IT was the day after the traditional summer race meeting on Southampton Common and the police court's agenda was taken up with the usual vagabonds and ne'er do wells, some of whom had specifically travelled from as far afield as London, for nefarious purposes.

Such was the expectation of business that a well above average number of magistrates had been summoned to dispense justice. However, one defendant was unusual - a racecourse official for allegedly launching a vicious assault on a woman who had been driven in a horse drawn coach and horses from Portsmouth with several friends for the afternoon's entertainment.

Edward Dewey had been specifically hired by the stewards to ensure the track was kept clear, and to his eyes, Ann Bodkin was clearly in breach of the regulations and needed to be pushed back to the other side of the ropes.

Daily Echo: Southampton Common Race Course.Southampton Common Race Course.

The Bench, hearing the case on August 17, 1832, heard two sides of the story of what subsequently happened.

The widow complained that when they did not immediately comply with his demand, he pushed her with considerable force under the rope and then struck her at least three times over the head with the parasol she had been carrying but had dropped.

"I did not give him the slightest provocation for such conduct," she asserted. "It was completely unprovoked."

Others with her similarly testified - all completely untrue, according to Dewey.

The official maintained he had been patrolling the course when a boy, accompanying her, got on to the track and when he tried to move him, it was Bodkin and not him who had initiated the violence.

"She in fact came at me with her parasol and struck me three or four times. Afterwards I picked it up and returned it to her."

To substantiate his defence, he asked Bodkin to state her injuries. In reply, she conceded a local surgeon had examined her but had not found any marks.

Daily Echo: FGO Stuart postcard of Southampton CommonFGO Stuart postcard of Southampton Common

"It would have been therefore natural to suppose that would have been the case if I had hit her," he reasoned.

However, after retiring for a considerable time, the Bench said they were satisfied he had inflicted "unnecessary violence" and fined him £1 with costs.

The Hampshire Advertiser and Salisbury Guardian reported the crowd was numerous but were as fashionably dressed as in previous years. Measures had also been taken to outlaw gambling booths in a bid to deter pickpockets and events proved that not everyone had attended the meeting for the social occasion and the racing.

Others were there in particular for the selling contraband goods. Thomas Makepeace, for example, faced a savage fine of £100 for possessing a gallon of brandy on which import duty had not been paid.

"But I cannot meet that," he protested - to no avail.

"Very well, you will go the House of Correction for four days," deemed the chairman.

He was joined by Edward Chapman and John Bowerman who were to endure a month, the term intensified with hard labour, for playing the Victorian equivalent of 'Find The lady' with thimbles and peas.

Other miscreants included Philip Dolin who was to spend 14 days behind bars for playing and betting with a garter and skewer.