THE charge is now defunct but on January 25, 1886, Henry Arthur appeared before the Southampton justices, accused of 'wandering abroad in Eastleigh and sleeping in the open air without any visible means of subsistence.'

A simple case, one would assume, but not with the eccentric pensioner.

"It's partially true." he replied in an answer to the charge, but confusing the issue, he added: " It is true but it is not true. Of course, it is not true because I have means of subsistence."

The puzzled chairman W E Darwin asked him to clarify what he meant: "Were you or were you not found sleeping under a haystack?"

Arthur retorted: "Yes, I was found under the haystack but I was not sleeping. I was trying to hide."

Darwin - "From who or what?"

Arthur - "I was trying to get out of the way because I was attacked at part of the road where I was found, and thinking I might be attacked again, I went behind the haystack to hide myself. In fact when the policeman came up, I was glad of it and said to him 'Could you take me to a place of shelter? I don't think I could lie here all night."

Pc Preston confirmed that while he was passing two hayricks off Wide Lane, Eastleigh, he heard a noise and found Arthur lying on the ground as though he was attempting to sleep.

By his side lay a portmanteau containing two screw drivers, a punch, a door key, three candles, a 1/4lb of tea, a book and a bible.

"He also had a portfolio containing a number of Ordnance Survey maps and plans," said Preston.

"He told me he was going home to Botley where some little time ago he had bought a house. He had simply been detained here by a letter having miscarried and had gone behind the haystack because he was in a state of exhaustion. He told me he had plenty of money in his possession but when I found he had none, he said he had the representation of it."

Arthur was taken to the police station where he offered a different explanation, informing Sergeant Holmes he had £60 at Bishops Waltham. "But when I made inquiries, I found this to be untrue."

The magistrate gave Arthur a conditional discharge with a firm warning that if he appeared before the court again in similar circumstances, he would probably get a month at the very least.

"You may go this time," to which Arthur responded: "Yes, sir, thank you. It won't happen again."

Gathering his documents before stepping out of the dock, he quipped to the court's amusement: "I'm off to the bank..."