The Permanently Legless

Post 0161 - The Drunkards Cover Image

“There was no room at the Inn, for the Named and Shamed.”

I have classified this story as unfit for under 18’s and anyone with a weak constitution as it contains scenes of Graphic Horror.

Binge drinking and anti-social behaviour never seem to be out of the news, with politicians constantly talking about naming and shaming offenders. But this idea is hardly new.

It was a reaction to the drinking culture of the early twentieth century that led to the introduction of tougher drinking laws. 

These offenders were convicted under section six of the licensing Act 1902, which gave chief constables the power to ban pub licensees for serving persistent drunks.

(1)  The Colonel Vernon

Long before Asbos and Pub Watch schemes, the law enforcement agencies of Wolverhampton were issuing photo files of habitual drunks, and a dozen of these cards came into my possession through the niece of a well known Wolverhampton Licensee Edward ( Ted ) Adey long time landlord of the “Colonel Vernon” in North Street.

001 - Colonel Vernon jpg

(2) Stanley Winter

The cards all date back to 1905, when at that time there appeared to be a lot of concern about binge drinking,  like today there was some hysteria about drunkenness.

It would have been much more difficult for the “Habitual Drunks” in 1905 to get plastered if they were barred from public houses than it would be today.

Back then, if you wanted to drink you had to go into a pub, you didn’t tend to drink at home, and there weren’t the supermarkets and off licences around as there are today.

002 - Stanley winter

The Rogues Gallery


(3) Cummings & Rowley

Poor old William Cummings. According to his card, he had the third finger missing on his right hand, a blotchy face, and with no fixed residence, hadn’t got a home to drink in any way, and noting his alias “Whippet”, it wouldn’t have been wise to leave your drink on a table close to him whilst you popped to the loo. 

His partner in crime, young Frederick Rowley, probably in his early twenties, was out of work, and a mere 5ft 5 and a half without shoes. 

003 -  Cummings & Rowley

(4) Murphy and Sarah Anne Hayward

Yes as you have gathered, the cards give a description of the offender.

John Murphy, of no fixed address, had two aliases Thomas and Howel. He would have been around 36 years old and worked as a labourer.

Sarah Anne Hayward, a Mary Poppins lookalike, actually had a home and was married. Unfortunately, the abscess mark on her chin didn’t enhance her good looks much.

004 - Murphy & Hayward

(5) Mary Ann Hughes & Ann Spruce

Mary Ann Hughes also married, with a place to live; No.2 Court Eagle street. Whose marks indicate she has seen many troubles in her 42 years.

And what about Ann Maria Spruce, also married with a place to live at the back of No.19 Church Street Heath Town.

She featured my infants’ school headmistress and has enough scars listed, to outdo an Irish navvy.

005 - Hughes & Spruce

(6) Matthews & Fisher

Among other people who feature on the cards are locksmith,  Frances Matthews of Zoar Street. 

Can’t quite figure out the various tattoos but very likely lost his finger in an incident at Illidges  Brassfounders in Brickkiln Street.

You can bet where his bit of compensation money went.

And what about his Bilston partner next door, George Stephen Fisher? He hadn’t got much going for him either. A scar on his nose, one leg, and bald. No wonder he took to drink.

006 - Matthews & Fisher

(7) Queen Square 1914

Last orders  Please

But the outbreak of war in 1914 caused the authorities to crack down even harder on alcohol abuse.

It was during the start of the first World War that these licensing laws were introduced. Because of munitions workers, they were concerned they would go out and get drunk in their lunch hour and make bullets that didn’t work or worse.

007 - Queen Square 1914

(8) Loftus & Winter

James Loftus, aged 32, was a motley looking character with two aliases. A lady’s bust tattooed on his forearm and a scar on his right cheek, probably caused by the husband of the lady who modelled for the tattoo.

And Stanley Winter of 7 Sidney Street was only 19 years old.

A virtual walking picture show without his shirt on.

  • Bust of a women left arm.
  • Eagle Snakes Ship and Flags, left forearm.
  • Bust of a woman right arm.
  • Snake, Tree, Woman, clasped hands and wreath right forearm.
  • Butterfly each shoulder.
  • King and Queen on Chest.
008 - Loftus & Winter

(9) Kelly & Hickman

The dishevelled looking Sarah Kelly of No.2 Court Temple Street was only 4ft 11 inches tall, with a small scar over her left eye and what about Walter Hickman self-employed Hay and Straw Dealer from Corn Hill.

I think you would agree, they would certainly spoil another couple.

009 - Kelly & Hickman

(10) Seven Stars Seisdon

I like these cards because they provide a rare glimpse of what life was like 100 years ago 

In those days photography was quite an expensive business and here you are getting pictures of people who would not normally have been photographed and you are also getting a bit of detail about them.

010 - Seven Stars

In Victorian times you rarely hear about the real working-class people at the lower end of society, except when they get into trouble.

Time Gentlemen Please

Facebook Comments


  1. Hallo Bill,
    An interesting piece as ever and plenty to comment on.
    Sad to say the The Severn Stars has followed the fate of many pubs,closed down and turned into residential accommodation. Nice place though Trysull still having two pubs, unusual for a small village. The Plough, Banks/Marstons and the Bell, Holdens of Woodsetton.

    As John Mcintyre points out everyone seems shorter than today, probably the lack of food by today’s standards. But as most of them would be flat out on the floor at some stage during the night, its all a bit academic. None were great beauties, not even the women, a bit like Kidderminster.
    Mary Ann Hughes and Ann Maria Spruce, nice pair, I’d pay to see them wrestling at the Civic on a Saturday afternoon. You say of Mrs. Spruce, she’s got more scars than a navvy, If push comes to shove my money’s on Mrs. Spruce and I’d have thought twice about asking for Mary Ann’s hand in marriage.
    Of the men, Francis Mathews stands out, a locksmith but employed by Illidge and Son, of Great Brickiln Street, where I lived in 1940, who were Brass Founders and one of the 192 bicycle makers based in Wolverhampton. I see he lived in Zoar Street, Bill is it my memory or was there a fish and chip frying range maker in Zoar Street. I have a memory in the back of mind of reading the makers name while standing waiting for my Friday nights tea.

    George Stephen Fisher stands out, a painter with one leg, not good on a ladder, only did ground floor work I would imagine. He certainly came under the description of the permanently, one leg legless.

    They all seem to have this penchant for a having a tattoo of a ladies bust or is it the bust of a lady on their forearm. One with a weakness for ladies bosoms was Stanley Winter, he had one each arm, Eagles, Snakes, Ships, Flags, Clasped Hands, a Wreath, and Two Butterfly’s but loyal and patriotic with a Tattoo of the King and Queen on his chest.

  2. This is so interesting.
    I was really hoping the name ‘Temple’ would crop up as I scrolled down. One or two of my ancestors kept ale houses in the Horseley Fields area. Would love any information if anyone knows of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *