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Colonial Cases

Office of Judge v. Rosier, 1860


Office of Judge v. Rosier

Consistory Court
April 1860
Source: The Times, 4 April 1860


(Before Dr. Twiss, Q.C.)
  The Rev. Bryan King, rector of St. George's-in-the-East, exhibited articles against Robert Rosier, a parishioner, "for brawling, quarrelling, and chiding in the parish church" on Sunday, the 14th of August, and on Sunday, the 6th of November, 1859. In the third article the defendant was charged with having on the 14th of August, during the celebration of afternoon service, at 4 p.m. when the Rev. Mr. Burn, who was officiating, fainted or fell down in a fit, in a brawling, chiding, and irreverent manner shouted out, "It is a judgment from God upon him; God has struck him dead; down with Bryan King."
  In the fourth article he was charged with having upon the conclusion of the afternoon service, pointed at a member of the congregation named Savage Hall, and said, in an irreverent and brawling tone and manner, "This thing calls himself a captain.  He is a disgrace to the army; he is a greasy swell;" and with having said to another person named Blatchford, "This is the man who is going to swear I spat upon him at Wellclose-square." R. Rosier had given in a negative issue to these allegations.  
  Sr. Phillimore, Q.C., with whom was Dr. Swabey, in his opening, said that if the evidence sustained the averment the present case would have a bad pre-eminence not only as the most gross and scandalous case of brawling that had ever occurred, but because it was notorious that the acts charged formed a link in the chain of a system which had brought greater disgrace on the metropolis than anything since the Gordon Riots. The circumstances which lead to the suit were unhappily so notorious that it was needless to detail them. The Rev. Mr. King was instituted in September, 1842. His parish contained a population of about 27,000, and among them were some of the worst characters in London. It had been ascertained that out of 733 houses in the parish 564 were brothels and 40 were public houses or beer shops. Mr. King's predecessor had kept no curate, and taken little part in the ministration. Mr. King had kept from three to six curates, and established two mission chapels and a refuge for penitent women, and had three or four services a week. This, therefore, was a proper case for the exercise of the jurisdiction of the Court for the protection of a clergyman and for the prevention of a system of profanation, blasphemy, and outrage without a parallel in the history of any Christian country.
  Mr. Rosier conducted his own case, having refused the offer of the Court to provide him with counsel. At the conclusion of Dr. Phillimore's opening he expressed his surprise and regret that his case was not to be decided by a Jury.
  Thomas John Nash, a boot maker and parishioner of St. George-in-the-East, was then examined, and said that on the afternoon of the 14th of August last he was in the parish church of St. George.  The rector's service began at 4 o'clock. Mr. Burn was reading the service. Witness was standing near the reading desk. He did not know anyone in the church. There was a great deal of noise during the service. As Mr. Burn was reading the Litany he fell down in a fit. There was a rush forward. He moved with the people, and was brought into close contact with Mr. Rosier, who said, in a very loud tone, "God has struck him dead; it is a just judgment on him," Mr. King went on with the Litany, in front of the altar; but the noise as so great - hissing, booing, and cries of "No Popery" - that nothing could be heard. When the Litany was finished there was a general rush, and he was carried off his feet down the side aisles. There was a mob of about 150 persons, and they were crying out at Captain Hall, "Pitch him down the stairs." He never saw Rosier before that Sunday.
  In cross-examination by Mr. Rosier the witness denied that he was a Jesuit or a Roman Catholic. He certainly considered the oath he had taken binding.
  Captain Savage Hall, formerly of the 7th Fusiliers, said that he was not a parishioner of St. George's-in-the-East; he was present at the afternoon service on the 14th of August. He first sat under the reading desk, but afterwards stood up. After Mr. Burn fell down the crowd in the centre aisle moved forward and carried him with them. Mr. Rosier was at his right hand, less than a yard distant. He called out in a loud voice, "It is a judgment from God on him." The people called out, "Down with the pope, and down with old Bryan King." The rector read the rest of the service, but it could hardly be heard. The choristers went to the north aisle, and the people in the centre aisle rushed after them. When he got to the baptistry-door a struggle took place between him and Rosier.  There were summonses taken out on both sides, and they both went before the magistrate. The church was shut up until the 6th of November. He attended the service on that day, at a quarter before 3 o'clock. Rosier was sitting in one of the choir seats. The Litany and responses were chanted. Rosier and the boys called out one response in a tumultuous way, in such a manner as to interrupt the service.  As Rosier was leaving the church witness stood to let him pass by, and he pointed to him and said, "That thing calls himself a captain. He is a greasy swell, and a disgrace to the army. Where's your umbrella?" Rosier then said to Mr. Blatchford, "That fellow will swear anything.  He was going to swear that I spat upon him in Wellsclose-square." Neither he nor Mr. Blatchford had done anything to provoke Rosier. There was an attack made upon the choristers on the 14th August.  Rosier was one of the leaders of the mob.
  Cross-examined. - He lived in Soho. He had been asked to dine at the rectory on the 14th of August. He had gone to the church to assist in keeping order. He had dined with others who had gone for the same purpose in the mission house. He was not a Jesuit, and he considered his oath binding. He was not kneeling when Mr. Burn fell.  Rosier was the only person he heard make the exclamation. He and Rosier had struck each other and taken out summonses against each other at the Thames Police-court.
  Mr. Henry Towley, a schoolmaster, of 44, Wellclose-square, stated that on the 14th of August the mob made an attack on the baptistry, crying out that they would put out the choristers and throw them down the steps. Rosier was one of the foremost.
  Mr. Blatchford corroborated the evidence of Captain Hall as to what took place on the 5th of November.  Rosier excited the people by words and gestures.
  This closed the case for the prosecution.
  Mr. Rosier said he had several witnesses to prove that the charges were false, and called
  Ebenezer Beardwell, who said he was present at the afternoon service on the 14th of August, in the pew next to the reading desk, and when Mr. Burn fainted some one outside the pew, not Rosier, called out, "Hear the voice of God in this, and stay from all such heresies." Hall was kneeling on the flags outside the pew, and there were several people round him.
  J. T. C. Hood, a bootmaker, and a parishioner, was at the back of the reading desk, and saw Rosier and Hall. There were two or three people between them. Rosier was standing behind Mr. Burn. A person by the side of the witness in a pew said Mr. Burn was struck dead, and it was the judgment of God.
  Cross-examined, - He had taken no part in the disturbance. After the service Rosier walked quietly out and was not among the persons who pressed against the baptistry door.
  James Flude said he was standing near Mr. Burn when he fainted, and the exclamation did not come from Rosier, but from some one at the bottom of the reading desk.
  Cross-examined. - He was a parishioner, and had attended services at St. George's regularly for five years. He was an apprentice, and had taken no part in the disturbances. He had stopped in the church between the services to defend the choristers' seats, but he did not belong to the Anti-Popery League.
  William Somes, a boot maker and a parishioner, said that Rosier was not the person who exclaimed when Mr. Burn fainted, but a person his pew. Hundreds of people repeated the remark, and it passed like wildfire through the building.
  Cross-examined. - He had taken the chair at a meeting of the National Anti-Puseyite League. It was a League to put down Puseyite practices all over the kingdom. He sat in a chorister's seat. One of his reasons for doing so was that he objected to choral services.
  Frances Selby, a parishioner, and a member of the League; John Bradford, a parishioner; William Barnes, a member of the League living at Stepney; George Arnott, Richard Pope, Ebenezer Whiting and Matthew Molyneux, parishioners, corroborated the evidence of the previous witnesses that the exclamation was not uttered by Rosier. One of them said that it was by a short dark man with whiskers, and another that it was by a pale fair man.
  George Toon, a cheesemonger, said that on the 6th of November he was in the side aisle after the 4 o'clock service when he met Rosier, and saw Hall and Blatchford. He heard the words that were addressed to Hall, but they were not uttered by Rosier. They were uttered by a person who was with the witness.
  In cross-examination the witness was asked to give the name of the person who spoke the words, but the Court ruled that he might decline to do so. He was, he said, a Dissenter, and he went into the church out of curiosity to see what was going on.  He had had bills in his window of every kind, except play bills, against Mr. King as well as against other people.
  Mr. Rosier, at the conclusion of his case, said he had not ability enough to make a speech, and would therefore leave the matter in the hands of the Court. Some of his witnesses had not been able to attend.
  Dr. Phillimore, in his reply, called upon the Court to check a system which, if allowed to proceed, would turn the House of God into a den of thieves, and submitted that Mr. Rosier ought not only to be admonished to abstain from the conduct of which he had been guilty in future, but also to be restrained for a period of going to the church he had profaned, and to be condemned in the costs of the suit.
  The learned Judge said, as Mr. Rosier was not represented by counsel, he thought it right to take the objection that the decree had been served on a Sunday.
  Dr. Phillimore cited a case in 2, Salkeld, to show that the service of process in ecclesiastical suits upon a Sunday was valid.
  The learned Judge said he would examine the conflicting evidence, and would give judgment at 10 o'clock on Tuesday, the 17th inst.
  A number of persons who seemed to take a great interest in the proceedings were in court during the hearing.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School