwick when actors relived tales of drunkenness, disease and drama from 19th century legal cases.

Tuesday, 12th April 2016, 11:48 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th April 2016, 11:52 am
Court House drama. Picture by Fran Godwin. NNL-161204-101448001

The Jury Street Court House ballroom heard boos and cheers on Saturday when volunteers came together to recreate cases heard there in the 1850s.

Staged by the Unlocking Warwick group, volunteers and law students from the University of Warwick, the free half hour performance was designed to entertain visitors - just as would have been the case in the Victorian petty sessions.

Students and members of the audience played the felons convicted of drunkenness, vandalism, theft and assault.

Court House drama. Picture by Fran Godwin.

Rick Thompson, secretary of the volunteer group said: “A lot of the records we found came from court reports in the Warwick Advertiser, which at some stage became the Courier.

“Sentences included the stocks, prison, and the House of Correction where they had to operate treadmills milling wheat for 10 hours a day.”

Mr Thompson, who played William Thompson, the Inspector of Nuisances who was in charge of public health in the 1850s, said the day also provided a shocking insight into the poverty and overcrowding in lodging houses on the north and west sides of Warwick around Monk Street, Linen Street, Saltisford and Bowling Green Street.

“The records show that the inspector was overwhelmed with work,” he said.

Court House drama. Picture by Fran Godwin. NNL-161204-101458001

“Twelve thousand refugees from the Irish famine had crammed into the lodging houses and the cess pools and drains were overflowing.

“The dramatisation used his actual words as he described how deaths from small-pox and typhus were commonplace, and the court had to deal with many cases of drunkenness, theft and street-brawls.”

Warwick town councillors, John Holland and Richard Eddy took guest parts as magistrates, and Jenny Roberts played the court usher and narrator.

Malcolm Emmerson took on the part of an agricultural labourer who was drugged then robbed of all his clothes.

Court House drama. Picture by Fran Godwin. NNL-161204-101508001
Court House drama. Picture by Fran Godwin. NNL-161204-101519001
Rick Thompson playing William Thompson, Warwick's Inspector of Nuisances, as he presents a petition describing the appalling conditions in the poorer parts of Warwick. Picture by Fran Godwin. NNL-161204-101531001
No Caption ABCDE NNL-161204-101542001
Volunteer Jenny Roberts playing the Court Usher and Narrator. Picture by Fran Godwin. NNL-161204-101553001
Court House drama. Picture by Fran Godwin.
Court House drama. Picture by Fran Godwin. NNL-161204-101458001
Court House drama. Picture by Fran Godwin. NNL-161204-101508001
Court House drama. Picture by Fran Godwin. NNL-161204-101519001
Rick Thompson playing William Thompson, Warwick's Inspector of Nuisances, as he presents a petition describing the appalling conditions in the poorer parts of Warwick. Picture by Fran Godwin. NNL-161204-101531001
No Caption ABCDE NNL-161204-101542001
Volunteer Jenny Roberts playing the Court Usher and Narrator. Picture by Fran Godwin. NNL-161204-101553001