‘Wilfully and wantonly’ knocking

Passchendaele. Picture: Imperial War Museum

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On this day in 1866 Denis Flood, a soldier of the Portsmouth garrison, was charged with ‘wilfully and wantonly’ knocking at the door of Henry Moncreaff at the upmarket address of 9 Wish Lane, Southsea (now Elm Grove).

About 1.45am Mr Moncreaff was woken by the loud thumping on his door. When he opened his window he asked the soldier what he wanted and was told: ‘Mary Jane’. Mr Moncreaff told Flood no such woman lived there.

The defendant explained that he ‘kept company’ with a young woman who told him to call at 9 Wish Lane.

The clerk suggested that Flood might want to call Mary Jane as a witness, but, clearly embarrassed, he declined.

It emerged that he had called at the same address a fortnight earlier at 4am asking for her. Flood was fined 10 shillings plus costs or seven days imprisonment.

Mr Moncreaff worked as the inspector of weights and measures for Portsmouth, a post requiring a sense of balance and proportion – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.