Sunday, 4 March 2018

D'Oyly Carte Week

Thursday June 13th 1884 had seen a minor altercation in Lichfield at St James' Hall. A production of Princess Ida had not impressed four paying customers and they most vociferously demanded their money back. The manager, not wanting these army officers to lead a mass demand for refunds, took the unusual step of locking these four INSIDE the lobby of the building, thus isolating them. Such extraordinary tactics seem to suggest the manager agreed and the performance had not been of an acceptable standard. The 'captives' were released soon after everyone had dispersed.

Next night, with the story of the Thursday night having spread around the camp, no less than twenty-one officers and a similar number of privates arrived at the hall and, after the Friday night performance, demanded to see the manager. Later the soldiers were spotted removing a ladder from the George Hotel, this used to reach up to the statue of Doctor Samuel Johnson in the market square and enabled them to paint the wordsmith's face black. This resulted in a squabble with police and the ladder was returned. Soon after the soldiers were making further trouble when forcibly removing the driver from a pony and trap and then a cab driver lost his vehicle. When a fight ensued between a man named Beans and trooper Smith, the former was arrested and the soldier returned to his billet after Major Graves was summoned to dispel the simmering crowds still in the streets at midnight.

On the Saturday remained quiet but late Sunday night and further troubles erupted when Colonel Bromley-Davenport and Colonel Levett MP departed the Swan Hotel for the home of Major Graves. With opposing soldiers and civilians lining their route. While Levett tried to talk down the civilians his travelling companion spoke earnestly to the soldiers, both pointing out how neither really wanted to fight. A couple of minor scuffles were promptly ended by those nearby and seemingly peace returned to the streets of Lichfield as the crowds dispersed.

An hour later Colonel Bromley-Davenport was found dead by local jeweller Mr Watkins and his wife outside the Robin Hood public house. When the doctor arrived, a Mr Welshman, surgeon to the yeomanry, he officially pronounced the man dead at the scene. As the news of the death spread it had the effect of cooling tempers, for the colonel was held in great esteem by all.

At the inquest it was shown that foul play could be ruled out, the cause of death being a massive heart attack.

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