Victorian London - Health and Hygiene - Hazards and Accidents - Riding Accidents

    ACCIDENTS from collisions with carriages, and from ridden horses bolting or stumbling, are frequent in the Season. The policeman has to be most Cautious in the case of a collision between two vehicles; he must be cool and collected, for there is a lot to be done and thought of. Should there he any personal injury, it must be attended to first. Medical aid must be procured, either by sending for a doctor or conveying the injured to hospital. The latter is the usual practice. The names and addresses of the owner and driver of each vehicle, and of the injured persons, the damage done, whatever it may be; the names of witnesses (if any), position of vehicles, etc. -all must be dotted down in the pocket or report book, and a nice job it is. Usually when a collision happens a crowd gets round in a very short time, and you are sure to have half-a-dozen inquisitive necks stretched over your shoulder or arm watching you write down your particulars. I have had to elbow my way out of a circle of these intruders many a time. Personal injury is not so frequently caused from carriage accidents as from horses ridden, horses bolting with the lady or gentleman riding on the Row, or stumbling when going over the stone crossings, are daily occurrences; and I have seen some terrible injuries sustained both by rider and the unfortunate pedestrian who happens to get in the way. The Mounted Police in the Row have done some very good service in such cases. One in particular, Constable Dodd, had a clever method of galloping alongside the runaway horse, and gradually pulling it up by the reins. I know he had been rewarded and commended by the Commissioner for his pluck a dozen times, to say nothing of the many gratuities he had presented him by various ladies and gentlemen for services rendered.
    The late Attorney-General, Sir Robert Pinlay, when Q.C., had a nasty fall from his horse one morning in the Row. How it occurred I cannot quite call to mind-whether the horse bolted or whether it stumbled but he had struck his head in the fall, and was rendered unconscious. I happened to be on duty at Hyde Park Corner as he was being brought along on the ambulance by Mr. Hall, the Apsley Gate-keeper. I assisted in getting him into St. George's Hospital, where he was placed on a couch, and soon attended by a doctor. On recovering consciousness he asked what bad been the matter. He was informed by a gentleman friend who accompanied him what had occurred, and he replied, "Was I riding --?" (the horse's name). He was answered in the affirmative. I remember the late Sir James Hannen, who frequently walked down the side of Rotten Row on his way to the Law Courts, happened to be passing at the time, and, hearing that it was the eminent Q.C. that had met with the accident, he very considerately walked over to St. George's Hospital, and sent in his card to Sir Robert, and expressed his regret at what had happened to him. I am glad to say, after a short time, Sir Robert was able to leave the hospital and proceed home, not much the worse.
    One of the most extraordinary of these accidents that I know of happened during the evening ride on the Row. Years ago the evening ride between five and seven was then as fashionable as the morning is at present. In fact, I have seen it so crowded with riders that a runaway would be impossible, even if one were· ever so inclined. Those were the times when that elegant. looking horse-woman regularly attended the evening ride-familiarly known on the Row by the name of "Polly Skittles". Almost first to arrive and last to leave, her fine figure, and beautiful thoroughbred chestnut, with its proud arched neck and high step, were undoubtedly objects of considerable attraction. But latterly the carriage drive only is indulged in during the evening. However, on the occasion I was about to refer to, a lady's horse bolted up the Row, and galloped in the direction of Kensington Gardens, no one having succeeded in checking its career, it dashed across the roadway at the top of the "Lady's Mile", * ( * Tradition gives the "Lady's Mile" originally to be situate on the present "Ring Road", on the north side, and parallel with the Serpentine; but for many years now the Straight Mile on the "Row" has been recognised by the above fashionable name.) and made an attempt to jump the iron rails that divide Hyde Park from Kensington Gardens; these rails, which are about six feet high and pointed at the top-luckily perhaps for the lady-a--the horse was unable to clear, and was spiked through the shoulders, where it hung-the lady pitched head first into the Gardens, and was not much the worse for the fall. The horse was eventually removed and destroyed. 
    The most awful fatal accident that came under my observation, caused by being thrown from a horse, was in the case of Major Macdonald, of the High landers. One morning as he was cantering off the Ride on the Bayswater side of the Park, mounted on a beautiful white Arab, he was returning home after his morning's ride, going over the stone crossing on the roadway near the Marble Arch Gate, his horse stuimbled and slipped forward, pitching the Major clean out of the saddle on to his head, inflicting a terrible wound. Death, I should say, must have been instantaneous, but he was conveyed with all possible speed on the ambulance (one happened to be stationed near the Marble Arch) to St. George's Hospital, and the House Surgeon was soon in attendance, but he stated him to be dead. Then came the question-Who was the gentleman ?-for a gentleman he certainly was from his appearance, and evidently of good birth. No one knew at the time of the accident, and no one accompanied us to the hospital; but the most astonishing part of it was not a card, pocket-book, letter or scrap of anything could the constable or I find on his person. Search as we did blood-saturated as some of them were, every single garment, pockets, lining, under-linen, over and over again-there was not even an article of jewellery with name or initials to assist us in his identity-in short, nothing but the clothing he wore. I noticed the name of the maker on the tab or loop of his jacket. This certainly was something (as I once traced the identity of a man found dead in Hyde Park by the maker's name on the buttons of a new suit of clothing he had on), so I at once directed the constable to go to that establishment (in Old Bond Street or Piccadilly I believe it was), with a description of the suit-a grey tweed-and ascertain, if he could, any information. I myself hastened to our station, with a full description of the body and clothing, which was speedily telegraphed round to all the police stations, so that on his being missed, enquiries by his friends at any police station in London would be referred to Hyde Park for particulars. Yet things must not rest at that; every means must be resorted to in order to get the body identified and friends informed as soon as possible-that is the first and bounden duty of the police in a fatal case. The Arab horse had been brought to the station and secured in the stable yard, apparently none the worse for the fall. Then it occurred to me, and the Inspector on duty, that possibly some information from one of the proprietors of the many livery stables, horse repositories, etc., in the vicinity of the Marble Arch, might be obtained concerning the Arab. On this errand I at once started. I am sure I had a good two hours' tramping from one yard to another without success, and was almost giving it up and going back to the station to see if any news had arrived, when I looked in at "Hetherington's", Edgware Road, and after again relating the occurrence, Mr. Hetherington gravely shook his head and said he was sorry he could not assist me in the matter; but a gentleman who happened to be in the office, and had heard what had passed, said to me as I was about to leave: "I believe I have seen a white Arab come out of a mews near Portman Square. I quickly proceeded to that neighbourhood, which of course is only a few minutes' walk, and after a few enquiries I found the stables where an Arab was kept, and, I am glad to say, the one in question, for I was soon informed the name and address of the deceased gentleman by the groom, who also said he had been anxiously waiting hours for the return of the horse and his master.

Edward Owen, Hyde Park, Select Narratives, Annual Event, etc, 
during twenty years' Police Service in Hyde Park,