Friday, 29 August 2008

Vandalism then and now

We often wring our hands about today's widespread vandalism and yobbish behaviour, and speak nostalgically of the days when there wasn't so much of it. But there was never a time when there was none; a local newspaper described without much surprise how Derby day was celebrated in 1882:

As usual a large number of Croydon people attended the great race at Epsom on Wednesday, finding their way thither by road and rail. In the evening the main roads leading from Epsom were crowded both with returning racegoers and persons who had walked out from Croydon to see the 'sport'. This 'sport' consisted of the throwing of turf, dirt and flour bags at the drivers and occupants of vehicles and more than one accident was occasioned by this dangerous practice.

[From Croydon to Epsom and back is twenty miles, a long walk just to watch—or even to participate in—turf and dirt throwing. Flour bags would surely be useless as missiles; did they mean 'bags of flour'?]

Then there is this, ten years later:

But this is by no means mindless vandalism, so 'wilfully and maliciously' seems a bit strong. Clearly this was just good honest theft. The evil-disposed person or persons were after illicit profit: seventeen cushions would yield an awful lot of stuff. Did they have a specialist horsehair fence standing by with a cart to receive it, or did they face the task of hawking huge armfuls of it round the shady sofa manufacturers?

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