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Evidence of the Soldiers

The bend in Castle Lane - approximately the position of the attack on F. W. Budd May 2009
The bend in Castle Lane - approximately the position of the attack on F. W. Budd May 2009 

“William Warner deposed: I am a labourer, and reside at Ridgmount [sic]. On the night of Sunday, the 10th of May, about a quarter past eleven, I was with a person named Thomas Berridge, a private in the Beds Militia. We turned out of the High-street to go up Caste-lane towards the Ship, St. Cuthbert’s where he was billeted. He was in uniform at the time. We met a woman at the turn to the right towards the Castle-rooms. She said make haste, there is a row down there. We met three soldiers and two civilians a little way from the Castle-rooms. The two civilians were the two prisoners. When we got to the turning at the corner near St. Cuthbert’s church we found a gentleman lying on the ground in the middle of the road, and a lady beside him trying to get him up. The lady said, “Pray come and help me to get him up”. We went forward and lifted the gentleman up; his face was covered with blood. After he was picked up he took hold of the lady’s arm and walked on. The lady was wiping the blood from his face with a handkerchief. We went a little way towards St. Cuthbert’s church, when the two prisoners came up from behind; the three soldiers also came up, but not with the prisoners. Craddock said, “It serves him right, he is drunk”, and he repeated this several times. I did not hear him say anything else. We left when the three soldiers came. The soldiers came up pretty nearly at the same time as the prisoners. We went on to the Ship”.

“Cross-examined by Mr. Metcalfe: I now know the names of the three soldiers who came up, they were Scott, Webster, and Hopcroft. I cannot say whether the three soldiers who came up just behind the two prisoners, were the same soldiers I had met before. Not more than two or three minutes elapsed from the time we first met the prisoners and their return. Scott said to Berridge, “Get to your billet Tom, I am on picket”. We were a few yards in advance when they came up”.

The Castle Rooms May 2009
The Castle Rooms May 2009

“Thomas Berridge sworn: I am a private in the Bedfordshire Militia, and on the 10th of May I was billeted at the Ship, St. Cuthbert’s. On Sunday night, between eleven and twelve, I was coming up castle-lane with William Warner. A woman met us and said, “There is a row up there; make haste”. We went on up the lane till we got to the turning near the Castle-rooms, when we met three soldiers and two civilians. I did not know either the soldiers or the civilians. When we got beyond the Castle-rooms we saw a gentleman and a lady: the gentleman was lying on the ground and the lady bending over him. The lady said to us, “Pray come and help him up”. Warner and myself lifted the gentleman up: there was blood on his face, part of which spotted my belt in helping him up. We went on four or five yards with the gentleman and lady, the gentleman walking slowly and leaning upon the lady’s arm. When we were about six yards in advance of the gentleman and lady I looked back, and saw three soldiers coming up behind us in their regimentals, Webster, Scott and Hopcroft. We turned back, when I saw two civilians coming up behind them. They were the two prisoners. Webster said to me, “Go to your billet; I’m on picket”. Heard some one say, “He’s drunk – it serves him right;” but can’t say who used the expression. The first three soldiers I met were not Webster, Scott and Hopcroft, or I would have known them, as they belonged to my company. I almost immediately afterwards went to my billet, and saw no more”.

Saint Cuthberts May 2009
Saint Cuthberts May 2009 - the route taken by the Budds, soldiers and prisoners

“Frederick Scott: I am a bricklayer, living at Leighton Buzzard, and on the 10th of May last was out with the Bedfordshire Militia. On the evening of the day I was with Hopcroft and Webster. Between eleven and twelve we came from over the bridge and turned up Castle-lane. When we got near St. Cuthbert’s Church I saw a lady and gentleman, and five or six yards ahead of them Berridge and Warner. We overtook the lady and gentleman. The lady had got a handkerchief in her hand wiping the blood from the face of the gentleman, who was standing. The gentleman said, “Soldiers, I have been grossly insulted, and want some protection”. Webster took hold of his left arm and I took his right, and assisted him along, Hopcroft walking behind. We went with him as far as the entrance to Lurke-lane. Before we got to Lurke-lane two civilians came up; they were the two prisoners. The shortest one (Craddock) said, “It served the b – right, he is drunk”. This he repeated several times. Mr. Budd gave us his name and address: 12, Kimbolton-road. He said, “Soldiers, if you see a police-officer send him up to my house”. He and the lady then went towards his home, and we returned to our billets”.

The junction of Saint Cuthbert's Street and Lurke Street May 2009
The junction of Saint Cuthbert's Street and Lurke Street May 2009

“Cross-examined by Mr. Serjeant Tozer: the point where Craddock and Jordan came up was pretty handy to Mill-street. They walked with us a hundred yards or more; then they turned back and went under some trees. – Cross-examined by Mr. Metcalfe: the prisoners did not come up before Berridge and Warner had left us. I did not see the prisoners at all before that night. I don’t recollect meeting anyone in Castle-lane until I saw the lady and gentleman. I was taken with Webster and Hopcroft before the magistrates. Mr. Pearse appeared for me – the same gentleman who is now conducting the prosecution”.

“Re-examined by Mr. Mills: Mr. Pearse defended me by direction of the colonel of the regiment. There is no pretence for saying that I hurt Mr. Budd, as the whole affair had taken place before I came up. Berridge and Warner were four or five yards ahead of us when the two prisoners came up. Mr. Budd did not make any complaint of the soldiers as having hurt him”.

“Mr. Metcalfe wished to say distinctly that he made no imputation upon the soldiers”.

“The witness, I reply to Mr. Metcalfe, said he saw Berridge push Warner over the gate of the Ship, and this took place after the prisoners had come up”.

“A little squabbling here occurred amongst the learned counsel. Mr. Serjeant Tozer complained that the proceeding on the part of the prosecution was not being conducted in a manner they had a right to expect in a court of justice, on which Mr. Mills remarked that he did not know what gave Mr. Tozer the liberty of making such an observation. Mr. Metcalfe then rose to make a remark, and a storm seemed inevitable, when Mr. Justice Wightman requested the learned counsel to sit down”.

“Mr. Metcalfe: My lord –“

“Mr. Justice Wightman: Pray sit down, Mr. Metcalfe; sit down for a moment. I must say this is very irregular. It is impossible to conduct a case when such strange irregularities are going on. I must say that the mode of conducting this case utterly confuses me”. 

“Mr. Metcalfe: I only wish to put –“

“Mr. Justice Wightman: Pray sit down, Mr. Metcalfe. Pray let me understand the case”.

“Mr. Metcalfe resumed his seat, and the judge consulted his notes, and then told the learned gentlemen that any question out to the witnesses must be put through himself”.

“The questions were, How many yards was Berridge and Warner ahead when the prisoners came up? Answer: Between 5 and 6. – Did you see a policeman that night? No”.

Remains of the militia depot May 2009
Remains of the Militia Depot May 2009

“James Webster sworn: I am a shoemaker residing at Leighton Buzzard, and was out with the Militia in May last. I remember the night of Sunday, the 10th of that month. Between 11 and 12 o’clock was with Scott and Hopcroft, who were also privates in my company. We were all behind time, and that was the reason we took up Castle-lane. When we got opposite the old depot [on the mound where Cecil Higgins Museum and Art Gallery now stands] we saw a lady and gentleman both standing in the middle of the road: the gentleman appeared to be bleeding very much. He said to us, “Soldiers, I have been grossly insulted, and want protection”. I took hold of the gentleman’s left arm, and Scott of his right, and went on. The gentleman walked with some difficulty, from the usage he seemed to have received. We had not gone far when two civilians came up behind us: they were the prisoners. I saw Berridge and Warner between the Castle-rooms and Mill Street; they were 5 or 6 yards ahead when I got up to the lady and gentleman. They were at that distance when the two prisoners came up. One of them said, “He’s drunk – it served it right”, but cannot say which of the two it was. We walked as far as the end of Lurke-lane, when the gentleman said he was very thankful for our kindness, and that he thought he could manage now. He did not make any complaint of having been assaulted by the soldiers. When we left the gentleman he continued up St. Cuthbert-street”.

The Ship public house May 2009
The Ship public house May 2009

“Cross-examined by Mr. Serjeant Tozer: Did you come straight on or turn back at all? Straight on. – Did you come out of a public-house? Yes, out of the Haycock over the bridge. – Are you quite sure you did not meet any soldiers? No not anybody. – If I understand you rightly, the gentleman had not gone by the church when you saw him? He was against the old depot, a little before you come to the church. – How far had you got before the prisoners, as you say, came up? I had not got beyond the Ship. – had you got as far as Mill-street? No, between the corner turning out of Castle-lane and Mill-street. We had not got beyond the church. Berridge and Warner got over the Ship gates, but it was when we were coming back from the end of Lurke-lane”.

“Re-examined: I had left Mr. Budd at Lurke-lane when I left the two men at the Ship”.

The Ship and its gates May 2009
The Ship and its gates May 2009

“George Hopcroft sworn: Am a shopkeeper leaving at Leighton Buzzard, and a private of the Beds Militia. On Sunday night, May 10th, I was at the Haycock public-house in Cauldwell-street with Scott and Webster. Between 11 and 12 we turned up Castle-lane together. When we got to the old depot I saw Mr. Budd and a lady standing in the middle of the road; the gentleman appeared to have been knocked about a good deal – his face was smothered with blood. A soldier named Berridge and a man named Warner were fie or six yards ahead of them. The gentleman said he had been grossly insulted. After we had gone some way the two prisoners followed up behind. One of them said, “It serves the b – right, he’s drunk”. I think it was Craddock who said that. They came up within a few yards of the Ship. It was before we got to the Ship the words were used. When Mr. Budd left us at Lurke-lane he said he thought he could manage then. He gave us his address in Kimbolton-road. Jordan and Craddock followed us while in charge of the gentleman as far as some trees in front of a house. Don’t recollect seeing them on our return. Saw Berridge and Warner against the Ship. Saw Warner get over the gate, but don’t know how Berridge got in. Don’t recollect seeing any woman on entering Castle-lane. Jordan and Craddock were drunk”.