IT was the day the vicar suffered his greatest embarrassment - unceremoniously shoved into water and forced to endure not just the merciless gossip of the village but also a soggy bottom!

However, the cleric did not see the funny side and took his aggressor to the High Court for damages.

At the centre of the dispute was a stream which meandered through his gardens. But when the water slowly ran dry, he went to investigate why - and soon discovered the answer.

It had been deliberately blocked by a tenant of Lord Sherborne who had just began renting a cottage on his Hampshire estate and had placed stakes, boards and clay to effectively cause a dam.

The vicar, Mr Alder, was naturally furious and together with a constable, went into the grounds to confront him and remove the barrier.

Clarke immediately rushed at the vicar and in pushing him away, turned him on his back with the effect he fell into the stream from which he had to be rescued.

"It was a most unenviable position," reflected Sergeant Kingslake, representing the Bedhampton vicar at the High Court which sat at Winchester in 1845.

Doubtless conscious how a long case would incur major costs to the loser, his opposite number, Mr Chowder, suggested the situation would be best resolved by settling the question over the rights to the stream.

Following a short consultation, Kingslake agreed, provided the tenant called Clarke apologised.

"I raise no objection to that," said Mr Chowder, "though I wish to add that the defendant never intended to offer him any indignity. His only objective in touching him was to prevent him removing the piles which he considered he had a right and was bound to do.

"But he is very sorry that the plaintiff fell in the way that he did."

The apology was accepted, leaving the lawyers to sort out the issue surrounding the stream.