Camborne in the 1870s, a time of economic depression, could be a rough place. Here’s one incident reported in the West Briton of March 26th, 1874.
A man named Webster, a resident of Crowan, who has not the reputation of being the quietest character in the neighbourhood, and who, on account of certain pugilistic propensities, is known by the nickname of ‘Nipper’, … having got drunk, found his way … into the kitchen of Abraham’s Hotel, where he became so noisy that, after some trouble, he was turned into the street. He next favoured Mr Arthur of the White Hart Inn; but here he made himself singularly obnoxious, and a second time he found himself ejected … He then commenced kicking with great violence at the door, and made such a disturbance that the attention of the police was called to his conduct.
The police officers – Gill and Sobey … endeavoured to persuade the man to go quietly home and took some pains to induce his friends, who were now collecting around him, to take him away. This was not a very easy thing to do, but eventually two men led him away, and the police took no further notice, although the fellow was swearing all the way going through the street. Gill and Sobey followed slowly in the same direction as Webster was taking … when he suddenly broke away from the two men, turned back and struck Gill a severe blow on the face. The policeman drew his staff, and hitting Webster over the head, knocked him down.
Immediately, there was a cry that the police had killed him and in two or three minutes an immense mob of excited men and boys had collected around the two policemen who were endeavouring to handcuff ‘the Nipper’ … But in this they failed, for Webster was forcibly removed from their grasp, and he went off, carrying with him the handcuffs that were fastened to one of his wrists. The unfortunate policemen were then hustled and jostled through the streets until at last they found themselves within the shop of Mr Eddy, P.C.Sobey taking in with him a man who gave the name of Williams, and who, while in the street, had been beating Sobey about the head with his fist.
Stone throwing was then commenced, but this was soon discontinued and the only damage done was the breaking of a pane of glass over the door of Mr Eddy’s shop. The mob, however, found out that Williams was in custody, and they thenceforth set up a cry for his release. … Fearing that further mischief might probably be done, the police took the advice of Mr Eddy and set their prisoner at liberty, … the two policemen remained in Mr Eddy’s shop until after midnight, eventually leaving by the back door and reaching their homes by a circuitous route.
This took place five months after serious anti-police riots had convulsed Camborne in 1873.