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Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 2 months ago


Contributed by Valerie Kerslake


The story: Bull baiting and such sports took place on Yateley Green


Source of the story

Mr Richards presents his compliments to Col. Butler, and will do what he can to prevent the disgraceful Bull Baits taking place at Yateley this afternoon. Mr R. knows of no other way, than by ordering the Peace Officers to make the attempt.

This extract is from the Royal Military College archives of 1816, and unless the Peace Officers were successful one must suppose the story is true on that occasion.


Why the story is true

Even if the Peace Officers were successful in preventing the bull baiting it seems likely that the unruly cadets at the RMC would have made other attempts. Colonel Butler was the Commanding Officer of the College which had opened only four years before, after moving from Marlow. Mr Richards who writes from Farnborough was evidently the local constable. One was chosen annually by each parish from its own men, and the peace officers were individuals appointed by the magistrates at the Quarter Sessions to keep the peace. Police forces did not yet exist; the first London police force dates from 1829, with the county forces being formed gradually from the 1830s to the 1850s.

In the same year another constable, or possibly magistrate, writes from Wokingham:

Mr Webb presents his compliments to Col. Butler, and in compliance with his wishes has given an authority to the Peace Officers of Sandhurst to prevent the riotous and illegal assemblage Col. Butler has reason to apprehend may take place this day.

Two years later Colonel Butler received the long letter of complaint from Mr J. Dehay, a surgeon who lived on the edge of Yateley Green on what is now called Vicarage Road.


It was not until 1835 that bull and bear baiting were forbidden by Act of Parliament, and we do not know whether poor Mr Dehay continued to be tormented by the cadets and their horrible pastimes, but he did continue to live in Yateley until 1833 at least.


During this period he was appointed annually (except for one year) by the Vestry as Medical Officer for the parish - a duty often sought by country doctors to supplement their meagre incomes.


It sounds far from a part-time job, however, entailing much travelling on horse-back or perhaps in an open gig on rough and muddy roads and in all weathers. It was agreed with the Vestry that as medical officer, surgeon and apothecary his duties should include attendance (with medicine) upon the poor of this parish in not just Yateley but also Eversley, Finchampstead, Wokingham, Sandhurst, and Minley, and the sick at the Workhouse at Farnborough, in all cases except Midwifery, smallpox, venereal diseases, fractured bones and amputations. For all this he received 12 guineas (twelve pounds and twelve shillings) a year. Expenses for travelling and medicines were not permitted, though at the end of his first year in the post he claimed and just got away with them, nearly doubling his pay for that year.


Early in 1819 Mr Dehay advertised for patients in the Reading Mercury & Oxford Gazette - they must have been private patients but were probably often poor as well.



The inhabitants thereof, and its vicinity, are respectfully informed that J.DEHAY, of YATELEY, SURGEON, APOTHECARY, and MAN MIDWIFE, has taken premises therein, where (under favour of their confidence and support) he intends practising the three branches of his profession; as his Credentials will testify his regular initiation therein, so he has testimonials of known importance, which will fully prove his ability and successful practice for many years past. N.B. - J.D. having attended to Corporative Anatomy, under the superintendance of Professor Coleman, the public are hereby advertised they may have medicines adapted to the complaints of any of their Cattle, as well as all sorts of drugs, on the lowest terms. Also Genuine Medicines.


Surgeon apothecaries acted as general practitioners, and man midwives were better educated than the traditional women and were probably equipped with forceps - which may or may not have helped in the long run, remembering that antiseptics were still in the future. Reading here of his varied skills, it seems odd that cases of midwifery, fractured bones and amputations should be excluded from Mr Dehay's parish duties. Who would have attended these unfortunates?

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